April 06, 2010
From his April 3rd blog post,
Yesterday morning we left early to travel to the Dazu Grotto. The Sichuan University provided a car and driver for our use. The grottoes are about 300 kilometers north of Chengdu. Dazu is the name of the city/town closest to the different stone carving grotto sites. Dazu means big foot, or big feet. The plural is not made clear in Chinese for this place name. We ate lunch in the town prior to going to the site which I later learned was actually multiple sites.
At first it seemed that our luck was not holding because the day we had decided to visit Dazu was Avalokiteshvara/Kuan Yin's birthday. How auspicious! The road from town to the main grotto was closed and only open to public transport and official government officials. We decided to go for lunch and think about our situation - not looking forward to the 5 kilometer drive in the public buses. After lunch we went back to the police road block and the university driver insisted we were on official business and should be allowed to drive up to the site on this important and official religious holiday. They agreed. Our luck was holding.
The place was packed with street vendors selling food, fire works, fire crackers, incense sticks as tall as me and much, much more. There was a strong police and military presence. They were expecting thousands of people to attend the day long celebration culminating in a midnight event. Luckily we would miss the main event and the crush of people.
The most interesting sculpture for me was the giant Wheel of Life, probably the largest in China, maybe in the world.
The grottoes were exceptional. Definitely a place to return to and to investigate all of the surrounding grottoes that require a car to get to. We attempted to see a second grotto later in thew afternoon but were turned away by the police. At this point, 4:00 in the afternoon, we decided to head back to Chengdu for dan dan Noodles.