87 kilometres west of Chongqing lies the county of Dazu (大足). This small mountainous town has become one of China’s most famous historical sites, as it was here that an enormous collection of beautiful and spectacular ancient grottoes and stone carvings were found. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, the Dazu Grottoes contain over 50,000 stone sculptures spread across 75 sites throughout the county. Moreover, over 100,000 Chinese character inscriptions can be seen adorning the sites. Most of the carvings were produced during the Tang (618-907) and Song Dynasties, but their construction stretched over a period of 1230 years right into the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911). These well-preserved historical remnants touch upon a diverse range of subject matters, from Buddhism to Daoism and Confucianism, shedding light not only on China’s religions but also its secular culture.
Dazu’s biggest highlights are the stone carvings on Baoding Hill (宝顶山). The carvings here are scattered across 13 sites, the most impressive one being the 500 metre long and 15-30 metre high wall that contains almost 10,000 statues. Baoding is also home to a 31 metre long sleeping Buddha and the “thousand arm goddess of mercy”. Also highly recommended, and equally interesting, are the carvings at Beishan (北山), Nanshan (南山), Shimen (石门）and Shizhuan Mountain (石篆山).
Location: Dazu County, Chongqing (80 kilometres west of Chongqing city)
Price: Through tickets for Beishan and Baoding Mountain are 140 RMB. Entrance to the stone carvings at Baoding Mountain costs 100 RMB and the stone carvings at Beishan cost 80 RMB. Nanshan and Shimen carvings cost 5 RMB (prices adjust according to the seasons).
Opening times: 8:00-17:30
When to go: The site is suitable for visiting all year round
How to get there: Buses go to Dazu from the city and take about 2 hours, though spending a bit extra on a taxi will get you there in 30 minutes. There are two bus stations at Dazu County, one long distance and one short distance. The short distance station is the one closest to the sites, so it is best to get a rickshaw from the long distance station to the short distance one and from there take another bus to Baoding Mountain.
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Keywords: Dazu grottoes Chongqing grottoes where to go Chongqing UNESCO world heritage site Chongqing stone carvings Chongqing Dazu Stone carvings
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