Dazu Rock Carvings HEAD
Home Chongqing Travel Guide Dazu Rock Carvings: One of the Eight Greatest Grottoes in the World

Dazu Rock Carvings: One of the Eight Greatest Grottoes in the World

Dazu Rock Carvings is a collective term for a massive number of rock carvings found in Dazu District, Chongqing, China. They are also known as Dazu Grottoes. The history of the carvings dates back to between 9th to 13th centuries, spanning over 1,300 years. The Dazu Rock Carvings of Chongqing was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.

Dazu Rock Carvings are recognized for their artistic, cultural, and historical values. Their subject matter concerns Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, as well as the everyday life of the locals at the time. As one of the eight greatest grottoes in the world, it shares a reputation with the top four grottoes in China, Mogao Caves, Longmen Grottoes, Yungang Grottoes, and Maijishan Grottoes.


Fast Facts about Dazu Rock Carvings

  • In Chinese: 大足石刻 (Dazu Shike)
  • Location: Dazu District, Chongqing, China
  • Opening Hours: 8:30 am-6 pm
  • Tickets: varies between peak season and off season, also depends on which site you’re going to, ranges from CNY 70-180
  • Best Time to Visit: April to June, September to November
  • Recommended Visit Time: 3-6 hours
  • Suited to: anyone interested in local history, culture, art, religion
Dazu Rock Carvings Chongqing
Dazu Rock Carvings

Dazu Rock Carvings: History & Overview

Dazu Stone Carvings are located across more than 70 sites, totaling more than 100,000 carvings. For visitors on a Chongqing tour or Chengdu tour, the most popular sites are these five mountains across Dazu District: Baodingshan, Beishan, Shizhuanshan, Nanshan, and Shimenshan mountains.

Chongqing Dazu Rock Carvings were first constructed in the early Tang Dynasty. The construction process went all the way through late Tang Dynasty, the Five Dynasties, and flourished in Northern and Southern Song Dynasty. The golden age of cave art in northern China was nearing its end, and Dazu Rock Carvings is considered the last monument in the history of grotto art.

Dazu Rock Carvings of China stands as the pinnacle of grotto art worldwide at the time. It displays a great development of the Chinese grotto art style in the Tang and Song Dynasty.

The carvings are large in scale, rich in content, exquisite in art, and well preserved. The most famous one is the cliff carving in Dafo Bay of Baodingshan Mountain. Others include the Six Paths of Samsara, the Three Sages of Avatamsaka, the Thousand-hand Avalokitesvara, the Ten Bright Kings, the Circle of Enlightenment Cave, and the Cattle Herding Picture.


Major Sites to See Dazu Rock Carvings

1. Baodingshan Rock Carvings

The Baodingshan rock carvings site is known to have the most artistic and stunning carvings of Dazu Rock Carvings. It is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) northeast of Dazu County. The carvings on this site are constructed between 1179 and 1249, representative of the Song Dynasty cave art style.

Baodingshan rock carvings centered around Shengshou Temple, including 13 statue groups. With a total of nearly 10,000 statues, the main theme is Buddhist story and characters. The famous centerpiece is Dafo Bay, which is about 500 meters long and 15 to 30 meters wide. Others include the Six Great Dharma Protectors, the Vast Treasure Dharani Sutra Variation Map, and the Thousand-Hand Avalokitesvara.

After walking through the carvings, learn about the stories and craft behind them at Dazu Rock Carvings Museum.

Dazu Rock Carvings Chongqing
Baodingshan Rock Carvings

2. Beishan Rock Carvings

Beishan rock carvings are the first of Dazu Rock Carvings and are so far considered to be of the highest artistic value among Dazu Rock Carvings. They were constructed in late Tang Dynasty till the end of Southern Song Dynasty. There are more than 5000 statues centered around Dafo Bay, packed densely together like a hive. They extend for more than 500 meters along the cliff.

The highlight of Beishan rock carvings are various statues of Avalokitesvara. They are artistic and ingenious works of ancient craftsmen. There’s one with a rosary, one watching the moon’s reflection in the water, and the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Avalokitesvara.

3. Nanshan Rock Carvings

Nanshan rock carvings are predominately Taoist statues from Southern Song Dynasty, reflecting changes of the Taoist god system. There are 213 niche grottoes and 25 statues of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

The rock carvings of Nanshan are incredibly skillful, among which the Sanqing Ancient Cave is the most famous. There are 421 statues in the ancient cave of Sanqing, reflecting the historical shifts that took place in Taoism in 12th century.

4. Shimenshan Rock Carvings

Shimenshan rock carvings are 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) southwest of Dazu County. They were constructed in 1082, Northern Song Dynasty. With a total of 10 caves, there’s a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism carvings. Over 300 deities include the Jade Emperor, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

5. Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings

Shizhuanshan Rock Carvings are 13 kilometers (8 miles) southwest of Dazu County. The carving on this site began in Northern Song Dynasty in 1082. There is a total of 8 niches grottoes with themes in Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. There is a temple on Shizhuanshan, and outside is a hidden rock carving site with over 4,000 statues, including one of Confucius and his ten disciples.


How to Get to Dazu Rock Carvings

Dazu Rock Carvings is about 105 km (65 miles) away from Chongqing city center and about 220 km (136 miles) from Chengdu. Even though you have a few options with public transportations, but they can be time-consuming and inconvenient. So the most recommended way to get to Dazu Rock Carvings is either by private car, hire a private driver, or booking a guided tour.

Getting to Dazu Rock Carvings from Chongqing

By Flight: If you’re flying into Chongqing, choose Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport

By Train: You can take a train into Chongqing at Chongqing North Station and West Station. There are high-speed trains to Dazu, but the station is still far from Dazu Rock Carvings. Dazu South Railway Station is 40 km (25 miles) from Baodingshan Scenic Area and 38km (24 miles) from Beishan Scenic Area.

By Coach & Bus: Take a coach from Chongqing Bus Station, Longtousi Bus Station, Chenjiaping Bus Station, or Caiyuanba Bus Station to Dazu County Bus Station. The ride will be about 2 hours. Then take bus No. 205 to Baodingshan Rock Carving Scenic Area.

By Car or Taxi: The drive from Chongqing city center is about 2 hours. It’s the best option if you want to visit multiple carving sites.

Getting to Dazu Rock Carvings from Chengdu

By Flight: If you’re flying into Chengdu, choose Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport

By Train: You can take a train into Chengdu at Chengdu North, South, and East Railway Stations.

By Coach & Bus: Take a coach from Chengdu East Bus Station to Dazu County Bus Station. The ride will be about 3 hours. Then take bus No. 205 to Baodingshan Rock Carving Scenic Area.

By Car or Taxi: The drive from Chengdu city center is about 2.5 hours.


Attractions Nearby Dazu Rock Carvings

Hongya Cave is a landmark building in Chongqing along Yangtze River. It is a living museum of Chengdu’s history with traditional Ba-Yu architecture. At night, the massive structure lights up with exciting nightlife.

Three Gorges Museum is a comprehensive museum of Chongqing history and art. With its massive collection, you can learn about the history of southwest China, especially Ba-Yu culture and Sanxia culture.

Yangtze River Cruise is a great addition to your China tour. You can visit different places along the iconic river. You might want to visit Fengdu Ghost City, Shibaozhai, Three Gorges Dam, and more.

Recommended Chongqing Tours to Dazu Rock Carvings

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