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The Dazu Grottoes
2004/06/09



     Over 60,000 carved stone figures relating mainly to Buddhism are spread around 76 places within Dazu County 160 kilometers to the west of Chongqing. The content and craftsmanship are best at Beishan and Baoding hills. The art of Dazu, which emerged in the late Tang Dynasty (6l8-907AD) and flourished in the Song Dynasty (960-1127) represents an important chapter in China's cultural and religious history.
   
     Beishan (or Longgang Hill) has 29O shrine caves in all. The most well known of them is the Xinshenche (the Wheel of the Universe) Cave. In the center shrine stands the Buddha, with jingbaoping Guanyin, Duoluo, Manjusri, yuyin Guanyin, Ruyizhu Guanyin, Samantabhadra, riyue Guanyin and suzhushou Guanyin. They are created in a symmetrical manner and proper order, as though they were an integral whole. The eight statues of Bodhisattvas have the features of well-proportioned bodies, exquisitely luxurious garments and distinct characters.
     
     Baoding (Treasure Peak) Mountain, fifteen kilometers northeast of Dazu, is well known for its comprisal of more than ten thousand magnificent sculptures. Those located in Dafowan are best preserved and most numerous. Dafowan is a U-shaped range of hills about fifteen to thirty meters high and some five hundred meters long. The statue carved on the eastern, southern and northern cliff sides of the valley are patterned in accordance with the terrain of the hills, resulting in natural and magnificent structure. Consisted of more than l5, 000 stone sculptures in l9 groups of the Buddhist stories, the statues in this grotto look so marvelous that each of them is portrayed in different pose and with a different expression. The Yuan Jue Grotto at the hilltop was created in a whole rock, so it is quite specious.
     
     In the treasure of Dazu stone sculptures, the well designed groups of nineteen grand relief¬ís cover a wide scope of artistic themes, and most of them present Buddhist figures as human beings and depict scenes from everyday life. They are rarely seen in any other part of the world.

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