Chongqing Province: "The Dazu Rock Carvings"
June 21, 2010
The main attraction at the Dazu Treasured Summit Hill rock grottos is the 31m (100ft) long, 5m (16 ft) high Sleeping Buddha entering Nirvana. Heaven knows how He is able to sleep! The crowds are noisy; or rather the tour guides are noisy. And there are so many of them, each trying her best to explain, educate, inform, muster and expedite using her portable microphone and loudspeaker system. They fill the air with so much "air."
(I admit I am spoiled. On my first trip to China in the winter two years ago, almost no one was at the other comparable UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the caves of Datong and Luoyang. As I strolled in silence under a crispy-cold and snowy sky, I had those extraordinary rock carvings to myself.)
Here in Dazu I am in my usual configuration as a group of one. I dodge, detour, deviate, evade, skirt, sidestep and do MY best to avoid the noise (impossible) while taking my photos (next to impossible) of the splendid, colorful religious and royal personalities carved into the face of the hillside eight hundred years ago. The carvings provide information on society, religion, philosophy, culture, arts, architecture and military history. The three major religions of China are represented: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
And following my usual strategy, I look for the paths least taken. I follow the paths the tour guides avoid. Why? Because I always find the unexpected. Here I encounter quiet footpaths, leafy landscapes with rivers and bridges, and hidden carvings - I feel like I discovered something no one else has ever seen.
It took almost half an hour and I don't know how many steps to see the sculptures at North Hill, another one of the forty sites scattered around Dazu County. The carvings here are older than Treasured Summit Hill, and more mysterious as they peer out from dark niches in the hillside. I am almost alone here so I can admire the art and enjoy the hilltop views without interruption.
My motorbike driver awaits. I must catch the bus back to Chongqing City to my room at the Milky Way Hotel.
My friends, I have no idea why the hotel has that name. Of course, we all do live in the Milky Way. And tomorrow, I will travel on the third longest river in the Milky Way, as far as we know, and the longest river in Asia.