Okay about five years ago as I was planning what I call our years of “Endless Summer” (we managed – through travels – to have two years without winter and very little autumn – I highly recommend it!) I discovered that – very pitifully – I had hardly seen any of the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.
So as we embarked on our travels we decided to get in as many as we could along the way. I thought I would share some of my favourites with you starting with those we got to see in China.
China popped on to my travel radar a few years ago when my Brother in Law moved to Shanghai to take a job as GM of a bank. He met a beautiful local girl and lo and behold a couple of years later, we found ourselves on our way to a wedding in the orient! I wasn’t missing this opportunity to sneak in a few more weeks of travel time and see somewhere different. I came away a massive fan of China and can’t wait to get back and explore more.
It was so different from our typical Asian holidays of Thailand and Vietnam – culturally, naturally and gastronomically ( food in China is waaaaay better than chinese take-away down the street!)
China has so many UNESCO sites and it was hard to choose, but today we are starting with the amazing rock carvings at Dazu.
The carvings are located in Szechuan province and they were designated a World Heritage Site in 1999.
They are not far from Chongqing – so if you are headed there to catch a boat for a Yangtze River cruise, I really recommend having a day up your sleeve to visit the carvings.
The steep hillsides around the Dazu area contain a series of exceptional rock carvings. These date 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 also provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
What makes the Dazu carvings so special is not their scale — they actually cover only a small area compared to carvings at Datong, Luoyang and Dunhuang — but their quality, state of preservation and variety of subjects and styles. Some of the sculptures are small, some are huge; many are brightly painted and tell religious, moral and historical stories.
UNESCO says of the Dazu carvings:
There are over 50,000 sculptures at Dazu, accompanied by over 100,000 Chinese characters of inscriptions and epigraphs. All the rock carvings can be viewed in natural light and are connected by walkways and paths.
The two main sites are Bei Shan, just outside the town of Dazu, and Baoding Shan, 16km to the northeast. We visited Baoding Shan, and we were not disappointed!
Variously exciting, comic and realistic, the carvings at Baoding Shan are unmissable. They are the life work of the monk Zhao Zheifeng, who raised the money and designed the carving work from 1179 to 1245. This accounts for the unusually harmonious nature of the 10,000 sculptures here.
Midway around the site, visitors come upon a 20-meter-long Reclining Buddha inset into the cliff face, fronted by realistic portraits of important donors.