Why Visit Dazu Rock Carvings Chongqing?

Enjoying a comparable reputation with the top four grottoes in China (Mogao Grottoes, Yungang Grottoes, Longmen Grottoes, and Maijishan Grottoes) and being rated as one of the eight grottoes in the world, the Dazu Rock Carvings (“大足石刻” in Chinese), also known as Dazu Caves or Dazu Grottoes, located 167km from the city center of Chongqing. It is the one and only UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in Chongqing municipality. The Dazu Rock Carvings consists of 75 cave temple sites, including more than 50,000 statues, being protected for their historical, artistic, and scientific values at different levels, representing the pinnacle of Chinese cave temple art between the 9th and 13th centuries. Among them, rock carvings of Baodingshan (宝顶山), Beishan (北山), Nanshan (南山), Shimenshan (石门山), and Shizhuanshan (石篆山) are exquisitely sculpted with the most distinctive style.

The Dazu Rock Carvings started in the early Tang Dynasty, went through the late Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties, and then experienced its golden time in the Northern and Southern Song Dynasty. At the time when cave art in northern China fell into decay, the Dazu Rock Carvings undoubtedly created another peak in the history of Chinese cave art, extending the history of Chinese cave art for more than 400 years. Since then, there have been no such large-scale rock carving events in China or even in the world. Therefore, the Dazu Rock Carvings are also known as the last monument and swan song in the history of the world’s grotto art.

Dazu Rock Carvings Dazu Rock Carvings
Dazu Rock Carvings Dazu Rock Carvings - Buddhist Wheel of Life

What Distinguishes the Dazu Rock Carvings from the Top Four Grottoes in China?

Differing from famous royal grottoes in the north, the religious cliff inscriptions in Dazu show distinctive features of nationalization, secularization, and everyday life, reflecting the remarkable development and changes in folk religious beliefs. Thus, the Dazu caves have the irreplaceable historical, artistic, scientific, and connoisseurship values of grottoes of the previous generations. Another highlight that has to be mentioned is that the statues there provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Tantric Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Visitors can see separate stone carvings as well as the unity caves reflecting the three religions’ confluence and ruling together. Moreover, thanks to the southern hinterland location of the Dazu Rock Carvings, this cultural heritage stays far away from man-made sabotage, retaining the integrity of the statues, the original characteristics and values of the period when the carvings were created. Discover distinct characteristics of famous UNESCO grottoes in China, please refer to >>

See UNESCO’s three criterions for inscribing the Dazu Rock Carvings on World Heritage Lists, reference from UNESCO Official Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/912/)

"Criterion (i): The Dazu Carvings represent the pinnacle of Chinese rock art in their high aesthetic quality and their diversity of style and subject matter."

"Criterion (ii): Tantric Buddhism from India and Chinese Taoist and Confucian beliefs came together at Dazu to create a highly original and influential manifestation of spiritual harmony."

"Criterion (iii): The eclectic nature of religious belief in late Imperial China is given material expression in the exceptional artistic heritage of the Dazu rock art."

UNESCO Stele of the Dazu Rock Carvings UNESCO Stele of the Dazu Rock Carvings

Interesting History Background and Important Figures to Dazu Rock Carvings

After the An-shi Rebellion (775-763 A.D.) in the Tang Dynasty, the national economic center moved southward, leading to the gradual economic development in the Bashu Region. Following this, a favorable social environment for the flourishing of culture, art, and religion was created in this area. In the late Tang Dynasty, there was political unrest. The prefect of Changzhou and military commander of four districts (Changzhou, Puzhou, Yuzhou, and Hezhou), Wei Junjing, took advantage of the chaos to occupy Dazu. Wei Junjing was influenced by Buddhist beliefs and feared that he would go to hell after his death for his conquering killings, so he recruited a group of painters and craftsmen to excavate statues of Buddha on Beishan Mountain. Coordinating with the civilians’ desire to keep peace at that time, Dazu County had witnessed a surge of Buddhist cliff carving activities since then.

Then, in the Southern Song Dynasty, a second significant figure entered the historical stage. Zhao Zhifeng, reputed to be the “Sixth Grandmaster of Tantric Buddhism,” preached the teachings of the Late Tang Buddhist monk Liu Benzun and propagated the Dharma in the Dazu area. In view of the strong Buddhist atmosphere here, Zhao Zhifeng was determined to build a large-scale Tantric ashram in the form of stone carvings in the area. After conducting dozens of field investigations, he finally chose Baodingshan (Baoding Mountain) with his keen intuition. Using a systematic approach to layout design, he completed a unified planning for the Baodingshan Rock Carvings’ construction. After around 70 years, the Baodingshan Rock Carvings (宝顶山石刻群) was built, elevating the Dazu rock carvings to the highest point.


Main Attractions of Dazu Rock Carvings

Rock carvings in Dazu are mainly located across five mountains, each containing distinct sets of grottoes, among which the cliff-side sculptures on Baodingshan and Beishan are best known and considered to be the model of the late Chinese grottoes statue art. The pictures of the Dazu rock carvings that we commonly find online were mostly taken at the Baodingshan Scenic Area, which is also the must-visit site for a Dazu Rock Carvings tour.

Baodingshan Rock Carvings (Baodingshan Scenic Area)

Fifteen kilometers northeast from Dazu center, Baodingshan Rock Carvings was constructed by the famous monk Zhao Zhifeng in the Song Dynasty for more than 70 years. As one of the most famous Tantric Buddhist shrines in China, there is an old saying that goes like “Go North, climb the Emei Mountain; Go South, reach the Baoding Mountain.” The centerpiece of the Baodingshan rock carvings is the U-shaped Grant Buddha Bay, also known as Dafowan (“大佛湾” in Chinese). Nearly ten thousand statues are carved along the east, north, and south cliffs, which are approximately 500 meters in length and 8-25 meters high. Like a picture scroll with endless photographs, the content of Baodingshan rock carvings is mainly Buddhist scripture stories, each niche related to the other but not identical.

The Buddha statues at Baodingshan are novel in conception, skillful in carving, and rich in secular characters. Religious treasures come one after another, including the representative work - Niche of Sakyamuni Entering Nirvana, one of the wonders of Buddhist art in the world - Avalokitesvara with Thousand Hands, striking image of Buddhist Wheel of Life, scientific designs of Three Saints of Huayan School of Buddhism and Cave of Full Enlightment showed craftsmans’ ingenuity.

In addition, niche content and their expression approach are striving to visualize reality. For instance, Niche of Parental Love Sutra contains ten groups of carvings, including scenes like begging for a son, carrying a child, and going into labor, etc., depicting parental love in bringing up children with plots linking to each other as a picture-book. These carvings are vivid and impressive. They were the outcome after Buddhism had been localized in China. Taking another example, the Ritual Site of Buffaloes heights 570cm and stretches 2910cm. The group of carvings, comparing the Buffalo to man’s heart and the herdsman to the person who practices Buddhism, expound the gradual process of moderating and subduing the mental activities of Buddhists.

In addition to the uncanny quality of grottoes’ masterpieces at Grant Buddha Bay (Dafowan), there are also many highlights you can’t miss while visiting Baodingshan Scenic Area:

  • Watch a 4K film with English subtitles to learn about the history and development of Dazu rock carvings, and enjoy an 8D view of spectacular grottos at the dome theater
  • Take a leisure stroll at Dazu Rock Carvings Museum (大足石刻博物馆) to gain insights into the whole thread of world cave temple art and the basic characteristics of Dazu Rock Carvings
  • Visit Shengshou Temple (圣寿寺) to admire the exquisite temple architecture, which was rebuilt at the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Dazu Rock Carvings - Avalokitesvara with Thousand Hands Avalokitesvara with Thousand Hands
Dazu Rock Carvings - Ritual Site of Buffaloes Ritual Site of Buffaloes
Dazu Rock Carvings - Shengshou Temple & Dazu Rock Carvings Museum Shengshou Temple & Dazu Rock Carvings Museum

Baodingshan Rock Carvings Recommended Touring Route & Time Spending:
Watch digital films at the Tourist Center (50 minutes) - Take a tourist bus to Ruixiang Square (15 ~30 minutes) - Transfer by a scenic area sightseeing bus at the main entrance to Dadowan (10 minutes, 20 minutes on foot) - Explore Baodingshan rock carvings at Dafowan (1~1.5 hours) - Pass through Baoding Old Street and meet Shenshou Temple (0.5~1 hour) - Take a sightseeing bus back to the main entrance and visit the Museum of Dazu Rock Carvings (1 hour) - Walk through the Song-dynasty Street to take a tourist bus back to the Tourist Center (0.5~1 hour)

Dazu Rock Carvings Map Baodingshan Scenic Area Tourist Map

Beishan Rock Carvings

1.5km north to Longgang Town of Dazu, with an altitude of 545.5m, Beishan is also called Longgang Mountain in the past. Beishan Rock Carvings is the initial of Dazu Rock Carvings. They were first created by Wei Junjing, prefect of Changzhou, in 892 A.D. of the late Tang Dynasty. Until 1162 A.D. of the Southern Song Dynasty, the existing scale of Beishan Rock Carvings was formed, and it centered around Fowan. The rock carvings are numbered and divided into two sections: No.1 ~ No.100 are in the south section, while No.101 ~ No. 290 are in the north section. There are over 5,000 statues on a 500m long cliff, with a height of 7 to 10 meters. The grottoes are very dense, just like a hive, and all of them are delicate and carved with high sculpture skills.

The crowning jewels of Beishan rock carvings are the statues of Avalokitesvara. They are ornamental and artistic, with diverse looks and postures. The most emblematic ones are the Avalokitesvara with a Rosary, Avalokitesvara Watching the Moon Reflection in the Water, and Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Avalokitesvara, etc.

Beishan rock carvings can be visited both during the day and at night. An additional visual experience is provided by the scenic spot’s usage of colored light to illuminate the stone statues. Besides, if you have enough time and stamina, don’t forget to follow the downhill trail to visit the Duobao Pagoda (多宝塔) to see the giant cliff statues of Beishan, the Two Buddhas of the North Pagoda.

Dazu Rock Carvings - Beishan Rock Carvings Beishan Rock Carvings
Dazu Rock Carvings - Niche of Sakyamuni Entering Nirvana Avalokitesvara with a Rosary

How to Get to & around Dazu Rock Carvings - Baodingshan & Beishan

Baodingshan Rock Carvings is about 105km (65 miles) away from the city center of Chongqing City, and about 220km (136 miles) from Chengdu center. Even though nowadays there are high-speed trains to Dazu, the railway station - Dazu South Railway Station is distant from the Baodingshan Scenic Area (40km, 25 miles), Beishan Scenic Area (38km, 24 miles) and the center of Dazu district (36km, 22 miles), which means public transport is quite inconvenient for independent travel. Therefore, we strongly recommend you enjoy a worry-free trip and book the tour with us; let our professional travel consultants help you!

Chongqing to Dazu

Travelers can take private cars, trains, and coaches to Dazu from Chongqing.

  • Private Car (Top Recommended): The most convenient way to Dazu is taking a private car there, and this will only take about 1.5-2 hours.
  • Coach: Coach from bus stations in Chongqing downtown to Dazu will take 1.5hrs ~ 2 hrs, and the ticket ranging about ¥50~¥60. After arriving in Dazu, you can take bus No.205, and the last stop is the entrance to the Baodingshan Rock Carvings scenic area. There will be one every 20 to 30 minutes, and the bus ride will take about an hour.
  • Train: Chongqing West Railway Station, Chongqing North Railway Station, and Shapingba Railway Station offer high-speed trains to Dazu South Railway Station. The train ride only takes about 25-45 minutes. But getting from Dazu South Railway Station to the Baodingshan Rock Carvings takes about 2.5-3 hours by bus or 1 hour by taxi.

Learn more about Chongqing to Dazu Rock Carving >>

Baodingshan Rock Carvings to Beishan Rock Carvings

Baodingshan Scenic Area is about 11km northeast from Beishan Scenic Area, taking 25 minutes ride by car/taxi and over 1 hour by public bus No. 2015.

Get around Baodingshan and Beishan Scenic Area

Beishan Scenic Area is not large, a walking tour can be completed in about 1 hour. Baodingshan Scenic Area is relatively large, and the tourist center is far away from the central spot, Dafowan. Baodingshan Scenic Area runs two kinds of vehicles: tourist buses and sightseeing buses. ¥ 22 for a round trip, it is recommended to buy.

Chongqing to Dazu Map Click to Enlarge Chongqing to Dazu Map
Dazu Rock Carvings - Baodingshan Tourist Buses Baodingshan Tourist Buses

Dazu Rock Carvings Travel Tips: Tickets, Opening Time and Guide Services……

1. Tickets for the Dazu Rock Carvings:

Tickets for Dazu stone carving can be purchased individually for each attraction or jointly. Tickets are divided into off-season (from 1 December to 28/29 February) and peak season (from 1 March to 30 November), and the difference in ticket price is ¥ 5~20. The following information is for full price.

Single Attractions Peak Season Off Season
Baodingshan Scenic Area ¥ 115 ¥ 110
Beishan Scenic Area ¥ 70 ¥ 50
Digital Film ¥ 80 ¥ 80
Tourist Buses ¥ 22 (round trip)
¥ 12 (single trip)
¥ 22 (round trip)
¥ 12 (single trip)
Joint Tickets Peak Season Off Season
Baodingshan + Beishan + Digital Film + Tourist Buses (Round) ¥ 190 ¥ 180
Baodingshan + Beishan + Tourist Buses (Round) ¥ 150 ¥ 130
Baodingshan + Beishan ¥ 140 ¥ 120
Baodingshan + Digital Film + Tourist Buses (Round) ¥ 170 ¥ 165
Baodingshan + Tourist Buses (Round) ¥ 130 ¥ 115

2. Opening Time

The opening hours for both Baodingshan Scenic Area and Beishan Scenic Area are daily from 9:00 to 18:00. The nighttime opening of Beishan Scenic Area is from 19:30 to 23:00. Dazu Stone Carvings Museum at Baodingshan Scenic Area is closed on Mondays.

3. Guide Services

3.Baodingshan Scenic Area provides English guide services. The two attractions of the Baodingshan Rock Carvings and Dazu Stone Carvings Museum charge ¥480 together and ¥260 for a single site. The Beishan Scenic Area does not provide English guide services.

4. Dazu Rock Carvings versus Top 4 Grottoes in Northeast China

UNESCO Grottoes in China Date of Inscription (Year) Initial Chisel Time Outstanding Universal Value
Dazu Rock Carvings 1999 The Reign of Emperor Yonghui, Early Tang Dynasty (from 649 A.D.) 1. The representative of late Chinese grotto art.
2. Distinctive characteristics of nationality and secularization.
3. Diverse subjects of stone carvings reflect the development of folk beliefs and life in that historical period, which is of significant historical value.
Mogao Caves 1987 The Sixteen Kingdoms Period, Later Qin Dynasty (from 366 A.D.) 1. A vital witness to the communications and exchanges between civilizations that once took place on the ancient Silk Road.
2. Painted sculptures and murals show the history of cross-continental relations and the spread of Buddhism in Asia.
Longmen Grottoes 2000 The Reign of Xiaowen Emperor, Northern Wei Dynasty (from 493 A.D.) 1. One of the longest-built royal grottoes in the world.
2. A treasure trove of stone carving art with the most statues and the most significant scale in the world.
Yungang Grottoes 2001 The Reign of Daowu Emperor, Northern Wei Dynasty (from 398 A.D.) 1. The first grotto in China to be excavated by royal authorization.
2. Influenced by the Buddhist cave art of South and Central Asia, the Yungang Grottoes feature the most Westward style.
Maijishan Grottoes In 2014, the Maijishan Grottoes were declared a World Cultural Heritage site as part of the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor * The Sixteen Kingdoms Period, Later Qin Dynasty (from 384 A.D.) Featuring clay sculptures, the Maijishan Grottoes retain a wealth of religious, artistic, and architectural material, reflecting the development and evolution of the art of clay sculpture in China for a thousand year.

5. More Attractions of Dazu Rock Carvings

Nanshan, Shimenshan, and Shizhuanshan of Dazu Stone Carving Scenic Area are temporarily closed to the public.

• Nanshan Rock Carvings

Located at 2km south of Longgang Town, with an altitude of 514m, Nanshan was called Guanghua Mountain in ancient time. With serene natural scenery, Nanshan has been considered one of the top 10 attractions in Dazu since ancient times. The grottoes in Nanshan were carved between 1131 ~ 1162 A.D. on an 86m long cliff, with a height between 3.5m to 10.2m. Unlike other places, Nanshan Rock Carvings was themed on Taoism. There are 15 caves in total, with 421 statues, and Sanqing Ancient Grotto is the representative work of Nanshan Rock Carvings. The carvings in Nanshan vividly reflect the belief-changing process in the 12th century.

• Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings

Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings is located at Fohui Village in Sanqu Town, which is 20km from Dazu District. It was carved from 1082 to 1090 A.D., and the carved cliff is about 130m long and 3 ~ 8m wide. It’s the earliest rock carving district that combines Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. There are ten grottes in Shizhuanshan, and the most famous one is the No.6 grotto, which carved Confucius and the best ten disciples of him, which is really rare in rock carvings in China.

• Shimenshan Rock Carvings

Located at Xinsheng Village of Shima Town, 20km east of Longgang Town, with an elevation of 374 meters, the Shimenshan Rock Carvings was carved from 1094 to 1151 A.D.. The whole carvings were engraved on a 71.8m long cliff, with a height of 3.4m to 5m. Shimenshan Rock Carvings are mainly about the stories of the characters in Buddhism and Taoism, and it's the largest one that combines Buddhism and Taoism into one in Dazu Rock Carvings. The Taoism carvings in Shimenshan is the most artistic part; with life-like expressions and dignified temperament, they fully show the high skill of Chinese rock-carving. There are 16 grottoes in total, with 12 of them having figure statues in them. No.2 grotto, No.10 grotto, and No.12 grotto are all very delicate and beautiful.

Feel free to contact our diligent travel consultants if you have any other questions: contact us >>

How to Plan a Dazu Rock Carvings Tour?

Usually, it takes one day to visit the essence of the Dazu Rock Carvings. For most travelers, Baodingshan Scenic Area is the first stop. It contains a wide range of highlights, including exquisite and marvelous rock carvings at Dafowan, antique and elegant architectures in and around Shengshou Temple, and specialist grottoes museum - Dazu Rock Carving Museum, Baodingshan Scenic Area takes 3~6 hours to explore. If you still have time and energy, the tranquil Beishan Scenic Area, possessing the earliest built rock carving niches - Vaisravana Devaraja, is also worth a visit. The grottoes are very dense, just like a hive, and all sculptures were delicately carved with high sculpture skills. The Avalokitesvara statue is a bright spot.

There are two hot travel destinations connecting Dazu, Chongqing and Chengdu, which means travelers can arrange all highlights in between and around the two cities if they have enough time. Recommended days to spend in Chengdu and Chongqing are widely ranged for there is so much to see and explore nearby, for instance, Hongya Cave, Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing Light Rail, etc., in Chongqing, the Giant Panda Base, Jinli Old Street, Leshan Giant Buddha, Emei Mountain, Dujiangyan Irrigation System, Sanxingdui Site in and around Chengdu. Moreover, the luxury and splendid Yangtze River Cruises vacation also takes the Chaotianmen Dock at Chongqing as one of their essential terminals.

Check more about 1~5 days Chongqing Tours >> | 2~7 Days Chengdu Tours >>

More Tourist Idea: Most visitors travel Chongqing City before boarding their downstream Yangtze River cruise ship at night (18:00-21:00). If you are going to have such a tour too, remember to leave yourself enough time to catch your ship at Chaotianmen Dock.

Dazu Rock Carvings Tour Plan Dazu Rock Carvings - Niche of Sakyamuni Entering Nirvana azu Rock Carvings Tour Plan Liziba House Crossing Metro in Chongqing azu Rock Carvings Tour Plan Yangtze River Cruises

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Questions & Discussions

Following are latest questions and answers from our webusers and customers. You can learn many useful information from the discussion and cases. You can also join in the discussions or ask your own question. Our experts will help you ASAP.

from Dazu south railway station to Baodingsan cave
If we take taxi from Dazu south railway station to Baodingsan cave. How much for cost ? How many people can take 1 taxi ?
2017-08-15 17:08
Dear Supu,

Thanks for your message. From Dazu South Railway Staion, there is still about 45 kilometers to go to get to Baodingshan Cave. You can take bus 204 to Dazu County first, then take a taxi to Baodingshan Cave. If you prefer taking a taxi from Dazu South Railway Station, you have to pay around 150~300 RMB. A taxi usually allows 3~4 passengers. The taxi usually doesn't charge by kilometers.
Transportation from Dazu to Dazu South Railway Station
Is there a regularly scheduled bus from Dazu to the Dazu South Railway Station? Where would I catch the bus in Dazu? Is there another way to get to the Dazu South Railway Station?
2017-07-24 11:06
Dear Sam,

Thanks for your message. Yes, there is regular bus 204 (6 RMB) from Dazu to Dazu South Railway Station. You can take the bus 204 at Dazu Bus Station. Another way is to take a taxi, which cost around 150 RMB.
Train from Chongqing to Dazu South Railway Station.
Could we take a train from Chomhqing North Railway Staion to Dazu South Railway Station?
Then how far is from Dazu South Railway Station to Baodingshan Caves?
Are the above the quickest wat to visit Dazu Rock Carving from Chongqing?
Thank you.
2017-07-23 14:41
Dear Frederik,

Thanks for your message. Yes, you can take high speed trains to Dazu South Railway Station from Chomhqing North Railway Staion. There are about 7 trains scheduled from 7am to 8:20pm. It only takes about 40 minutes for the train ride. From Dazu South Railway Staion, there is still about 45 kilometers to go to get to Baodingshan Cave. You can take bus 204 to Dazu County first, then take a taxi to Baodingshan Cave.
Bus from Dazu to Chengdu
Is there any bus from Dazu Chengdu? What time? And to what station of Chengdu?
Thank you.
2017-06-11 22:01
Hi Beewinny,

There are buses from Dazu to Chengdu, but not too often and fixed-departure. Actually you can firstly take a bus or taxi to Dazu South Railway Station, then take a high speed train to Chengdu. The whole transfers cost only about 2 hours.

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