Located at Dazu District in Chongqing, Dazu Rock Carvings is 167km from the city center of Chongqing. Listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, Dazu Rock Carvings enjoys comparable reputation with the top four grottoes in China - Mogao Grottoes, Yungang Grottoes, Longmen Grottoes and Maijishan Grottoes. Dazu Rock Carvings refers to all the rock carvings in Dazu District, and it has over 50,000 Buddha statues here.
Built between the late Tang Dynasty(618 ~907) and early Song Dynasty (960 ~ 1279), it's a religious cliff inscriptions. Most carvings took Buddhism culture as subject matter, and Confucianism and Taoism sculptures can also be seen in it. The most interesting part is that the all of the sculptures show Buddha's life and other stories in Chinese Buddhism. Among all sites of Dazu Rock Carvings, the most famous ones are Baodingshan Rock Carvings, Beishan Rock Carvings, Nanshan Rock Carvings, Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings and Shimenshan Rock Carvings.
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Dazu Rock Carvings is the general term for all the rock carvings in Dazu District, and in fact, there are 102 places in Dazu has rock carvings, and among them, 75 sites are listed as cultural protection sites by the government, including over 50,000 statues and over 100,000 inscription words.
Baodingshan is a mountain located at the northeast of the center of Dazu District, about 15km from Longgang Town, with an altitude of 527.8m. Baodingshan Rock Carvings was designed by Zhao Zhifeng, and he organized the construction of the carvings. The project started from 1174 and ended at 1252. In a word, Baodingshan is a large-scale ashram of Tibetan Buddhism, where holds nearly ten thousands of Buddha statues. The rock carvings in Baodingshan include Giant Buddha Bay (which is centered on Shengshou Temple, a magnificent temple built along the mountain) and Lesser Buddha Bay. Nearly ten thousands of Buddha statues carved on a 500m long cliff, and this long picture tells almost all stories recorded by the Buddhist scriptures. The most amazing part is the way it tells the story. Baodingshan Rock Carvings describes the Buddhism stories in a more local and secularization way, which makes it more acceptable by visitors with different backgrounds.
Baodingshan Rock Carvings represents the highest sculpture art of China, and among all the sculptures, the Thousand-Hand Kwan-yin is called the national treasure of national treasures. It actually has 830 hands in total, and all of them are situated in a 7.7m high and 12.5m wide grotto. This statue combines sculpture, color paint and gild art into together, and it's just like the peacock spreads its tail, very stunning.
1.5km north to Longgang Town of Dazu, with an altitude of 545.5m, Beishan is also called Longgang Mountain in the past. Carved between 892 and 1162, Beishan Rock Carvings was carved in a 300m long cliff, with a height of 7 to 10 meters. The grottoes are very dense, just like a hive. The statues here are distinct from each other; they are all well-proportioned, with an elegant posture. The rock carvings are numbered and divided into two sections: No.1 ~ No.100 are in south section, while No.101 ~ No. 290 are in north section. There are over 5,000 statues and all of them were delicate carved with high sculpture skills. The majority of them are preserved intact and well. Among all the carvings, No.136 grotto represents the highest rock carving skill in Song Dynasty, and this Tibetan grotto is the highlight of Beishan Rock Carvings. Baodingshan Rock Carvings and Beishan Rock Carvings are the major attractions among Dazu 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 was considered as the top 10 attractions in Dazu since the ancient time. The grottoes in Nanshan were carved between 1131 ~ 1162 on a 86m long cliff, with a height between 3.5m to 10.2m. Unlike other place, Nanshan Rock Carvings was themed on Taoism. There are 15 grottos in total, with 421 statues, and Sanqing Ancient Grotto is the representative work of Nanshan Rock Carvings. The carvings in Nanshan have vividly reflected belief changing process in 12th century.
Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings is located at Fohui Village in Sanqu Town, which is 20km from Dazu District. It was carved from 1082 to 1090, and the carved cliff is about 130m long and 3 ~ 8m wide. It's the earliest rock carving district which combines Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism into together. There are ten grottes in Shizhuanshan, and the most famous one is No.6 grotto, which carved Confucius and the best 10 disciples of him, which is really rare in rock carvings in China.
Located at Xinsheng Village of Shima Town, 20km east of Longgang Town, with an elevation of 374 meters, Shimenshan Rock Carvings was carved from 1094 to 1151. The whole carvings were carved 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 which combines Buddhism and Taoism into one in Dazu Rock Carvings. The Taoism carvings in Shimenshan is the most artistic part; with life-like expression and dignified temperament, it fully shows the high skill of Chinese rock-carving. There are 16 grottoes in total, with 12 of them have figure statues in them. No.2 grotto, No.10 grotto and No.12 grotto are all very delicate and beautiful.
Dazu Rock Carving is about 105km away from the city center of Chongqing City. Travelers can take coach, train and private car to Dazu from Chongqing.
For travelers from Chengdu, you can take high speed train to Chongqing first, then transfer to Dazu, or you can take coach from Hehuachi in Chengdu to Dazu, and the journey is about 4 hours to 5 hours.
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A Chongqing & Dazu tour needs about 2 days, including 1 day to catch the highlights in the city and 1 day to explore Dazu Rock Carving.
During the one-day Chongqing tour, you are suggested to visit Ciqikou Ancient Town and Three Gorges Museum to avoid the crowds in the afternoon. After the lunch, you can go to Liziba Station on Line 2 to appreciate amazing house-crossing metro trains up close. Before the night falls on that day, you can travel up to E‘ling Park to have a panorama view of Chongqing city. And the rest hours of the day are for you to discover the splendid Chongqing Night View at Hongya Cave and have authentic hot pot meals there.
And for the Dazu Rock Carving tour, most tourists will firstly visit Baodingshan Rock Carvings, and then visit Beishan Rock Carvings.
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. And please notice that dinner on the embarkation night is not included in your Yangtze River cruise tour. Treat yourself something you like to eat before boarding your ship.
• Baodingsan Rock Carvings is the essence among Dazu Rock Carvings, and the transportation to it is the most convenient. However, it's the farthest one to Dazu.
• The scenic area is not large, yet it's crowded with tourists, and the most famous Thousand-Hand Kwan-yin was already repaired and is now open to the public.
• From the entrance to the attractions, there is a half hour walk. For those want to save some energy, you can take the battery car at the entrance, and the ticket is ¥20/person.
• There is a new Dazu Rock Carvings Museum opened in the scenic are, and you can visit it after you finish the sightseeing. If you have no time to Beishan Rock Carvings, then the you must visit the museum to know more about Dazu Rock Carvings.
• Beishan Rock Carvings is very close to Dazu, and after finishing Baodingshan tour, you can take bus back to Dazu, then take a taxi to Beishan.
• Beishan Rock Carvings is suffered from weathering; however, it's very delicate and beautiful, and the tourists here is far less than Baodingshan.
• The essence of Beishan is No.125 grotto and No.136 grotto.
• After finishing the tour in Beishan, it's hard to find a cab in the mountain, so tourists need to walk for a short distance to the mountain foot, and you can appreciate the mountainous scenery of Dazu during this time.
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