大足石刻Grotto Art in Dazu County
Dazu County, located in the southeast of Sichuan province, is 271 kilometres away from Chengdu and 163 kilometres away from Chongqing. "Dazu" here means "harvest and abundance (Dafeng, Dazu)".
The work of Dazu Rock Carvings began in the first year of Yonghui in the Tang Dynasty (650A.D.), and continued until the Ming and Qing dynasties. Now, it enjoys equal popularity with theYungang and Longmen Grottoes. The general term of "Dazu Rock Carvings" refers to all the cliffside carvings in Dazu County, which includes the carvings in Beishan (including Beita), Baodingshan, Nanshan, Shizhuanshan and Shimenshan. Baoding Grotto, 15 kilometres northeast of the county seat, is the largest and best preserved one and is a key cultural relic site under state protection.
There are more than 50,000 Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian rock carvings and 100,000 characters of inscriptions dotted around Dazu. The carvings not only include the statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva but also include that of monarchs, ministers, military officers, high and low-ranking officials, jailers, executioners, monks, rich and poor people, and folk art performers. The earliest grotto was carved in the early Tang Dynasty and most of them have a history over 1000 years.
Many of the carvings in Baoding Grotto reflect religious doctrines and another set of carvings reflects Confucianism, specifically filial piety. What the carvings offer to visitors is not only the wonderful enjoyment of the magnificent art but a Buddhist teaching like this: One can free himself from earthly worries by self-cultivation and does not need to go beyond his own inner world to
find the truth of Buddhism. There are also many other carvings at the site that tell Buddhist doctrines through the lives of ordinary people. With rich images as well as inscriptions, the Dazu Grottoes are regarded as an art treasure house that fully reflected the society, philosophy, religion and folklore of that time. In 1999, UNESCO listed Dazu Stone Carvings as a world cultural heritage site. One point to be noted is that the Dazu Grottoes are the only ones that were implemented according to an overall design among over 100 grottoes in China.