Dazu Stone Carvings
During our trip here in China I have learned so many things. I remember meeting my host and having my stomach sink to the floor. I was ready to fly back to America and everything I knew. Everything that I had ever known. The girl who was hosting me grabbed my hand and led me about, and I know that was the only thing holding me up. The first night at the home stay was terrible, I felt no connection to these people. I felt like I was on an alien planet. But then I began to learn about them. I learned that the dad hums in the morning and that the mom was possibly one of the happiest people I had ever met. I learned that the little girl had been learning English since she was six and thought white people were beautiful. I learned about life from them, little by little. I also learned a lot the day that we visited the Dazu rock carvings.
Peace and serenity permeated the air the second our group arrived at the historic Dazu rock carvings. The rock carvings are a blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. They are these beautiful rock carvings, each telling its own unique story. The rock carvings first began to be carved in 650 under the Tang Dynasty and continued to be added to all the way until the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911).
Every hand carved face telling you a different blend of emotion, describing its own moment in time. Being beautiful and menacing in its own right. At the very beginning, there were carved stone guards, with grimacing faces and weapons, seemingly protecting the treasures within. They looked at you in a way that you could only recognize as knowing that you would enter despite their threat and you would love the treasures they guard. When you entered the rock carving area you would see detailed Chinese inscriptions, written painstakingly into the stone with strokes that must have taken days. I wish I could read Chinese so I could understand what the ancient monk who designed this place was trying to tell me. Though I think I understood when I saw the Buddhas staring down at me and it made me believe that some things don’t need to be heard, but seen to be understood.
Inside the entrance stood caves. Caves filled with with carved monks and vivid colors adorning their background, sitting patiently for their teacher in the middle. Each wearing a detailed head dress and, of course, the robes that people would dream of. Robes that were beautiful, but seemed simple in comparison to the teacher’s. Every face, every cup, every finger carved into the immortal rock to be remembered and awed at by generations to come. By worlds to come. You would then continue walking, and come across the wheel of life. Imagine it, a huge wheel held in the mouth of a monstrous creature. Peasants assist him in holding it, and it is so massive that all you can do is stare. All you can do is look at the mystery and, at the same time, the simplicity of this wheel. It clearly shows the six realms, gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hells. Where you can be reincarnated to and what you will be reincarnated as. Buddhists believe that depending on your behavior in your previous life, you will reborn into a place or a thing fitting that behavior. Such as someone who had done good things with their life, but had not reached enlightenment, would be reborn as a diva in the realm of heaven.
You’ll continue along and see scenes of complete devotion, a man cutting off flesh for parents to eat. And scenes describing parenthood and the trouble of being a mother. This amount of loyalty and love for parents was a bit shocking, and as the American that I am, I couldn’t understand the reason people might do that. But after a while, I began to understand it, truly being willing to do anything for the people that raised you. I mean, I wouldn’t cut off flesh for my parents, but I would do a lot. Maybe I would steal some food instead. You will see filial piety, tales of lives, people being reborn, and awe inspiring Buddhas. So many Buddhas, speaking so many words with their unheard voices, encased in the stone. They look at you and tell you things. Things about life, their lives and yours. Everyone’s searching for an answer to the universe. Some have found it in Christianity, Taoism, or Hinduism. I found mine there, at the Dazu rock carvings. Looking up at the meaningful faces of Buddhas, I seemed to understand a little of it. That whole thing that people want to know, what life is all about. On this trip, I’ve found a little of it. A little of the meaning, a little of what’s important, and a little of what happens next. I found a little bit that day. Not a lot, but those carvings, this place, and these people are helping me find little by little, and that is important. That’s what it’s all about.