This is just a quick Note to introduce a few pictures I took of the Dàzú Rock Carvings at Bǎodǐngshān (宝顶山), or maybe more importantly it is a quick Note to remind anyone heading to Chongqing that this UNESCO World Heritage site is worth checking out (link, link, link). We nearly did not make it ourselves, as time was short, but Ling got us signed-up on what was to be my first Chinese tour. And, I am pleased she did, even if they did do their best to devalue the process, but I will leave the amusing anecdotes for another day. Suffice it to say, I was very glad we rose early on our last morning in Chongqing and got on that bus to Dàzú. For future reference, if we had had more time – and now we know the area is worth it – we would have taken the option of staying in Dàzú itself and organising the local transport from there. This would have given us the opportunity to spend more time at Bǎodǐngshān (宝顶山), while also allowing us to discover one or two more of the other 4 sites that are in the Dàzú area.
As it is, I feel lucky that we got out there at all. My overwhelming feeling as we walked around the site was that the work on Bǎodǐngshān (Bǎodǐng Mountain) really is something of a wonder of the world. And, this was not just because of the scale, detail, creativity and variety of the work, or how amazingly it has been preserved, but that a man – monk Zhào Zhìfèng (赵智凤) – had spent 70 years of his life – 800 years ago – in this beautiful gorge creating these varied and intricate sculptures. It felt good to contemplate Zhào spending the vast majority of his life in this beautifully secluded and idyllic mountain grove, both as sculptor and curator of this spectacular synthesis of Buddhist, Daoist and Confucianist imagery. When I sat back and looked at this small gorge with its u-shaped rock faces over-hung with shrubbery, curving around a swaying canopy of bamboo and wild flora, and with a beautiful river valley running below, I could not help but think of the joy (religious or otherwise) that must have been involved in this creation. To rise every morning in this natural environment to continue your calling, to create something of meaning and beauty, must have been quite something – even if a fair bit of hard work also went into the process. I am glad that I got a moment, however brief, to appreciate it.
The spirit of Zhào Zhìfèng‘s life was very clearly highlighted as we exited the compound to find a chap sitting at a little stall haphazardly cutting out identical- looking stone souvenirs; that he was readying to sell for a few kuai. The juxtaposition of these two lives and creations stressed quite profoundly all the things that are wrong with our world. It was a moment to truly glory in the value of long-term commitment, slow progress, creativity and dedication, to savor the value of true craftspeople, educationalists, visionaries, philosophers, dreamers, idealists, environmentalists, artists, writers, poets, even believers of various guises. And, it was a moment to shun the extraordinary abundance of mass-manufactured crap that everywhere surrounds us. I recommend a trip to Dàzú.