From Steep Hillsides: Ancient Rock Carvings from Dazu, China
The steep hillsides of the Dazu world heritage site near Chongqing contain an exceptional series of rock carvings dating from the 9th to the 13th century.
The carvings comprise some 50,000 figures in total. They are remarkable for their aesthetic quality, rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period.
This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to see some of these sculptures, which have never before been seen outside China.
From Steep Hillsides: Ancient Rock Carvings from Dazu, China contains superb examples that have become detached from their original setting, along with accurate replicas of some of the most important sculptures still in situ and dramatic large-scale images to give some idea of what it is like to visit these spectacular places.
Dazu is a real treasure house of Chinese art history and an important expression of the ideas of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, as well as a fascinating insight into Chinese daily life.
National Museum Cardiff is proud to be the only venue for this important exhibition before it returns to Dazu.
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The British Council host a Panel Discussion at the Museum (24 March) to celebrate the cultural connections between Wales and China.
Cave Temple Art and Dazu
The art of rock-cut cave temples developed as a means of spreading Buddhist ideas in ancient India.
In China it developed alongside the introduction of Buddhism, and flourished along the Silk Road and the Yellow River Valley from the magnificent Northern Wei (AD386-534) to the prosperous Sui (AD581-618) and Tang Dynasties (AD618-907).
The first rock carvings at Dazu were created in the middle of the 7th century and developed from the late 9th century over a wide area and with great energy for more than four centuries.
With more than 50,000 statues at 75 different sites, they form a glorious chapter in the history of cave temple art in China.
The Dazu rock carvings built on the early cave temple tradition but developed the art form in new directions.
They integrated the ideologies of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism to produce sculpted cave complexes which are uniquely and wholly Chinese in character, and much of whose subject matter is secular in nature.
With their high aesthetic quality and their diversity of style and subject matter, the Dazu carvings represent the high point of Chinese rock art.
Tantric Buddhism from India and Chinese Daoist and Confucian beliefs came together at Dazu to create a highly original and influential manifestation of spiritual harmony. The exceptional artistic heritage of Dazu illustrates magnificently the eclectic nature of religious belief in later Imperial China.
Of the eight cave temple sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Dazu Rock Carvings are the pre-eminent example from the 9th to the 13th centuries and represent the last significant phase of this monumental art form.