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The Dazu Rock Carvings


Overview of Dazu Rock Stone Carvings

Stone grottoes originated in India and were introduced into China in the 3rd century. During the 5th and 7th century a large numbers of Buddha statues were constructed in North China but by the 8th century the art form had declined somewhat. However, the Dazu Rock Carvings(大足石刻) brought renewed activity and produced some of the most advanced sculptures for more than 400 years.


dazu rock carvings map

Evolving through time and culture, the stone grottoes have features and designs of the time of their construction. For instance in the 4th and 5th centuries at the time of the Northern Wei and the Jin dynasties, India Gandhara and Gupta influences were drawn upon by the artists who were working on statues in the Yungang Grottoes. The Longman Grottoes embrace the art of the 6th and 9th century – the Sui and Tang dynasties. The Dazu Rock Carvings absorb the essence of former grottoes and the innovative techniques and themes make their beauty and craftsmanship unparalleled throughout the world.

First built during the Tang Dynasty, this wonderland of stone sculptures sits in the Dazu County southeast of the Sichuan Province. From its conception in 649, the number of carving increased throughout the late Tang and Five dynasties (907–959). These masterpieces continued to flourish right up to the 19th century and depict a seamless integration of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The exquisite handcraft, colorful theme as well as the well-preserved condition, and the sheer scale of these structures differentiate them from the former stone grottoes and rival those found in the Yungang, Longmen and Mogao Grottoes.

In 1999, the Dazu Rock Carvings were ranked as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Every year thousands of tourists home and abroad flock here for visits.

The stone statues number in the hundreds of thousands and are located in over 70 sites. However, the main concentration can be found in five main sites Beishan, Baodingshan,Nanshan, Shizhuanshan and Shimenshan.

Dazu Rock Stone Carvings' Breathtaking Sculptures


Five Main Sites of Dazu Rock Carvings

Beauty is the universal language, so does art. Anyone behold Dazu Rock Carvings will be shocked by its breathtaking beauty. No need of interpretation, art tells itself and stirs the string of our heart and embraces eternity.

NO.1: Beishan

The carving of the Beishan Stone sculptures began in 892 during the Tang Dynasty up to 1161 in the Southern Song dynasty. At 300m in length, and 7 to 10m in height they run along the facade of cliff from south to north, these structures are distinguished for their extremely fine carving techniques, classic and exquisite beauty, mirroring the development and evolvement of Buddhism and the artistic style of stone grottoes in China.

With over 400 carvings, 264 niches containing statues, one intaglio painting, eight inscribed pillars, and over 10,000 Buddha statues in 51 different themes (539 carved during the Tang Dynasty) this site is a true wonder to behold.

The majority of the carvings are well preserved except for a few towers and inscriptions that have suffered damage over the centuries.

 the Six Realms Wheel of Life in Mt Baoding shan ( contains Naturelaw, Asura Road, human Road, beasts Road, Hungry Ghost Road, Hell Road.)

No2: Baoding Shan

Baoding Shan was built under the charge of a Monk named Zhao Zhifeng during 1174–1252 in the Southern Song Dynasty. Aiming to build a large stone ritual site containing ten thousand Buddha statues that could be used for preaching and spreading Tantric Buddhism, this endeavor lasted for over 70 years and was carried out under the guidance of a well-designed blueprint, and the diligent work of genius artists.

This site is also home to the magnificent Shenshou Temple (Holy Longevity Monastery). Built during the Southern Song Dynasty it consists of seven individual temples nestled among a beautiful forest covering an area of almost 2000 square meters.

Sitting under the temple is the Dafo Wan site. Here statues are carved on the north and south faces of 500m cliffs. Some of the most memorable carvings can be found here.
No3: Nanshan

Dating from the 11th to the 13th century these carvings are the most exquisite and complete Taoism statues in existence.

No 4: Shizhaun Shan

Shizhuan Shan mirrors two innovation of stone carving, it takes Confucius and his students as the prototypes – a rare site in China and combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism together – a rare phenomenon.

No5: Shimenshan

A beautiful combination of Buddhism and Taoism.

Highlights of Dazu Rock Carvings


The Shakyamuni’s Nirvana Holy Figure – This is the biggest statue in Dazu, measuring 31m this reclining Buddha is set into the rock face revealing only half of his body allowing the observer to use their imagination to complete the figure. Nirvana is the ultimate and highest status of monks. After they have achieved their mission to cultivate their mind and prayed for the blessing of others they gain immortality.

The Shakyamuni’s Nirvana Holly Figure in Baoding Shan

Guan Yin with One Thousand Hands – This unique statue has 1007 individual hands carved, every hand is slightly different and on each palm an eye is painted. This number of eyes depicts boundless power and wisdom.  

 Guanyin Buddha With 1007 Hands

 Hanyan Three Sages – Here Buddha is holding a 2m high pagoda, thought to weigh approximately two tons, it has been designed and built in such away that it is stable; and a wonder to all who see it.

 Left: Wenshu Buddha; Middle:Lushena Buddha;Right: PuXian Buddha

Rat and Cat – Sometimes referred to as the most beautiful paining on Earth. A cat is tortured with the desire to eat the rat that is sitting on a bamboo; the rat also faces a dilemma – remain in the safety of the bamboo and starve to death, of try to escape and risk being the cat’s lunch, indicating that desire is the source of human’s ultimate pain.

 rat and cat: a fable of desire and painess

 the Six Roots Symbolize Desires of Man, one Has to Control Desires to be a Buddha


Guanyin Buddha


 Niche of Parental Love Sutra

 Sakyamuni's Filial Piety

 Nine Dragons

 Buddha and Buffalo

This is the Happy Buddha(Smile Buddha,弥勒佛)


Author: Sophia  and Emma   Last edited on Jan 27,2014


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