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Visit to Dazu Rock Carvings Site

By George Uduigwome, Ed.D. ’12

The Dazu Rock Carvings Site features 75 sites of protected rock carvings which include more than 50,000 statues and 100,000 inscriptions found on several hills in the area. The carvings span a period of about 1000 years. The Dazu site is a convergence of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian statue art and is located along the upper reach of Laixi River to the Northwest of Chongqing, Dazu County in China. Dazu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

From the plethora of carvings and inscriptions, statues like Layers of Hell, Hell, King of Hell, Filthy Hell, and Dark Hell at Dafowan, Baording Hill caught my attention because they were reminiscent of scenes from Inferno in the Divine Comedy trilogy (Paradise, Purgatory, Inferno) by Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante, an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. The bas relief in question alludes to a stratified hell in which condemned souls are sentenced and tormented in alignment with the magnitude of their sins. However, the No.20 Cave of Dafowan at Baodingshan, made in South Song Dynasty contains the most detailed description of hell in Chinese grotto art: arranged in four levels with the third and fourth levels depicting the terrifying execution in hell.

Interestingly enough, another panel depicts a piece that is suspiciously similar to Saturn Devouring one of his Children, a painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya which he painted directly onto the walls of his house between 1819 and 1823. The painting shows Titan Cronus (Romanized to Saturn) eating one of his children because he feared they planned to overthrow him.

At Dazu Rock Carving Site: L-R: Sha, Pat, Tera, Farrah, Saba, Yu Wen, Lincoln, Zitlali, and George

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