Dazzled by Dazu

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Chongqing, Oct. 22

Our trip has already taken us to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Imperial Palace, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Great Wall. Today we visited a fifth—the Dazu Rock Carvings, hidden in a leafy grotto near Chongqing. Here’s what the UNESCO Web site (if you go, be sure to check out the cool panoramic photos) has to say about it:

The steep hillsides of the Dazu area contain an exceptional series of rock carvings dating from the 9th to the 13th century. They are remarkable for their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period. They provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

None of us was prepared for the Dazu experience. After a 90-minute bus ride from the river landing, we stopped at a small village for an early lunch at a small hotel (the sign announced that it was a “hotle”), then walked across a village to enter the protected area. We were ferried in electric carts down a hill to the grotto entrance. Our local guide, Rose, had talked on the bus about Western China, Chongqing, and its history; she was also a font of information about the carvings at Dazu, but, not too far into the site, she found herself unable to hold the group together. The place was an incredible wonderland and we were so many Alices—so off we went to explore.

Rather than play Rose and be your overbearing guide to this marvel (I know, I write too much), I invite you to share in pictures what we experienced during our brief time at Dazu.

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