Category of site: Cultural site
The Dazu Rock Carvings are located in Dazu county, Chongqing. Construction began in 650, and continued into the 17th century. The rock carvings are an outstanding example of China’s grotto art in the middle and late period of ancient China. Dazu was added to the World Heritage list on December 1, 1999.
So far, 50,000 statues and 100,000 inscribed with Chinese characters have been identified and 75 cliff statue sites are under state protection. The cliff statues are large in size, well carved and among the best preserved of this form of Chinese cave temple art.
The Dazu Rock Carvings occupy an important position in the history of China’s grotto art. They include not only Buddhist figures, but Taoist and Confucian figures, which makes them different from earlier grottoes. The statues have strong national and secular features and depict the daily lives of ancient people. They mark the completion of the localization process of China’s grotto art and reflect great changes and developments in China’s folk religion and grotto art.
The Dazu Rock Carvings mainly contain Buddhist statues, but there are also some Taoist, Confucian and historical figures, and many valuable engraved tablets. The statues show maturity of carving and national features, breaking new ground in religious art. It represents the pinnacle of Chinese rock art in their high aesthetic quality and their diversity of style and subject matter.
The Dazu Rock Carvings provide rich and valuable material for research into ancient China’s culture, arts, philosophy, religion and history. In the spring of 1945, Chinese historians researched the Dazu Rock Carvings and published their findings, marking the beginning of full-scale research into the grottoes. The Chinese Government has made great efforts to protect, research and publicize the Dazu Rock Carvings and in recent years, they have attracted a large number of foreign experts, scholars and visitors.
Celebrities and stone carvings
The Wei Jun Jing Bei, one of numerous engraved tablets, was carved in 895 and is the first written record contained in the Dazu Rock Carvings. Another tablet (No. 104 of the northern section) was carved by Cai Jing of the Song Dynasty. It was flanked by 22 chapters of a book on ancient Chinese characters. These are historically significant because they were inscribed in both ancient Chinese and more modern characters.
Artisans created these marvelous rock carvings not simply by replicating images that their predecessors had made. Instead, they broke new ground and created dynamic figures full of life. Their innovations will be recorded in the history of grotto art forever.