Assessment of the World Heritage Committee
The unique Dazu Rock Carvings on the cliffs in Dazu area were built between the 9th century A.D. and the 13th century A.D., and are famous for their aesthetic quality and their rich secular and religious diversity. The Dazu Rock Carvings vividly reflect the everyday social life in China during that period and provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious combination of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
Chinese name: Da Zu Shi Ke
English name: The Dazu Rock Carvings
The Dazu Rock Carvings are located in Dazu County, Chongqing Municipality.
According to the criteria C(I),(II),(VI) for selecting world cultural heritage, the rock carvings at Beishan, Baodingshan, Nanshan, Shizhuanshan and Shimenshan, which are parts of the Dazu Rock Carvings area, was listed in the World Heritage List on Dec. 1, 1999.
The Dazu Rock Carvings are located in Dazu County, Chongqing Municipality. The carving work began in the Yonghui period of the early Tang Dynasty (649 A.D.) and continued until the Ming and Qing dynasties (between the 14th century and the 19th century). Through the late Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties period (between 907 A.D. and 959 A.D.) the work entered its prime and distinguished itself during the Northern and Southern Song Dynasties (between 960 A.D. and 1278 A.D.). The rock carvings are mainly Buddhist statues, together with Confucian and Taoist statues. The Dazu Rock Carvings represent the later period of Chinese grotto art and have epitomized the essence of the rock carving art in China. The Dazu Rock Carvings enjoy the same fame as the Yungang, Longmen and Dunhuang Grottoes, and bear significant historical, artistic, religious and scientific values.
The Dazu Rock Carvings are made up of 1,030 niche grottoes and over 60,000 statues scattered in more than 100 locations including 77 cultural relic protection sites at various levels. Beishan, Baodingshan, Nanshan, Shizhuanshan and Shimenshan boast the largest number of and the most famous carvings. The Dazu Rock Carvings were built while emphasizing the differences between rock carving and clay sculpture just like in the north part of China at that time, and rock sculpture techniques were also used to make the carvings look splendid and delicate. The carvings in Dazu have very rich subjects and do not only consist of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian statues, but also sculptures of historical figures. Buddhist statues account for over 60 percent of the total carvings, the largest proportion. The largest concentration and scale of Buddhist carvings are at Baodingshan and Beishan, while most Taoist carvings are found in Nanshan and the Banbian Temple.
The Beishan Rock Carvings are two kilometers to the northwest of Dazu County and was built between the first year of the Jingfu reign period of the Tang Dynasty (892 A.D.) and the Shaoxing reign period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1162 A.D.). The Beishan Rock Carvings are made up of nearly 10,000 cliff side statues, which were mainly built for the purpose of respecting Buddha and funded by secular people. There are 51 kinds of statues, and most of them are mainly based on Tantric Buddhism, accounting for about half of the total. There are also statues of Sanjiejiao (teaching of the three levels) and Jintuzong.
These statues were built based on Buddhist stories popular among the folk, so they are the products of Buddhist secularization which is different from the early grotto art period in China. The Beishan Rock Carvings are famous for its delicate and elegant carved statues which show the development and changes of people’s belief in Buddhism and grotto art during the end of the 9th century A.D. and the middle of the 12th century A.D. The most representative carving in Beishan is the No.136 grotto which was built between 1142 A.D. and 1146 A.D. The statues in the grotto show great curved and surface structures, and are full of national Chinese characteristics. They have been well preserved and look as if they are newly carved. The Beishan Rock Carvings are considered “a pearl in the crown of Chinese grotto art.”
The Baodingshan Rock Carvings, 15 kilometers to the northeast of Dazu County, were built between the sixth year of the Chunxi reign period in the Southern Song period (1179 A.D.) and the ninth year of the Chunyou reign period in the Southern Song period (1249 A.D.). With the Shengshou Temple as the center, the Baodingshan Rock Carvings contain nearly 10,000 statues scattered in 13 locations including Dafowan and Xiaofowan. The statues are mainly based on the figures and stories of Tantric Buddhism. The Baodingshan carving cluster is just like a large Buddhist resort, and shows the essence of the rock carving art during the Song Dynasty (between 960 A.D. and 1278 A.D.). The “Viravana of Sakyamuni” statue is about 31-meter long and is the largest sleeping Buddha bust statue. The splendid carving techniques, smooth carved curves, and the face and body of the Buddha give people an elegant and noble impression.
The Nanshan Rock Carvings are located to the southeast of Daze County. Most of the carvings were built during the Southern Song Dynasty (between 1127 A.D. and 1279A.D.) and a few were built later in the Ming and Qing dynasties. There are 15 grottoes containing mainly Taoist statues. The statues were carved with delicate techniques and most of them were painted with color. The Nanshan Rock Carvings have the largest number of and the most concentrated Chinese Taoist statues and the carvings can also reflect the most complete god family.
The Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings, 25 kilometers to the southwest of Dazu County, were built between the 5th year of the Yuanfeng reign period in the Northern Song Dynasty (1082 A.D.) and the 3rd year of the Shaosheng reign period (1096 A.D.). The Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings contain 10 grottoes and integrated Chinese Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian carvings, which is very rare in grotto art history. The No.6 grotto houses a seated Kongzi statue carved in the front wall and Kongzi’s 10 most famous followers carved in the two side walls, which is very unique in the Chinese grotto art history. The No.8 grotto houses Laozi, the founder of Taoism. The grotto looks magnificent with a seated Laozi statue in the center and seven Taoist priest and master statues standing on its two sides. The carvings in Shizhuanshan highlight the synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, which is a notable feature of the Daze Rock Carvings.
The Shimenshan Rock Carvings, 20 kilometers to the east of Dazu County, were built between the first year of the Shaosheng reign period in the Northern Song period (1094 A.D.) and the 21st year of the Shaoxing reign period in the Southern Song period (1151 A.D.). The Shimenshan Rock Carvings contain 16 grottoes and the statues are mainly based on figures and stories of Buddhism and Taoism. The Shimenshan Rock Carvings are the largest rock carving cluster containing both Buddhist and Taoist statues in the Daze carving area. The Taoist statues in Shimenshan have the highest artistic quality and are unique in Chinese rock carving art history.
The Dazu Rock Carvings reflect the development and changes of Chinese rock carving art in its later period since the Tang and Song dynasties. The carving work vividly shows the co-existence and co-development of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The Dazu Rock Carvings, consisting of the grottoes in Beishan, Baodingshan, Nanshan, Shizhuanshan, Shimenshan and other locations, have significant value for its integrity. Moreover, the Dazu Rock Carvings are located in mountainous areas of the Chinese inland and have been well preserved due to low traffic conditions in the past. Apart from a few statues that have been re-carved, most of the carvings have remained unharmed from man-made and natural disasters.
In general, the Daze Rock Carvings are well known worldwide for its grand scale, delicate carving techniques, diversified subject matters, rich content and well preservation. They are the essence of the Chinese Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian carving arts, and have made significant contributions to the innovation and development of Chinese rock carving art. They also boast great and irreplaceable historical, artistic and scientific value.