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Discover China's Ancient Religious Grotto - Dazu Rock Carvings | Chongqing Travel Guide

By XIAO WUMIKKEL LARSENICHONGQING|May 16,2020

Chongqing- More than 800 years ago at the young age of 19, a monk from Dazu embarked on a journey to create one of the most elaborate grotto carving in China. Grotto art was the main media used to communicate the Buddhist belief as it traveled from India to China, and that is what we are exploring in this episode at the Dazu Rock Carvings.

 

History and Background

In over 75 spots scattered around Dazu district, there are more than 50,000 Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist statues and more than 10,000 characters of inscription. Those on 5 mountains got listed as the World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1999.

Baoding Rock Carvings we are visiting today is the most well-preserved and elaborate one among Dazu Rock Carvings. Over 800 years ago (1174-1252ad), a 19 – year- old monk named Zhao Zhifeng planed and led the construction of Baoding Rock Carvings.

It took over 70 years to accomplish it. The carvings cliff is at 500 meters long and at the height of 8-25 meters. With exquisite craftsmanship and high artistic value, the rock carvings tell rich stories about people’s life, religious belief at that time as well as showcased Chinese philosophy shaped by Taoism, Buddism and Taoism.

Main Attractions

The Dazu rock carvings exhibition area is only 500 meters long yet walking through these 500 meters there is so much history that it can literally take you hours to walk through. But if you are interested in history, Dazu Rock Carvings will not disappoint you.

1000-Armed Goddess of Mercy

The Thousand-armed Goddess of Mercy is one of the most spectacular carvings you can currently see at Dazu Rock Carvings. When it was originally carved it was colorless, but the original gold paint was added in during the Qing Dynasty. The Goddess of Mercy has 1000 arms and 1000 eyes, enough to have a good look at the world and enough arms to emancipate people from all kinds of troubles.

The Goddess of Mercy, also known as Avalokitesvara, is widely worshipped by its devotees and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. On the 88-square-meter cliff the engravers carved all of her hands in different gestures, pointing in different directions and more than 100 instruments in her palms carrying important information about ancient articles.

Sakyamuni Entering Nivana

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Guatama, a prince of the Sakya Kingdom in ancient India. He spread the Buddhist doctrines all around India and gained the name Sakyamuni, meaning the sage of Sakyas Tribe. One day, while preparing to give his lessons to his disciples, he got a sudden stomachache, lied down on his right side, facing west, and only moments later, he entered Nirvana.

The reclining Buddha is an image of Sakyakumi as he enters Nirvana. When his disciples heard the news, they came to him with offerings in hand. Next to the reclining Buddha carving, a table has been carved showing the offerings, such as peaches and lotus flowers.

Buddhist Wheel of Reincarnation

The Buddhist wheel of reincarnation, is a descriptive carving that demonstrates the Buddhist outlook on life, and the Buddhist principles of casual retribution, what we would otherwise call Karma. It shows that lives will constantly change.

In the middle of the wheel, there is a monster-like creature holding and biting the wheel, a monk depicting Zhao Zhifeng, from whose heart are 6 emanating rays with buddhas in roundels. The three sections at the top signify the Pure Land and the three on the bottom signifies Hell. The symbolic meaning behind this, is that everything we do comes from our heart.

Ancient stories of Chinese beliefs

In the upper tier are engraved the King of Hell, ten Buddha and ten Gods of Hell. The ten Gods of Hell look very serious with their judges and jailors standing on their side. There is a scale hook on the right that can weigh how much good or bad deeds have one done in their lifetime, which determines where for them to go in the afterlife. If go to hell, the rock carvings display the horrible scenes of 18 punishments of hell. Buddhism explains that certain bad deeds would cause relevant torture.

Bad people go to hell, then good ones shall go to Pureland. As the name shows, the Pure Land is a peaceful paradise where people would never see wars, fighting, suffering or any other awful thing. They live in the pavilion which is paved by gold and amber and is spring all year long. They have dragons and phoenix to bring them to other places. The Bodhi trees have all kinds of things hanging on its branches and everyone can get what is necessary as soon as he places his eyes on it.

There are a series of pictures depicting parental love for their children. Telling the stories about pregnancy, laboring, feeding and taking care of the kid, parents leaving the best thing to their children, old parents still caring about how their children live their life.

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