EXTRA: Baodingshan Grottoes, Dazu, Chongqing

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 10, 2014.)

The famous Wheel of Rebirth (六道轮回) at Baodingshan Grottoes
(宝顶山石窟), one of many in and around Dazu, Chongqing (重庆, 大足).
June 17, 2012 - Having seen the three Chongqing temples on my list, I decided to take a side trip to see some of the UNESCO-listed rock carvings at Dazu.

And I'm so glad I did. The two sites I visited--though different in style--count as some of my favorite sights in all my travels in China.

Today we'll take a look at Baoding Shan, or "Treasure Peak Mountain." Though some of the carvings date back to the 7th century, and carving in the area began in earnest in the late 9th, it wasn't until the efforts of Zhao Zhifeng (born in 1159) that the Baoding panorama we see today began to take shape.

And what a panoply it is! At least 30 different scenes (depending on how one counts) depict Buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods (Indian and Daoist), hell judges and sufferers, animals, and even ideas. One of these last is the "Wheel of Rebirth" showing the six levels of being, all supported by the image of Death (the great regenerator).

There are scenes from the life of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni (his birth, his bathing by nine nagas--a sort of dragon, his death); images of the Great Sun Buddha Vairocana; the Three Sages of the Huayan (Avatamsaka) Sutra, the famous ox-herder parable of Chan (where the taming of the mind is represented by a boy taming an ox), and so many more.

I spent a full day on the site, and would love to spend two or three days more in this small box canyon carved on all three sides. The panels run about one kilometer from end to end, and stand between 3 and 15 meters high. By all means, put this on your bucket list!

GPS Info:
  • 29.74945, 105.79760



More pictures can be found here.

Buddhist guardians at Baoding Shan in Dazu, Chongqing
The Wheel of Rebirth (postcard above)
Three Sages of the Huayan
Colossal figure of the Buddha at his death

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