Baodingshan Rock Carvings – Dazu

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Dazu Rock Carvings detail

Sat in front of the reclining Buddha

The Dazu rock carvings date back to the 7th century and are a series of sculptures depicting the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist doctrines.

The soft stone landscape contains 75 rock carving sites containing over 50,000 statues, but the best is considered to be at Baoding Hill.

Dazu Rock Carvings

The three saints of Huayan School of Buddhism, alongside Anicca holding The Wheel of Life

The Baodingshan sculptures line the inside of a 125m horseshoe shaped valley, and range in height from a few centimetres to the 31m long, 5m high reclining Buddha.

Dazu Caves Reclining Buddha

The 31m long reclining Buddha is the centrepiece of the Dazu carvings

Zhao Zhifeng, a Tantric Buddhist who dedicated 70 years of his life to the project, started the work here. His work continued over the next few hundred years, expanding the carvings to what is now the pinnacle of Chinese rock sculpture work.

The carvings were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999, citing “…their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period. They provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

For many years, Baodingshan was closed to visitors but finally opened to Chinese tourists in 1961, then foreign visitors in 1980. This isolation saved the carvings from destruction during the Cultural Revolution.

The detail and colours on the rocks are amazing. Overall it doesn’t have the instant wow factor of somewhere like the Maijishan Grottoes, but the immense artistry and fine detail grows on you as you follow the path round the U-shaped valley. As the only other foreign tourist there was overheard to say, “boy, it sure is purdey”.

Dazu Carvings detail

Demonstrating filial piety

Dazu Caves Baodingshan Visitor Tips

Baodingshan is about 60km from Chongqing. We seemed to come in from the wrong side, so had a slightly long walk through the nearby village that supports the tourist site.

If you come in on the correct side you’ll be in a large car/coach park, from which it’s a short walk past a lot of souvenir stalls to the main entrance.

At 130RMB, the entrance fee is quite high for China, but that’s common throughout Sichuan. The site closes at 5pm so don’t get there too late.

One and a half, to two hours is enough to see Baodingshan. If you have more time there’s also the Nanshan, Shizhuanshan and Shimensan rock carving sites within a few kilometres.

UPDATE: A second set of photos of the Baodingshan site can be found here

Dazu Carvings Panorama

Dazu Carvings Panorama

The Plaza Hotel in Dazu

The Plaza Hotel we stayed in at Dazu was thoroughly annoying. H went in and got a room, whilst I helped unpack the car. As soon as I came into the lobby the desk clerk announced that all the rooms were gone and foreigners could only stay if we paid to upgrade to a suite.

Our friends then came in and were given a standard room without any issues.

More positively, there is an amazing Beef Hot Pot restaurant a short walk down the road. Check out the last picture on the recent Mala Tang post.

Dazu Carvings detail

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13 Responses to Baodingshan Rock Carvings – Dazu

  1. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) December 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    These look fascinating. I love how there are so many sites like this all throughout China. Just a nation of treasures begging to be explored.

    • steve December 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

      I really enjoyed Dazu, but the hidden gem I’d really recommend if you can get there is the Maijishan Grottoes, in Gansu Province. The whole site is spectacular

  2. Maria December 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    Fantastic to see these – so old, a bit worn but still so intriguing and beautiful.

  3. Escaping Abroad December 21, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    First time I’ve seen this… looks incredible! Anicca and the Wheel of Life is my favorite. Is this all original color and stone? Has it been restored at all?

    • steve December 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

      Good question – it’s not entirely clear to visitors. The UNESCO cites them as being original, but maintained with “the principle of ‘retaining the historic condition’.”

  4. Larissa January 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Beautiful! Reminds me of Petra in that they are carved from walls of stone, but with an intricacy you’d only find in China.

  5. Terry at Overnight New York January 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    What spectacular images, particularly the reclining Buddha. But I think I’ll take The Plaza Hotel in New York over the one in Dazu.

    • steve January 3, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      Annoyingly the Plaza Hotel isn’t on TripAdvisor so I can’t even give them a grumpy review to help other tourists avoid them.

  6. wandering educators January 4, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    these are gorgeous!!

  7. gabi January 5, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    remarkable artmanship in a style i have not yet experienced. so lovely to get to travel through your adventures… thank you. great great great photos.

  8. LeX @ LeX Paradise January 15, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Stephen,

    YOu always took really good photos! I cannot agree more!

  9. Richard February 6, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    A company I work with in Chongqing took us to this wonderful place a few years ago. Interesting to contemplate that the Western World was in the Dark Ages while Chinese civikization was flourishing when these carvings were created. We have a nice picture of my wife and I standing in front of (and imitating the serene poses of) the Emperor and Empress near the entrance. The depictions of Hell stick in my mind: animal headed demons chopping off the limbs of lost souls. The cigarette butts and smoke from the tourists bothered us a little (this aspect is improving slowly in China), but other than that it was a fascinating visit.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. @skipbang - December 21, 2012

    Baodingshan Rock Carvings – Dazu http://t.co/qkU1YhgA via @SteveWBT

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