The Baodingshan scenic area is located approximately 12 kilometers Northeast of the urban area of Dazu District. It is the largest and most famous of the five-rock carving locations in Dazu, surrounded by ancient temples, the Dazu Rock Carving Museum, and a shopping area. The Baodingshan Rock Carvings was first built under the direction of Buddhist Monk Zhao Zhifeng during the reign of Chunxi to the reign of Chunyou in the Southern Song Dynasty (1174 – 1252 AD).
BACKGROUND & HISTORY
Baodingshan or Baoding Mountain is a limestone outcropping at an elevation of about 500 meters, located 12-15 kilometers from the urban center of the Dazu District. Dazu itself is a market town dating back to 758 BC, and there are numerous religious sites around Dazu. You can read more about Dazu District here. Construction of the Baodingshan Rock Carvings took place around 1127-1279 AD. Still, it remained largely unknown to the world until the area officially opened to local tourists in the 1960s and for foreign tourists in the 1980s. The earliest documented research at the Baodingshan site dates back to 1944. The rock carvings here all fall under the collective grouping of the Dazu Rock Carvings. In the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD), Dazu was one of the wealthiest parts of China.
The scenic area consists of two main parts joined by the Longevity Temple (圣手寺). The Great Buddha Bend or Dafowan is the best-known collection of carvings due to the many tableaux found here. One of the most famous is the reproduction of the story of taming the wild ox. Here you can also find the scenes of hell and the 1000-armed 1000-eyed Avalokitesvara or Guanyin figure. This area of the Baodingshan carvings follows the natural contours of the landscape, and the whole scenic area is lush with green vegetation.
In recent years, Baodingshan and the surrounding area have seen a lot of growth, with a highway being built to connect it better to the Dazu urban area, and the surroundings around Baodingshan are under development now as well, although the scenic area with the rock carvings is heavily protected.
Dazu Rock Carvings Museum
Located at the Baodingshan Rock carvings, you will find the Dazu Rock Carvings museum, where you can explore the history of the Dazu Rock Carvings, the Buddhist religion entering into China, and rock carving itself inspired from India. The Dazu Rock Carving museum is an attraction in its own right, and it can take anywhere from 1-2 hours to walk through.
The Niche featuring the depiction of Shakyamuni entering Nirvana is a 32-meter long Buddhist sculpture located at the Baodingshan Rock Carvings in Dazu. This carving represents an important part of Buddhist belief when the physical body of someone who has achieved enlightenment dies. Shakyamuni is accompanied by his Bodhisattvas and other attendants. It is said that he was giving a lecture, turned to lie down, and then entered Nirvana.
This stunning relief features the 1000-armed Avalokiteshvara, with 1000 hands and 1000 eyes to better see and save sentient beings all over the world. This specific statue has undergone immense restoration work and was closed to the public for many years before opening back up a few years ago. The figure is more than 7 meters tall and more than 12 meters wide and has, 1007 arms and not two of them are the same.
This elaborate tableau illustrates the deities and officials in charge of the circles of hell along with the punishments measured out to the sinners who end up here.
Taming the Wild Ox
The Ox herding parable illustrates the process of enlightenment through the images of herding a wild ox. As the herdsman gradually tames his wild ox, so does the spiritual seeker tame his unruly mind through the practice of Zen.
How to go there
The most convenient way to travel to Dazu is by bus. From downtown Chongqing, the Long-Distance Bus Station near Chongqing North Railway Station has buses to Dazu for about 60 RMB; the trip takes around 2.5 – 3 hours depending on traffic conditions. From the Bus station in Dazu, you can take local buses to the Rock Carving Mountains.