Dazu, Sichuan: The City of Builders and Solar Energy

 

Dazu, Sichuan at sunrise [© BMCL]

Dazu, Sichuan at sunrise [© BMCL]

Dazu is regarded in Sichuan as the “county of rock carving.”

August 9, 2012

Upon entering Dazu, we are greeted by two rows of street lights with lotus-shaped solar panels and modern buildings flanking both sides of the road. My first impression of the city was simply amazement that this city was highly advanced and eco-friendly. According to our tour guide, this city is known for hardware manufacturing, craftsmanship (especially carving), and Buddhism. The other provinces primarily export building materials and tools from Dazu to build houses and buildings.

Construction of skyscrapers at Dazu, Sichuan [© BMCL]

Construction of skyscrapers at Dazu, Sichuan [© BMCL]

After refreshing ourselves at the hotel, our guide explained that our Sichuan experience would not be complete without trying traditional hotpot. We were thus treated to the local cuisine. The set menu was a Chinese herbal soup with old duck meat, gai choy, ham, and golden thin mushrooms.

Herbal hotpot [© BMCL]

Herbal hotpot [© BMCL]

Note:When trying unfamiliar soup bases, it may be advisable to avoid drinking too much of the soup since your body is not used to it. Point. I had traveler’s diarrhea during my transit from Dazu to Chongqing, which made sightseeing unpleasant for me.

August 10, 2012

Attraction List:

  • Dazu Grottos: Baoding Shan

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan) [© BMCL]

The main attraction is the Dazu Grottos, a UNESCO heritage site, located in the steep, reddish hillsides outside of Dazu nearby the Shengshou Temple. The grottos contain ancient Buddhist carvings, which date from the late 12th to 13th centuries.

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Buddhist figures and the Wheel of Reincarnation

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Buddhist figures and the Wheel of Reincarnation

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Wheel of Reincarnation [© BMCL]

Some murals were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, while the remaining murals are being preserved. The most beautiful sight is the expansive mural depicting the Wheel of Reincarnation.

In Buddhism, there are different levels of reincarnation based on a person’s deeds in their life. If a person committed improper deeds, he or she would be reincarnated as an animal or ghost in one of the three unfortunate realms; only until that person has led a “good life,” then he or she will be reincarnated in one of the three fortunate realms and gradually reach nirvana. See the PBS Introduction to Buddhism for more information.

To the left, a figure from Buddhism lore holds the Wheel of Reincarnation aloft. The center of the Wheel is Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha)—the founder of Buddhism, representing nirvana.
The other carvings and statues depict the story of Shakyamuni and of other bodhisattvas in faded colors. The solemn statues display a feeling of tranquility and reverence—a feat that the Song Dynasty craftsmen mastered.

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Buddha in repose [© BMCL]

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Buddha in repose [© BMCL]

Inside a few of the caves on the hillside, I felt like a pilgrim visiting the revered Buddhist icons. Towering before me was the figure of Shakyamuni blackened by the ashes of the illumination brought by many other pilgrims before me.

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): A pilgrim's visit to the Buddhist icons [© BMCL]

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): A pilgrim’s visit to the Buddhist icons [© BMCL]


As we made our way along the snaky trails along the cliffside, we passed by various murals of the daily lives of herdsmen and the people.

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Mural depicting daily life [© BMCL]

Dazu Grottos (Baoding Shan): Mural depicting daily life [© BMCL]


At the end, we made our way to Shengshou Temple, where we paid our respects and continued on journey onward. I thoroughly enjoyed this attraction. To gaze upon the labor of stone craftsmen highly deserves a revisit.

Additional Comments

There are other stone carving sites nearby Dazu, which depict scenes from the other two schools of thought in China, Taoism and Confucianism, in harmony with scenes from Buddhism. This not only shows how religious thought evolved in China but also how temple cave art gave us an insight to the lives of ordinary people.

For more information, see the Beishan and Shizhuanshan carvings.

Acknowledgments

B.M.C.L. for providing me some of the photos of the Dazu Grottos since I was under the weather during this leg of the trip.

References

UNESCO. (n.d.) Dazu Rock Carvings. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/912
Travel China Guide. (2014, April 9). Dazu Rock Carvings. Retrieved from http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/chongqing/dazu.htm
Sacred Destinations. (n.d.) Dazu Rock Carvings, Chongqing Municipality. Retrieved from http://www.sacred-destinations.com/china/dazu-rock-carvings/

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