Interactive Tour

Click on the numbers for an overview of each tableau.

Hover over the images and click to see details and explanations of the sculptures and inscribed texts.



Tableau 21 - Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

Buddhas and bodhisattvas carved above the central figure of Master Liu. The inscription above reads "Tang Dynasty Superintendant of the Yogacara school".


Tableau 1 Overview

A fierce image of a tiger, teeth bared, greets the worshipper heading up to the Buddhist monastery above. 图为一只凶猛的龇牙咧嘴的老虎,迎接着去佛教寺院的游客们。


Guardian King

Detail of Guardian King showing signs of erosion. This work also highlights the technique used at Great Buddha Bend, in which statues were carved then covered with a coat of plaster and painted or gilded. 守护大王的局部图展示了被腐蚀的雕像。这件作品强调了被运用于大佛湾的雕刻手法。石头先被刻成雕像,然后被浇上一层石膏,最后被涂上彩漆或者被镀上金。

Tableau 23

Later Daoist shrines located beneath Wisdom Kings and Master Liu tableau.


Entrance to Temples

Entrance to the monastic complex that sits above Great Buddha Bend at Baodingshan. The tiger image is to the left, the Oxherding scenes to the right.



Tableau 2 Overview

At the foot of the entrance to the monastery is the tableau depicting the Guardians of the Buddhist Teachings, often referred to as the Buddhist ‘law’ 法.


Austerity No. 1 - Refining a Finger by Fire

In 900 CE, the revered master (Liu) accidentally happened across many people sick with an epidemic. The master pitied them, proceeding to swear an oath before the Buddha, and that he would recite a dharani spell to eliminate it.  In his daochang, (Liu) then burnt off the first joint of the second finger on his left hand in offering to all Buddhas, swearing an oath to relieve the distress of the myriad creatures. The Virtuous Sage was moved by this, and assisted (Liu) in transmitting the Way, without speaking saying: ‘Your oath is sincere and wide-reaching; you therefore must go west, and upon arriving at Mi, you should reside there.’  (Liu) went to Han and promptly returned, proceeding to travel and perform rituals at Lingshan, eventually returning to Gui County.



Austerity No. 2 - Standing in Snow

In the eleventh moon of 900 CE, the revered master (Liu) along with witnesses traveled to Emeishan to do veneration to the radiant form of Samantabhadra. At this time, (Liu) encountered a blizzard which filled the air and the one thousand mountains were white-white. For thirteen days, (Liu) forced his body to ascend to the summit and from December 7th to the 21st (Liu) sat upright in meditation on top of the mountain, following the example of Shakyamuni who for six years performed Buddhist acts on a snowy mountain in order to achieve the Way. Moved by this, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva manifested himself as a witness (to Liu’s actions).

第二立雪(额) 本尊教主于光启二年十]一月挈家游峨眉山瞻礼]普贤光相时遇大雪弥漫]千山皓白十三日将身向]胜峰顶大雪中凝然端坐]以表释迦文佛雪山六年]修行成道感]普贤菩萨现身证明]

Guardian Kings

Detail of several Guardians, with image of a lesser figure supporting them from below. 图为几个守护者的局部细节图。它的下面有一组包含较少人物的雕像。

Tableau 3 Overview

One of the most striking images carved within Great Buddha Bend is the colossal image of the Wheel of Reincarnation, sometimes also referred to as ‘The Wheel of Rebirth’, ‘The Wheel of Transmigration’, or ‘The Wheel of Transformation’. It is a rare three-dimensional depiction of what was generally a painted image elsewhere. The Wheel of Reincarnation towers more than twenty-five feet over the entrance to the site from the steps leading to the river below. The rationale for the Wheel of Reincarnation image was to serve as an introduction to Buddhist teachings.


Tableau 4 Overview

The most prominent and most widely reproduced textual image at Great Buddha Bend is the name placard of “Baodingshan” , which sits at the stepped entrance to Great Buddha Bend from the river below. The placard is topped by images of three monks in meditation. Some scholars argue that these representations of a ‘curly haired man’ are in fact of Baodingshan’s creator, Zhao Zhifeng 赵智风 at various stages of his own journey to enlightenment.


Tableau 4 Inscription

The large character text “Baodingshan” 宝顶山was written by Du Xiaoyan 杜孝严. Du’s dates are unknown, although he achieved jinshi [PhD] status in 1199. The inscription reads, “Grand Master for Closing Court, with the authority of minister, Director of the Bureau of Military Appointments, concurrently Associate State Historiographer, concurrently Recorder for the Bureau of Army Activities, the official litterateur Du Xiaoyan wrote this.”

杜孝严写的“宝顶山”三个大字。杜孝严生卒不详,他1199年考取进士。 题词如下:“朝散大夫尚书兵部侍郎兼同修国史兼军录院□官修撰杜孝严书。”

Tableau 5 Overview

The first iconic imagery to greet the worshipper coming up to Great Buddha Bend from the river below is a set of three monumental Huayan images – the Buddha Vairocana flanked by the bodhisattvas Manjusri 文殊and Samantabhadra 普贤. This imagery is thought to reflect the Avatamsaka Sutra or Flower Ornament Sutra because it is within that work that these two bodhisattvas are found in conjunction with Vairocana Buddha.

Tableau 6 Overview

After the monumental grouping, the worshipper encounters the first relic pagoda carved within Great Buddha Bend. There are three - with another one carved at the end of the life story of the historical Buddha and one seen in the Hell tableau.

在宏伟的建筑群之后, 礼拜者将见到第一座刻在大佛湾的舍利宝塔。总共有三座宝塔,一座刻在佛祖圆寂的历史故事之上,另一座可在地狱变相图上见到。


Tableau 7 Overview

“Vairocana” as a name alone is found inscribed on the lowest layer of a four-tiered relic pagoda to the right of the one thousand-armed Guanyin image. Above the carved meditating image above it, in much smaller script, and below the multi-storied pagoda far above is the text ‘舍利宝塔’ or ‘relic pagoda’.



Tableau 8 Overview

Later Qing dynasty pavilion built to protect the Avalokitesvara [Guanyin] image from the elements.


Tableau 9 Overview

Precious Relic Pagoda 舍利宝塔

Next to the now eroded imagery related to scenes from the Buddha’s life and under the eaves of the pavilion covering the 1000-Armed Guanyin is a stone pagoda.


Tableau 10 Overview

Gathering of Men and Devas  凡人和天王齐聚

Situated between the depiction of the parinirvana and the sarira or relic pagoda, the Gathering of Men and Devas tableau is heavily eroded from exposure to the elements. What remains seems to highlight daily activities of men watched over by a bodhisattva audience. These are most likely scenes from the life of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.



Tableau 11 Overview

Parinirvana of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni



Tableau 12 Overview

Birth and Bathing of Shakyamuni 释迦牟尼出生和沐浴

Adjacent to the small grouping showing the Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth is a very well designed work that incorporates the natural springs found throughout the site into an image of the young Buddha being bathed by nine nagas or serpents, generally depicted as cobra, who appear in the heavens above. In Chinese the nagas are often referred to as 龙‘dragon’.


Tableau 13 Overview

Turning away from the overwhelming gilded image of Guanyin, the worshipper comes face to face with Mahamayuri, 大孔雀明妃 or “The Great Wisdom Peacock Queen”, one of several vidyaraja “wisdom kings” found at Baodingshan. More than six large-scale carved Song Dynasty images of the Peacock Queen exist within Dazu County, a number exceeded nowhere else within China regardless of time period.



Tableau 14 Overview

Vairocana Cave  毗卢遮那佛石窟

One commonly encountered iconic image at Great Buddha Bend is that of Vairocana, 大日如來 or 毘盧遮那佛. Vairocana is the central figure within the cave located just before the tableau depicting the Scripture on the Kindness of Parents. Entrance to the cave requires the worshipper to climb up from the main area of Great Buddha Bend. This cave is one of only two found at the site.


Tableau 15 Overview

The first narrative tableau carved on the far east side of the north cliff face depicts scenes from the apocryphal Scripture on the Kindness of Parents and the Ten Kindnesses and Virtues, an indigenous Chinese text whose central theme highlights the heavy debt that children owe to their parents. The inscriptions accompanying the ten vignettes are titled and numbered one through ten. The five vignettes on the right side of the tableau are 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, moving from the center pair of figures outwards. The five vignettes on the left side of the tableau are 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.



Tableau 16 Overview

Indigenous Gods of China

These four deities embody elemental aspects of the cycle of life on earth - rain, wind, thunder and lightning - and can be found in both Buddhist and Daoist contexts. There is some question as to the source of their imagery, with some scholars arguing for a Middle Eastern or Greco-Roman provenance while others note the iconography as being uniquely Chinese. Regardless of point of origin, the works at Great Buddha Bend are rare in terms of their size and prominent location at the site.



Tableau 17 Overview

The images in Tableau 17 depict stories from the Buddha Preaches the Mahayana Scripture on the Skillful Means of the Buddha’s Repayment of Kindness and cover an area of approximately 110 square meters. By leaving the vignettes unnumbered, the artist gives more freedom to the viewer, who in turn does not feel compelled to read and absorb each of the twelve stories relating Shakyamuni’s filial acts in both his present and previous incarnations. With such compartmentalized works, monks could also engage in selective storytelling, allowing for shorter interludes with the work by the worshipper over an extended period of time.

图上是释迦牟尼正在念大乘佛教经文中的大藏佛说大方便佛报恩经。它大概占了约110平方米。 因为每个故事没有编号,艺术家可以给游客更多观赏自由,这样的话游客就不会觉得自己是被迫在读每个故事,他们会理解十二个跟释迦牟尼化身期间孝行有关的小故事。在这样被区分开的作品中,僧人可以有选择性的讲故事来缩短游客理解作品的时间。

Tableau 18 Overview

As the worshipper proceeds around Great Buddha Bend from the works related to the repaying of filial debt seen in the Kindness of Parents and Repayment of Kindness tableaux, he or she encounters a largely iconic work devoted to the Pure Land. The images that confront the worshipper depict the Scripture on the Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life and cover an area of approximately 160 square meters. Located in the middle of the north cliff face, the relief depicting the Pure Land is juxtaposed with the relief depicting hell. This placement of the Pure Land tableau on the north side of the grotto follows along with similar imagery found painted as north wall backdrops in Song Dynasty Pure Land halls.


Tableau 19 Overview

Integral to understanding the ritual relationship between the Pure Land the hell tableaux is the small work entitled Locking up the Six Vices, also referred to as the ‘Six Delusions’ or the ‘Six Robbers’. The size of the Six Vices tableau is significantly smaller than the two adjoining works. Yet within this niche there are fourteen figures, eight animals, and 30 separate inscriptions, carved in a stone area covering approximately 155 square inches and containing 687 characters.


Tableau 20 Overview

From the images of rebirth in the Pure Land, the visitor proceeds physically downwards to view the Hell Tableau. This relief depicting Dizang Bodhisattva and the eighteen realms of hell along with the Ten Kings who preside over them can be divided into four different registers. The uppermost register, approximately 52 feet above the pathway, depicts a line of ten Buddhas, referred to as the Buddhas of the Ten Directions. The second register depicts Bodhisattva Dizang as overseer of hell with the Ten Kings in attendance. The lower two registers include the Eighteen Hells as well as several additional works on the right side of the tableau referred to as ‘Admonitions’ and one parable on the far left side.


Tableau 21 Overview

This grouping of images, sometimes referred to as the "Asceticism of Master Liu", sometimes as the "Transformation of Master Liu", is the last large-scale work on the north side of Great Buddha Bend before one heads down to the river below or across the bridge to the Cave of Complete Enlightenment and the Taming of the Wild Ox tableau on the south side of the site.


Tableau 22 Overview

Ten Wisdom Kings,messengers of Vairocana, are manifestations of his wrath against evil spirits. The statues are said to be incomplete due to the invasion of the Mongols into Dazu County in the late 12th century.


Tableaux 24 and 25 Overview

Later niches with indigenous Chinese gods located on far western edge of the Great Buddha Bend cliff face.


Tableau 26 Overview

Series of secular inscriptions carved at the western end of the southern cliff face of Great Buddha Bend.


Tableau 27 Overview

Bust of Vairocana Buddha with steles. Referred to as the “Transformation tableau of Master Liu” because of the small image of Master Liu in the headdress of Vairocana Buddha. Two restoration steles dating from 1425 - 1426 CE are immediately to the right of the central image with one stele dated to 1690 CE at the far right. The stele on the left is undated.


Tableau 28 Overview

Image of lion guarding entrance to Cave of Complete Enlightenment, perhaps meant to represent the vehicle of Manjusri who is the first bodhisattva questioner in the Sutra on Complete Enlightenment depicted inside.


Tableau 29 Overview

Interior of the Cave of Complete Enlightenment with imagery based on the Avatamsaka or ‘Flower Ornament’ Sutra. Bodhisattva figures line the two walls with Vairocana as the central figure in the Buddha triad on the back wall, flanked by a monk on the right and a scholar on the left.  A bodhisattva figure kneels in homage in front of Vairocana Buddha.


Tableau 30 Overview

The Taming of the Wild Ox tableau, stretching at only 4.5 meters in height for a distance of 27 meters. It is the story of a herdsman trying to bring his wayward ox under control, a metaphor for humankind’s struggle to rein in his own cravings and desires in order to achieve enlightenment. The Taming of the Wild Ox tableau is composed of eleven rather than the standard ten vignettes, and curves around the southwest end of the grotto.


Tableau 31 Overview

Placed directly beneath the Taming of the Wild Ox tableau is a pair of figures, a man and a woman carved into the cliff face visible only from the path down to the water. In this image, they are directly below the visitors standing on the walkway above them.


Tableau 3 - Six Paths

At Great Buddha Bend, the Demon of Impermanence, who clutches the wheel of rebirth in his grasp, is yet another signifier of the differing realms of time: above him the heavenly realms inhabited by the Buddhas of the Three Periods, signified by the three enlightened beings seated on lotuses; the various realms of rebirth that appear within the wheel itself. One of the six realms of rebirth that appear within the wheel itself is the abode of devas or celestial beings represented by palatial dwellings. Another one of the six realms of rebirth that appear within the wheel itself is the asura or ‘titan' - a multi-armed, multi-headed deity representing the wrathful or egotistical power-hungry aspect of human nature. Rebirth as an animal is one of the four unhappy rebirths – along with hell, hungry ghost and asura. While not as ideal as being reborn in the abode of devas, human form was preferable because it is easier for humans to do meritorious deeds and avoid bad karma than an animal, asura, or a hungry ghost.


Tableau 3 - Cat and Mouse

Next to the Wheel of Reincarnation is one of the more playful representations at Great Buddha Bend, yet it is not without greater moral overtones. A cat sits waiting as a mouse teeters above on a stalk of bamboo. To catch, kill and eat the mouse would be within the cat’s nature, but the Wheel reminds the worshipper that he or she must strive to overcome those very same natural instincts if one wants to get out of the eternal cycle of reincarnation.


Tableau 5 - Vairocana

Central image of Vairocana Buddha. Remains of color and gilding are visible on his robe.

毗如遮那佛中心局部图, 彩色以及镀金的僧袍。

Tableau 5 - Manjusri

The bodhisattva Manjusri  [Wenshu文殊], attired in heavy robes bedecked with jewels and a crown, still shows signs of gilding. He holds a miniature relic pagoda.


Tableau 5 - Samantabhadra

The bodhisattva Samantabhadra [Puxian普贤] is attired in heavy robes bedecked with jewels and a crown and holds a miniature seven-story pagoda with images of the Buddha carved within each level.


Tableau 5 - Stele

One of the Song dynasty inscriptions found within Great Buddha Bend. The final segment of the inscription is partially effaced, but what remains legible gives the name Yu Wenqi 宇文屺 as the author, and states:

“Near to the clouds, the ingenious pleases all eyes, the scriptures appearing to encircle this divine place, and [one] sees the conjured city. Such great filial piety is unalterable! Throughout the four seasons the sound of pipes and bells overlap. The Precious Summit’s distinguished Zhao Zhi carved the stone, in it tracing out the worthiness of his filial heart. By completing this stanza of four lines, I establish in every mountain and stream such things as pipes and bells rippling like a Su Dongpo poem, the meaning of which is called ‘divine wondrous merit’.”


Tableau 5 - Buddha Niches

The multitude of Buddha figures in moon niches carved behind the Huayan triad perhaps references Vairocana’s role as the ‘primordial’ Buddha, the Buddha from which all Buddhas emanate.


Tableau 6 - Detail of Buddha

Buddha images are carved within the various levels of the relic pagoda, taking the place of corporeal relics. The text above this image affirms this – read right to left: 舍利寶塔 ‘sarira [precious relic] pagoda’.


Tableau 7 - Vairocana Placard

Detail of the Vairocana placard written by the most prominent Song dynasty scholar to pen a work at Baodingshan, Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁 (1178-1237 CE). Rubbings of Wei’s inscriptions were collected, appearing in later catalogues of collected writings.  The text accompanying these inscriptions is non-canonical and extremely brief, effectively listing Wei’s positions and titles and ending with “…Wei Liaoweng wrote this.”  Wei is the only Song Dynasty individual having more than one inscription at the site.

宋朝最著名的文人魏了翁 (公元前1178-1237)写了“毗如遮那佛”的标语。他写的题词的拓片被收集了起来。题词旁边的文字不在经典中并且非常的简短,它列出了魏了翁的官衔和职位,以“魏了翁书”结尾。魏了翁是宋朝唯一一个在景区题写多个题词的人。

Tableau 8 -One thousand-armed, one thousand-eyed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva 千手千眼观音菩萨

One of the best known works at Baodingshan is the 8 meter high by 13 meter wide gilded One Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara or Guanyin . By the Song Dynasty, this type of Guanyin imagery had become one of the most popular icons for worship. Due to its fragile nature, the image has undergone restoration numerous times, most recently in 2014.


Tableau 9 - Inscription

This pagoda is inscribed with several texts, the largest of which reads 舍利 sarira, or ‘precious relic’ pagoda, a reference to the Buddha in his final cremated form, that of precious relic.


Tableau 10 - Water Detail

This area of Great Buddha Bend gives one example of the clever channeling of water at the site. The water runs off the cliff face above upon which the temples are situated and falls into a pool that then channels the water into the stream that runs in front of the nearby parinirvana tableau.


Tableau 11 - Buddha Head and Mourners

The Great Buddha Bend parinirvana image is truncated, the space underneath the overhanging cliff filled by an extraordinarily large head and upper body that dissolves into the cliff face as the rock outcropping turns again southwest.  The surrounding mourners and bodhisattva witnesses are fewer in number than they could have been, a select group rather than a gaggle, carefully arranged just in front of the sculpted Buddha figure. The first mourner depicted is thought to represent the creator of the Baodingshan site, Zhao Zhifeng. It must be noted, however, that extensive restoration has taken place on this first mourner image.

大佛湾圆寂雕像是被缩短了的。悬伸的石壁下方有一个巨大的头像和 融入朝向西南方的裸露岩石的上半身像。周围的哀悼者和菩萨的见证人比应有的人数少,他们是经过挑选的一群人并被小心地安排在释迦牟尼的的雕像前。第一位哀悼者被认为是代表宝顶山的创作者赵智风。他本来是应该被强调一下的,可是后来的复建工作影响了第一位哀悼者的雕像。

Tableau 11 - Central Section

Central grouping of mourners, backed by large offering table. There is a tripartite division of space, above are the heavenly witnesses, including the Buddha’s mother, while the monumental Buddha makes up the central portion of the work, and the smaller-sized mourners and bodhisattvas appear as a third, lower register.


Tableau 11 - Bodhisattva Mourners

Second section of mourners, with overlap from the first group of mourners, the final bodhisattva carrying the fruit known as ‘Buddha’s hand’ fruit.


Tableau 11 - Staff

The top portion of a khakkhara, or monk’s staff, whose jingling rings kept insects away from the walking monk so as not to be stepped upon. The lower portion is incomplete, but it has a twelve-ring staff, referencing the Buddha himself. Such a staff is one of the ‘must haves’ of the monk’s wardrobe. Next it it is the final bodhisattva mourner, with Tableau 10, the Gathering of Men and Devas behind him.


Tableau 12 - Birth of Shakyamuni

To the immediate left of the reclining Buddha’s head is a small, ground-level grouping showing the birth of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni emerging from his mother’s right sleeve as a toddler.


Tableau 12 - Bathing of Buddha

Detail of young Buddha Shakyamuni flanked by guardian kings being washed by channeled water at Great Buddha Bend.


Tableau 12 - Nagas

Detail of nine nagas that bathe the young Buddha Shakyamuni.


Tableau 13 - Peacock Queen

Like the reclining Buddha figure to its left, the statue of the Peacock Queen appears incomplete. For some Qing authors, this gave the image the impression that it was ready to take flight. Dazu District County Magistrate Wang Dejia, quoting the Qing literati Zhang Shu’s impressions of the image, inscribes, “The Wisdom Queen sits astride her peacock, as if about to ascend into the skies.”


Tableau 13 - Story of Svati

This image of a monk clasping a sutra text standing over a prone figure while a snake slips up the tree behind them sets the stage for the narrative. The story is that of the young novice Svati (Shadi 莎底) whose life-threatening encounter with a poisonous black snake prompts Shakyamuni to teach Ananda the “Dharani of the Great Peacock”, found within the Mahamayurividyarajni Sutra。



Tableau 13 - Offerings

Carved on the left-hand side of the central figure of the Peacock Queen is a grouping with a smaller central Peacock Queen figure receiving offerings from a figure below, flanked by both men and women of various ranks.


Tableau 14 - Vairocana

With remnants of color and gilding still visible, Vairocana sits on a lotus throne, part of an attached pillar that allows for only simple and singular entry into the cave and no option for ritual circumambulation.


Tableau 14 - Placard

Designatory placard 毘盧道场 ,literally “The site of the Way of Vairocana” or “Ritual Site of Vairocana” written by a Song dynasty scholar and inscribed in stone above the entrance to the cave dedicated to Vairocana.


Tableau 14 - Exterior Remains

The exterior shows evidence of the repairs done to reinforce the cave. The remaining imagery, Buddha figures floating in moon niches, references Vairocana’s role as the Buddha from which all Buddhas emanate.


Tableau 14 - Inscription

Inscribed on the right door jamb of the entrance are two texts, one of which is dated to 1413, one of the first at the site after the Mongols invaded the area. Placed within a rectangle topped with a lotus, the text reads: “Hu Jing of Kaifeng, Grand Master of Palace Accord, Prefect of Chongqing Prefecture, passed by here on public business. Inscribed on the twenty-fourth day of the eighth month of eleventh year of the Yongle era [1413].”


Tableau 31 - Two Visitors

Two life-size figures facing the path up from the river and below the main series of carvings. On the left a man points the way upward towards Great Buddha Bend to a woman identified as the courtesan from Licchavi 栗呫, a powerful clan that existed at the time of the Buddha and from which several women joined the Buddhist order. Since there is no inscription to identify the woman as from Licchavi, these images regardless serve to point the way for those visiting the site.


Tableau 24 - Indigenous Gods

Detail of niche carved in the Qing dynasty. On the right is Laozi, seated on his water buffalo, signifying his final journey to the West.  On the left is the Mountain God, sometimes also referred to as the Tiger God, another Daoist deity, seen here riding on a tiger.


Tableau 24 - Queen and Emperor

Niche carved in 1915 with Daoist deities. The Jade Emperor is on the right, wearing the traditional imperial crown and seated on a throne. The Queen Mother of the West holds a peach in her hand, referencing her ability to grant immortality.


Tableau 26 - Baodingshan inscription

The Qing district magistrate of Dazu County, Wang Dejia 王德嘉, who served in Dazu from 1872-1875, is the author of one of the shortest inscriptions to appear at the site, the large two-character “Baoding宝顶” carved on the western edge of the site that greets visitors at the modern entrance to Great Buddha Bend. The complete text reads: “Precious Summit. The eighth day of the fourth month, summer, 1873. The Prefect of Dazu County, Wang Dejia of Chenggu respectfully wrote this.”


Tableau 26 - Inscriptions

Below the Baoding inscription are the characters for luck [福] and longevity [壽] carved in 1910.


The inscription reads:

福寿 “Blessing and long life.”

Inscribed at center between the two characters: 触目警心介尔景福再书大寿劝人忠厚.

My eyes touched upon a vigilant heart, so between you and the scenery, after “blessing” [I] also wrote the large character “longevity” persuaded by an honest and considerate person.

Inscribed at left: 大清宣统二年岁在庚戌暮春之初敬书大福劝人质朴.

In the second year of the Xuantong era of the Great Qing, 1910, at the beginning of the end of spring, [I] respectfully wrote the large character  “blessing” persuaded by the simple and unaffected person.


People believe my speech must be such that it lasts as if into the ages. Long Bifei respectfully wrote this.

In smaller script at lower left: 匠师龙久义

Master Craftsman Long Jiuyi.

Tableau 26 - Placards

1999 placards designating Dazu County and Baodingshan as World Heritage Sites.

Tableau 27 - Vairocana

Close up of Vairocana bust, one of five images of Vairocana carved at Great Buddha Bend, the others being within the Cave of Complete Enlightenment; central to the Huayan monumental sculpture group; central to the cave dedicated to Vairocana; and in the crown of Master Liu within the Master Liu tableau.


Tableau 27 - Master Liu

Detail of Vairocana bust with small image of the layperson Master Liu in headdress.


World Heritage Stele

Freestanding stele designating Baodingshan as a World Heritage Site, topped by UNESCO logo.


Tableau 30 - No. 1

The first vignette depicts the story of the herdsman attempting to rein in his disobedient ox. Standing with legs splayed to the right of the recalcitrant beast, the herdsman tugs on his tether, an act that causes the ox to barely acknowledge his presence. The accompanying text reads: “Broken out of his cowpen, there is nothing you can do! If (the ox) is not tied with a rope, he does as he pleases. (Although) you pull with the utmost of your efforts, you cannot make him turn his head. What else can you do but go along with him?”


Tableau 30 - No. 2

The second vignette shows some progress being made by the herdsman as he tries to bring his ox to heel. Clearly unable to use brute force, he entices the animal with grass, a symbol of the Buddhist’s teachings.  Head bent backwards across his body, the ox gratefully munches on the proffered greens from the herdsman. The text highlights the on-going struggle of the man to control the beast: “As the fragrant grass is endless, you must have faith in yourself. If you do not drag him (away), he simply will not turn his head. Although the ox is aware of the man’s intentions, if you let him go, he will run here and there, and will not easily be brought under control.”


Tableau 30 - No. 3

Taking another tack, the herdsman in the third scene employs the “big stick” approach, having failed to get the ox to obey him with his green grass delights. His arm raised above him, the herdsman wields a whip in his left hand as he continues to tug at the ox with his right. The carvings were produced from the living rock with separate cut-rock pieces being attached in an additive process utilizing pegs that fit into holes cut into the portion of the figure carved into the cliff-face. This allowed the carved figures to project out from the rock, giving them a more three-dimensional quality.


Tableau 30 - No. 4

Immediately adjacent to the damaged ox image is the fourth vignette. The ox has at long last been brought under control by the herdsman. Once again wearing his broad-brimmed hat, the herdsman now leads the ox towards him as a monkey playfully looks on from above.


Tableau 30 - No. 5

The fifth vignette portrays not one herdsman and his ox but two, who share a laugh now that they have successfully tamed their respective animal charges. This is the most often reproduced image from the Taming of the Wild Ox tableau. The camaraderie of the two men is perhaps meant to signify the joys of a Buddhist brotherhood in which desire has been vanquished.

第五幅图描刻的不是一个牧童而是两个。他们因为成功驯服了动物相互耳语并且笑着。这幅图的复制品是牧牛图中最多见的。 这两个男孩的友情可能是表示已经克服了欲望的佛家手足情的快乐。

Tableau 30 - No. 6

In the sixth vignette the herdsman stands with the tether rope at his side, the ox standing above him as he leans down to drink from the stream also seen in the previous vignette. The accompanying inscription notes that the ox can now be counted on to follow his master, without any form of coercion being required: “Having harnessed the ox by the nose, it will obey (even if) the nose has no cord. … He will follow you on his own account. At the stream below the mountain’s shade, there is no need to keep him restrained. Morning or evening he does not escape,…”

第六幅图中牧童站立着,鞭子在他的一侧,牛立于他的上方跪着饮山泉水。 颂词强调了牛现在可以在不用任何手段强迫它的情况下跟随他的主人。颂词为:“放去收来只自由,鼻头绳芯(亦当)□,虽然立(意)□□□,步步由(自)不放伊。”

Tableau 30 - No. 7

Vignette number seven at the Great Buddha Bend continues the story of the herdsman and the ox, but the focus has now shifted from their mutual antagonism to their peaceful coexistence. The inscribed text reads: “The myriad shapes are forgotten, with nothing from which they can be born the body of the ox is completely white…appearing and disappearing.”The ox is carved head down as he grazes, his back to the herdsman, his legs used as a framing device for the carved inscription.


Tableau 30 - No. 8

The eighth scene is also lacking in a legible inscription. Both the eighth and ninth vignettes within the tableau illustrate the bliss that awaits the herdsman who has successfully brought his wild ox under control.  In the eighth, the herdsman is shown playing his flute, dressed in a raincoat with his hair once again in a topknot.


Tableau 30 - No. 8 detail

Detail of herdsman playing his flute with crane to his left.


Tableau 30 - No. 9

The ninth vignette also shows the pleasures of controlling one’s animal – here the herdsman lies in perfect abandonment, his bare stomach and chest revealed as he lounges with his hands behind his head. Even the impish monkey whose attempts to provoke him appear to be unsuccessful in disturbing his bliss. His ox has wandered some distance and like his master lies resting on his bent knees, his head up, eyes staring out as he perhaps reminiscences about his last tasty meal.


Tableau 30 - No. 10

Vignettes ten and eleven are at the end of the Taming of the Wild Ox tableau and next to the entrance to the Cave of Complete Enlightenment. The tenth vignette is integral to an understanding of the Taming of the Wild Ox tableauwithin the greater context of the Great Buddha Bend. Composed of a monk seated in meditation on a short rocky dais, this figure seems out of place within the sequence because it includes no ox or herdsman, the protagonists of the earlier vignettes. Carved above the monk in meditation is the following verse: “The ox has disappeared, and the man is at ease by himself, (with) nothing to dwell upon, and nothing to depend upon. His nature is spontaneously vast, and it is clear that he is an adept. In the cold mountains, he gathers bamboo (for fuel), and spring water.” This image is unique to the Baodingshan version of the Oxherding text, which in general has only ten images.

最后挨着圆觉石窟的牧牛图第十和十一颂词. 第十颂词对于理解大佛湾牧牛图来说是十分重要的 。图中一位僧人结跏打坐,手结禅定印。图中没有牧人及牛的身影。可在僧人头顶上方的颂词为:“无牛人自镇安闲,无住无依性自宽,只此分明谁是侣,寒山竹绿与岩泉。”这幅图是宝顶山牧牛图的独特之处,因为一般情况下,牧牛图只包含十幅图。

Tableau 30 - No. 10 Inscription

Short inscription found to the left of the seated monk figure in the tenth vignette. It reads,“Even if a red-hot iron wheel rotated on the top of my head, I will not, because of this suffering, give up the mind of enlightenment.” This inscription echoes an inscribed verse seen elsewhere at the site, most notably within the Repayment of Kindness tableau. Several scholars postulate that this is Zhao’s “spiritual signature”, meant to demonstrate his dedication to the Buddhist faith.


Tableau 30 - No. 11

The last image of the tableau, vignette number eleven, is composed mainly of a textual inscription rising out of an open lotus form, above which hovers a full moon.  The inscription reads: “Everything is accomplished, yet nothing is (really) accomplished! What mind can there be? With an accomplished mind, and the mind accomplished, there is nothing to dwell upon. The perfect lamp has no partiality, it illumines both old and new. The man and the ox are no longer seen, they are gone without a trace. The bright moon shines cold on the ten thousand empty shapes. If you ask me the meaning of this then behold the wild flowers, and the fragrant plants that naturally grow together.”


Tableau 15 - Central Grouping

This work highlights the juxtaposition of large-scale iconic imagery with works that also have very strong narrative elements. With a large Buddha figure looking down from above, the central image focuses the worshipper’s attention on a man and a woman in the act of making an incense offering. Clad in the attire of a well-to-do twelfth-century couple, they solemnly lean towards each other as the woman places incense into the censer stretched forward by the man. Beneath them is the inscription “Praying to the Buddha for a Child”. Translation of the inscribed text entitled “Praying to the Buddha for a Child”: “Great Master Cijue, who had received the imperial bestowal of the purple robe, spoke Zongze’s verse:  Before the Buddha of old had yet been born, seemingly there (had always been) the perfect totality of a single mark; (but) if Shakyamuni had (not) yet convened (the holy) assembly (to actually teach the dharma), how could Kasyapa ever receive transmission of the dharma? The father and mother together offer fragrant incense, praying to give birth to a filial and agreeable child in order to take precaution against their old age, when their rising and sitting will require support.  Father and mother both will attain Buddhahood bound (to one another) through the suchness of the dharmadhatu.  At that time their heart’s prayer will be fulfilled, and only then will they realize the final nirvana of no-remainder. If there is (a notion of something to) attain, then it is not (true) attainment. Only when there is no (idea of personal) merit (to be sought) can it begin to be considered (true) merit. Originally this is the style of our old house.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #1

The first of the Ten Kindnesses is entitled “The First Kindness - The Kindness of Caring during Pregnancy”.  The inscription reads: “The honorable Buddhist monk spoke thus in praise: The kind mother, from the beginning of her pregnancy, her entire body feels as heavy as if leaden, and her face is sallow as if she is ill.  She moves only with great difficulty.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #2

“The Second Kindness - The Kindness of Suffering the Pains of Childbirth” is found immediately to the left of the central image, balancing the first kindness to the right. The inscription reads: “Master Cijue spoke thus in praise:The tribulations of father and mother bring tears to one’s eyes. (You) will know the weightiness of (your obligations to) their kindness when a child is born from (your own) womb. The loving father hears the birth taking place and, filled with anxiety, he is unable to control himself. (He realizes that his own) birth (on the part of his parents) is impossible to repay. His two eyebrows crease (in worry) from head to ear.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #3

Returning once again to the right side of the tableau, the worshipper sees the third kindness, that of “Selfless Care for the Child”. The inscription reads: “Master Cijue spoke thus in praise: When first they see their infant’s face, both parents smile a little.  Before there were feelings of worry and anxiety; now there has arrived a moment of rest.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #4

Immediately adjacent to the father figure present at the birthing is a woman holding a child on her lap. Gazing up at his mother, the child clutches a round item, perhaps a steamed bun or a piece of fruit. This mother-son duo represents the fourth kindness, the “Kindness of Swallowing the Bitter while Spitting Out the Sweet”. The inscription reads: “Master Cijue spoke thus in praise: (The kind mother) gives the sweet to the child to eat, the bitter keeping to herself to eat. If in this life one’s sense of the kindness (of parents) is superficial or meager, at other times, it will be difficult to repay such virtues.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #5

On the right side of the tableau is the intimate portrait of a mother and child lounging on a raised, carved wooden bed. This is a depiction of the fifth kindness, that of a mother who gives the dry place on the bed to her child. The inscription reads: Master Cijue spoke thus in praise, "The dry place (she) gives to the child to sleep in, her own body sleeping in the damp. Reverently extrapolate from the loving mothers’ unconditional and selfless love the larger idea of the Buddha’s perfect compassion. What self-centered preference could the Buddhas possibly show?”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #6

Next to the seated woman with child in the fourth kindness sits another woman who is in actuality the same woman being represented at a different time. This illustration of the sixth kindness, that of feeding and rearing the child, depicts the mother with her hair up, blouse open to reveal her full breasts, allowing a son of walking age to suckle.  The sixth kindness, “The Kindness of Being Fed and Reared” reads: The Chan master Cijue spoke the verses of Zongze, "(The kind mother) breastfeeds without ceasing; in the cherished thoughts of her breast, how could she ever feel a moment of separation?  Never worrying should the fat and flesh (of her body) be used up, fearing instead that her small child should be hungry.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #7

At the end of the bed is what remains of the seventh kindness, the Kindness of Endless Washing and Cleaning. The now heavily-eroded torso of a woman can still be made out as she reaches her hand down into a bucket of washing. Next to her stands a young child holding a toy aloft, behind her another greatly-eroded figure appears to be that of a woman, the same woman as was seen in vignettes four and six, holding a struggling child with one hand while her other hand attempts to wash him. The inscription reads: The Great Master Cijue praised thus: "The small child incessantly soils his swaddling clothes, and the child’s bodily organs are also soiled. (The kind mother) washes and cleans without end.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #8

Kindness number eight, the “Kindness of Creating the Best Opportunity for the Child”, would seem to speak to a joint parental concern, but the carved rendition at Great Buddha Bend’s once again highlights the mother’s actions over those of the father. The son stands central behind a feasting table, the front of which has been inscribed with the text of the eighth kindness. He is flanked by two male figures, most likely his father and future father-in-law, and the table is set with plates and bowls. To the right of the feasting scene, the worshipper sees the true kindness of a mother towards her son. She stands behind a boiling pot, a pig at the ready, with the butcher, club in hand, aiming to do the deed. Rather than allow her son to be sullied with evil karma, she accepts it unto herself on his behalf. The inscription reads: The verse of an ancient worthy says, "Once the child that one is raising finally grows up, it is natural to marry him off. At the wedding banquet, many animals are slaughtered, yet to whom will this evil (karma) redound?”

第八恩德为造恶业恩看起来是 在讲一个父母共同的担忧,但是刻在大佛湾的石像强调了母亲的担忧多于父亲. 这个儿子站在中央宴席桌的后面,桌子上摆着碗盘。他的前面刻着第八恩德的题词。他身旁刻着两位男性形象,一位可能是他的父亲,另一位可能是他未来的岳父。宴会场景的右边刻着母亲对他儿子的恩德。她站在一个正在沸腾的锅后面。屠夫为宴会准备好了一头猪。为了不让自己的儿子因杀生被孽缘玷污,她决定让自己代替儿子受惩罚。题词为:“古德颂曰,养儿方长大,婚嫁是寻常,筵会多杀害,罪业使谁当。”

Tableau 15 - Kindness #9

Kindness number nine, that of “Missing the Child When He is Gone on a Long Journey”, shows the father now leaning on a bamboo staff, clutching his wife’s arm. The mother looks over her shoulder back at him. Below and in front of them stands a young man dressed in traveling attire, feet planted squarely forward, his belongings bundled up and slung over his shoulder. The inscription reads: (Master Cijue) spoke thus in praise, "(The parents) think of the child daily, even after being apart for three years. (Although) as much as 1000 li distant, (they) put forth great mindfulness to tell the son to be careful when he is away.”


Tableau 15 - Kindness #10

On the far left side of the tableau, the last of the ten kindnesses is inscribed and depicted, that of “Having Empathy for Whatever Outcome”. The son, now older, kneels before his aged mother and father. Both are seated, the mother’s hair now covered. She sits smiling slightly as the father instructs the son, finger raised to make his point. He is now rendered with a beard, and both husband and wife show the more chiseled features of old age. As the Chinese saying goes, “As long as his parents are alive a son is always a boy”. The accompanying inscription reads: Spoken in praise,"100 years old and still they only think of (their) 80-year-old son; unable to let him go, they become ghosts and still they yearn for him. A son should pay attention to his parents' moods, be they happy or angry, and try not to offend them. It is not easy, and that is why we call all phenomena troublesome.”


Tableau 15 - Lowest Level 1

Having passed through the ten kindnesses of the worshipper’s earthly existence, one cannot neglect the lowest level, no matter how minimal its treatment since its import to the narrative of the entire tableau is quite considerable. Little remains of the lowest tier, but a backdrop of swirling clouds or smoke is still evident. A ghoulish figure found lounging beneath the mother and butcher figures seen in the eighth kindness is similar in bearing and attire to those denizens of hell so visible in the nearby Hell tableau.


Tableau 15 - Lowest Level 2

Also on the lowest tier is the image of a man dressed in monk’s robes and placed directly beneath the first vignette showing the burdens of pregnancy.


Tableau 15 - Lower level inscription

Between these image of an unfilial child in hell and a monk, and directly beneath the central pairing making their offerings to the Buddha, is the following inscription: “The Buddha spoke regarding (X) children and how it could be that after attaining manhood (they should) overturn (the order of things) becoming unfilial, insulting their father’s brothers, hitting and cursing their own brothers, and bringing shame upon their parents. No longer carrying out the rites, (they) do not honor their teacher’s example. Those who do not follow the Law in the end will certainly fall into Avici Hell.” Based on this inscription, one can surmise that Avici Hell, the lowest and most feared of all the hells, largely reserved for the likes of murderers, had now been opened up to accommodate the unfilial child. There are seven inscriptions found on this lowest level of hell, all reiterating the sentiments of the one translated here.


Tableau 15 - Chant

Short inscription that reads, “Even if a red-hot iron wheel rotated on the top of my head, I will not, because of this suffering, give up the mind of enlightenment.”  This inscription echoes an inscribed verse seen elsewhere at the site, most notably within the Repayment of Kindness tableau.

简短的题词:“假使热铁轮,于我顶上旋,终不以此苦,退失菩提心。” 它和其他地方的一些题词互相呼应.

Tableau 15 - Shakyamuni

Image of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni with inscription above noting restoration work done in 1957.


Tableau 22 - Wisdom King

Half-finished sculpture of Wisdom King.


Tableau 21 - Master Liu

This tableau has a central iconic figure as its focal point like the nearby tableaux depicting scenes from the Buddha Preaches the Scripture on the Repayment of Kindness and Dizang Bodhisattva with the ten kings of hell. Unlike these earlier works, however, the central figure is neither a Buddha nor a bodhisattva, but the figure of a layman, Master Liu, transformed into the Cosmic Buddha, Vairocana. Liu is a historically documented figure, his life spanning the latter part of the Tang Dynasty from 843-907 CE. A native of Sichuan Province, Liu evolved into a local subject of veneration, eventually being ascribed the title of "Superintendent of the Yogacara Sect of the Tang Dynasty".


Tableau 16 - God of Wind

The God of Wind at Great Buddha Bend is a classic later work showing the deity holding a large bag or goatskin in his arms, from which the wind escapes. This differs from early depictions of the God of Wind that showed him blowing the wind out of his mouth. In the Daoist context, the God of Wind is known as Feng Bo 风伯. In Esoteric Buddhism the God of Wind is one of the Twelve Devas, charged with protecting Buddhism, as well as one of the Guardians of the Eight Directions. In India, the God of Wind was thought to bring good fortune, prosperity and long life.


Tableau 16 - God of Thunder

The God of Thunder at Great Buddha Bend depicts the god in action – a mallet raised in his right hand as he readies to strike one of the seven drums that encircle him.  It appears that his left hand also held a mallet although it is now broken off. The God of Thunder is here depicted as dog-faced, whereas within the Daoist context he looks more bird-like. He goes by either Lei Gong 雷公 “Lord of Thunder” or Lei Shen 雷神 “God of Thunder” and is often accompanied by the God of Lightning.


Tableau 16 - God of Lightning

The God of Lightning at Great Buddha Bend is depicted in female form, and as such, could be viewed within the Daoist framework as Dian Mu 电母 “Mother of Lightning” and wife to Lei Gong, the God of Thunder. Some scholars link the God of Lightning’s traditional attribute of a thunderbolt back to vajrapani imagery found early on in India. At Great Buddha Bend, the God of Lightning carries cymbals rather than a thunderbolt, evoking the sound of lightning rather than it’s visual form.


Tableau 16 - God of Rain

The God of Rain is depicted at Great Buddha Bend as a man in official attire riding astride a dragon. Most likely it is a representation of the Dragon King, known for his ability to bring rain. The God of Rain looks out at the worshipper, his dragon facing forward as he heads out into the skies above. Above his head sits the Dragon King’s attendant. Looking up at the God of Rain, one can see that the cliff face has broken away, with plaster having been added to stabilize the area.


Tableau 16 - Signs of Erosion

Cliffside erosion is evident here, with whatever textual or visual works once carved beneath this sculpted grouping now gone. The steps take the worshipper up to the Kindness of Parents tableau to the right; to the left, this grouping connects the worshipper to the Repayment of Kindness tableau.


Tableau 19 - Upper inscription

The uppermost portion of the work is “captioned” in characters considerably larger than those seen elsewhere in the carving, and reads “Binding Tight the Monkey of the Mind and Locking Up the Vices of the Six Senses”.


Tableau 19 - Central Figure

The central figure’s forehead emanates a ray upward to encompass a Buddha seated, hands held in a variant of the meditation mudra. Dressed in monk’s attire, the central figure holds a reclining monkey in his lap, a metaphor for the human mind. On each side of the figure are two symmetrical series of inscriptions. Immediately to the right of the figure’s head is the caption “Heaven’s halls and hell”, which is completed on the left side, “with one stroke are by the mind created”.


Tableau 19 - 'Good' Inscription

Each ray from the central figure leads out to a seed character of sorts, which will form the basis of a series of inscriptions flanking the central figure. These are larger characters set off in circles; on the right one reads “good (shan 善 )” which flows upward to the character “good fortune (fu 福)”, which in turn leads to “happiness (le 乐)”.


Tableau 19 - 'Evil' Inscription

Each ray from the central figure leads out to a seed character of sorts, which will form the basis of a series of inscriptions flanking the central figure. To the left the seed character is “evil (e 恶)”, which flows into “misfortune (huo 祸)”, which eventually leads to “suffering (ku 苦)”.


Tableau 19 - Six Senses

The tableau’s overall message is reiterated in the animal representations of the six vices, linked to the six senses, which extend outward below it. The six animals, which represent the enemies of human enlightenment, are arrayed below the lotus pedestal of the central figure. To the left can be seen a wild cat, a fish, and a horse. On the right, one encounters a dog, a crow, and a snake – representative of the senses.

几种动物代表的六种和六根有关的恶习重复了石窟整体传达的信息,这六种动物排列在中间人物的莲花的底座上,代表了人们教化的敌人。 左边有一只野猫,一条鱼和一匹马。右边有一只狗,一只乌鸦和一条蛇——他们代表了六根。

Tableau 22 - Wisdom Kings

Image of unfinished Wisdom Kings, with a later inscribed text ‘Good Fortune’ or fu 福 carved below them.


Tableau 22 - Wisdom Kings

Tableau 23 - Three Pure Ones

Early 20th century shrine to the Three Daoist Pure Ones 三清.



Austerity No. 3 - Refining An Ankle by Fire

The revered master (Liu) was seated at a feast on Emei that had already lasted quite long when suddenly a monk saw him and called forth: ‘Lay Buddhist, why stop on this mountain? Of what benefit is it? It would be better to go to the nine provinces and ten counties to relieve the suffering of the masses and cure the sick.’ Because of this, (Liu) left the mountain, and went away. On the 18th day of the first moon of 902 CE, the revered master took two sticks of sandalwood incense making one wick of them and on the ankle of his left leg burnt them in offering to all Buddhas. (Liu) swore an oath that together with all myriad beings, wherever they lifted and set down their feet, it may always be a daochang or ritual area, and that never would they tread on profane ground. Moved by this, the Four Heavenly Kings offered witness.


Austerity No. 4 - Gouging Out an Eye

The venerable sage master (Liu) had already been in the Han region ten days when he suddenly recalled the strange words [he had] heard previously: that on "encountering me he should stop". After going to Han, (Liu) promptly returned. Thus he planted his staff in the west of Mimeng. One day in the Han region, the prefect Lord Zhao sent a messenger who came to request an eye, lying by saying that it would be used to make medicine, desirous of trying to see if his need would be denied. The revered master's mind already knew that this person would arrive. (He) took out his precept knife, which he then used to gouge out (his eye). (He) gave his eye to the messenger, showing no sign of pain or distress. Moved by this, Vajragarbha Bodhisattva manifested himself above. Upon seeing the eye, Lord Zhou was frightened and exclaimed: ‘(Liu) is truly good and knowledgeable.’ He then converted and confessed. The time was the third day of the seventh moon 904 CE.


Austerity No. 5 - Cutting an Ear

The virtuous sage and revered master (Liu) as a novice was ordered to reside at Mimeng, bowing he went toward the golden hall, (seeking) golden wisdom to convert people and to relieve sickness. Having one by one been to every place, (Liu) admonished his relatives to abstain, and all of the people venerated him, all returning to the true teaching. At noon on the fifteenth day of the second moon in 904 CE (Liu) cut off his ear in offering to all Buddhas. Moved by this act, the Great Sage manifested himself on top of a floating hill providing proof of the act.


Austerity No. 6 - Refining the Heart by Fire

The virtuous sage and revered master (Liu), on the third day of the seventh moon of 905 CE, with one length of a fragrant candle burnt (the area over) his heart in offering to all Buddhas. Discovering his bodhi mind was as vast as the phenomenal world and that all was actually void and empty, (Liu) ordered all the myriad creatures to forever cease in their worries. Moved by this, the Great Wheel Wisdom King - Destroyer of Delusion - manifested himself as proof. All of the myriad creatures began to obtain a realization of the truth.


Austerity No. 7 - Refining the Crown of the Head by Fire

The revered master and virtuous sage (Liu) on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of 905 CE took only one piece of the five fragrances and, with the tray on his knees as he sat straight up, burnt the crown of his head following the example of Shakyamuni Buddha who allowed a magpie to nest on top of his head. The Great Light Wisdom King gave up his hair and gave alms. Moved by this, Manjusri Bodhisattva manifested himself above, and it was proven.


Austerity No. 8 - Cutting An Arm

The revered master (Liu) in 905 in Chengdu in the daochang [ritual area] within Wang Jian’s workshop, cut into his one and only left arm, and at 48 cuts ordered (himself) to stop. With each cut (Liu) uttered an oath swearing to aid the masses, thereby echoing Amitabha Buddha’s 48 vows. On the summit for one hundred thousand days, unlimited drumming in the east, along with his own voice, throughout that part of the world, the clerk Xie Gong memorialized the event by performing music for all to hear. The King of Shu exclaimed that it was extraordinary, and dispatched a messenger to commend and award him.


Austerity No. 9 - Refining the Penis with Fire

The revered master (Liu), in the second ten days of the twelfth moon of 905 CE, (learned that) Qiu Shao of Horsehead Lane had fallen ill. (Qiu Shao) was already dead three days when the revered master performed a ceremony to beg for relief. The whole family uttered a pledge that if (Qiu Shao) would again be granted life with scissors they would cut their hair on a level equal to that of their eyebrows, and for the rest of their lives be at (the revered master’s) service. The revered master, with his great and merciful heart, then sprinkled fragrant water, and Qiu Shao stood up, revived. Thus Qiu Shao, husband and wife, and two women, all came to serve and repay (Liu’s) kindness and virtue, not leaving left or right. On the fifteenth day of the intercalary twelfth month, the revered master used a candle and some cloth to bind his penis. Throughout one day and night it burnt, thereupon cutting off his desire. Moved by this, the heavens showered down seven precious canopies, and an auspicious cloud of fog then came to carry and support him. Throughout the land arose music and the King of Shu gasped in admiration.


Austerity No. 10 - Refining the Knees by Fire

To the virtuous sage and revered master (Liu), the King of Shu, who over the course of time had come to venerate him, inquired by imperial edict saying: ‘How (does one) cultivate such a way, he who is called ‘Revered Master’? Report what effectiveness (it has had) on saving all kinds of families?’ (Liu) replied saying: ‘Master, to be skilled at cultivating daily (acts of) refining oneself with fire, make an oath begging to be without the passions and their filth.’ (Liu) took special hold of a six wheel five section secret charm in order to relieve to a degree the (suffering) of the multitudes. On the eighteenth day of the first moon of 906 CE, (Liu) began to carve sticks of sandalwood incense, burning into his two knees as an offering to all the Buddhas and proclaiming his oath to all myriad beings. The imperial splendor after these three events obtained insight.


Tableau 18 - Central Triad

Three large sculptures, the Buddha Amitayus 无量寿佛flanked by two bodhisattva figures loom over the faithful, all three equally awe-inspiring in scale. Amitayus is a variation on Amitabha, meaning "of immeasurable life span" versus Amitabha's "of immeasurable radiance". To Amitayus’ right is Avalokitesvara, her bejeweled crown bearing the identifying small Amitabha figure.  Guanyin 观音, as Avalokitesvara is known in China, carries here a flywhisk in her right hand, a bowl cradled in her left palm. To Amitayus’ left is Mahastamaprapta 大势至, who is also depicted resplendently, left hand extended palm up, bearing what appears to be a lotus leaf.  Between these three figures are two smaller bodhisattva figures backed by flaming mandorlas, Padmapani, a variation on Avalokitesvara, holding his lotus attribute situated on the right, Vajrasattva, to the left. Rising above them and scattered throughout the tableau are the palaces of the Pure Land paradise peopled with heavenly beings.


Tableau 18 – Paradise’s Palaces

This triad is flanked by two double-storied palaces – the left one inscribed as the “Pearl Tower”, with the  “Great Jewel Pavilion” to the right. Surrounding the palace are small figures playing musical instruments, denoting the beauty and harmony to be found in the Pure Land.


Tableau 18 - Bodhisattvas with Newborn Souls

Below these are several smaller iconic arrangements that represent the various levels of rebirth in a uniform fashion. Aside from the group positioned directly below the central Buddha, all of the peripheral sculptural groupings are triads around a central Buddha figure, either standing or seated, flanked by two bodhisattvas. The central grouping is comprised of four standing bodhisattvas holding lotus pedestals upon which the newborn soul will be escorted into the Pure Land.


Tableau 18 - Carved Buddhist texts

All of the imagery is accompanied by large flat spaces filled with lengthy textual descriptions, which are in turn augmented by text inscribed within the confines of the lower balustrade. The inscriptions found carved within the Great Buddha Bend Pure Land tableau come from various versions of the Scripture on the Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life, and therefore have not been translated because they appear to adhere to extant versions of that text.


Tableau 18 - Images of Rebirth

Although the central icons are meant to focus the worshipper, what draws the eye are the multiple small figures in various states of rebirth.


Tableau 18 – Young at Heart

Some popping out of lotuses, others holding up their hands in reverence, still others crawling along the balustrade, all young at heart in their new life in the Pure Land.


Tableau 18 – Newborn Souls

These newborn souls demonstrate how the layperson can be reborn into paradise and reinforce the identification of the tableau as being based on the Scripture on the Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life.


Tableau 18 - Narrative

The dominant narrative component of this work rests within the Sixteen Visualizations of the tableau. These visualizations as depicted at Great Buddha Bend were all originally “captioned”. In addition to captions associated with the visualizations, much of the inscribed text of the Pure Land tableau centers on the qualities of the nine grades of the Pure Land into which one can be reborn.


Tableau 18 – The Story of Queen Vaidehi

The original Sixteen Visualizations as found within the scripture centered on Queen Vaidehi, the protagonist in a story relating one of Buddhism’s most notorious examples of an unfilial son. In brief, the story is as follows: After first failing in his attempt to kill his father the king, Prince Ajatasatru turns to the person responsible for keeping his father alive, the virtuous Queen Vaidehi, who has secretly been feeding her husband by anointing her body with pastes for him to eat. After ordering his servants to kill her, the prince is stopped in this supremely unfilial act by a minister who cautions that even among the most wicked of earlier kings, none had ever killed his mother. The minister then refuses to cooperate in Ajatasatru’s scheme. Scared by his minister’s reluctance, Ajatasatru orders Queen Vaidehi to be placed under house arrest, and it is within that space that the sixteen visualizations occur. The visualizations demonstrate the Buddha’s response to Queen Vaidehi’s request for aid, appearing in the form of visits from various bodhisattvas who help her remain strong in her convictions during her unjust incarceration. At Baodingshan, Queen Vaidehi is replaced by other imagery – here images of meditating monks.


Tableau 18 – The Sixteen Visualizations

This placement of the narrative illustrations of the Sixteen Visualizations at Baodingshan follows earlier patterns of placing the imagery in two series running up and down the sides of the central iconic imagery. The use of cartouches to label the individual visualizations is also in keeping with earlier approaches to representing Queen Vaidehi’s spiritual journey toward visualizing enlightenment. Here the imagery replacing Queen Vaidehi is that of meditating scholar figures.


Tableau 18 - A General in Meditation

The Great Buddha Bend tableau uses images of individuals drawn from all quarters of Song Chinese society instead of centering the imagery on the character of Queen Vaidehi. The protagonists in the Great Buddha Bend tableau vary in subject matter from several images of monks in meditation to a general on guard to a young woman as well as an official. Here you see a general on guard in meditation mode.


Tableau 18 - Earthquake Damage

This image shows the effects of shifting terrain at Baodingshan.


Tableau 18 – Lotus Altar

In front of the Pure Land tableau at Great Buddha Bend is another lotus altar, flanked by carvings of one open and one just unfurling lotus.


Tableau 17 - Central Buddha

A central Buddha icon stands with his left hand palm up in front of his chest balancing a begging bowl, his right hand held up in a gesture of admonishment. Rays of light emanate from his urna or 'third eye' as he opens his mouth to preach. Carved at eye-level on the front of the Buddha icon is a lengthy text related to three previous emperors, the sides of which are flanked by the statement “There are only the golden bones of our master that survive, and (although) having been refined by fire 100 times, the colors are still fresh.” ‘Golden bones’ is a reference to sarira, or Buddhist relics.


Tableau 17 - Hungry Tigress jataka

Although the Hungry Tigress vignette would appear at first glance to be related to self-sacrifice on behalf of the salvation of all beings, the portion inscribed and depicted at Great Buddha Bend concerns itself with the effect of such a sacrifice on the Buddha’s then-parents, not on the more dramatic earlier self-sacrifice episode. Parallel to the scene of the Buddha Shakyamuni providing solace to his dying father, the tigress narrative provides a perfect symmetrical counterpart. The parents are shown grieving over the body of their deceased son, now nothing more than a skeleton.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Ananda with Inscribed Text

The first vignette is the most dynamic, and sets the tone for the entire tableau. It begins with an inscription entitled “The Buddha of the Great Repository Preaches the Mahayana Sutra for Repaying Kindness” that is easily viewed by the worshipper since it fills the entire lower left flank of the central Buddha image at eye-level. Adjacent to the carved inscription stands Ananda, his head bowed slightly, hands clasped together, who is integral to this vignette and the tableau as a whole.


Tableau 17 - Filial Son with Parents

Beginning with the incontrovertible phrase, “Thus I have heard”, the inscription tells the story of Ananda’s encounter with a filial man caring for his parents, and their subsequent meeting with six heretics, who deride the Buddha Shakyamuni as being unfilial, having abandoned his parents in the city in order to preach in the mountains. The doubt raised within Ananda causes him to raise the issue of filial piety upon his return to the Buddha, who at the time is preaching to an assembly of his followers. The Buddha then preaches the need to be filial and to care for one’s parents, citing the notion that in the past all the myriad beings were parents, and without them no being could exist.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Shakyamuni with his Dying Father

Placed directly above the two eaves outlining the relic pagoda of Shakyamuni’s father Suddhodhana is a narrative depiction of Shakyamuni attending to his dying father.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Sacrifice for a Stanza jataka

To the right of the Buddha with his dying father is another vignette, for which a caption in the middle of the scene reads “The Great Youth of the Himalayas casts off his whole body for half of a verse: birth and death do not cease.  With cessation, there is happiness.” This scene is sometimes also referred to as the “Sacrifice for a Stanza”.

图中间的标题为“雪山童子舍全身而求半偈 ,生灭不已,寂灭为乐”。这个故事有时也叫作“舍身求法”。

Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Prince Sujati jataka

On the second tier of the right side of the central Buddha figure are two vignettes which echo this sentiment of self-sacrifice on behalf of one’s parents - the well-known tale of the Buddha in a previous incarnation sacrificing himself to aid a tigress and the lesser-known story of the Buddha cutting his own flesh in a previous life to nourish his father and mother. Adjacent to the central Buddha image is the narrative entitled “Shakyamuni, while in the Causal Stages (of Bodhisattvahood), Cuts His Own Flesh to Nourish His Father and Mother”.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Buddha Explains Auspicious Marks

The least overtly demonstrative with regard to filial acts is the vignette located directly to the right of the main Buddha figure on the top tier. This narrative relates the story of the Buddha explaining to Manjusri how he achieved his special 32 minor marks and 80 auspicious signs through the “virtue of filial piety”. Kneeling before two figures, one dressed in scholarly attire, the other a monk in meditation, is Manjusri, depicted as a youth also dressed in scholarly clothing. Behind him sits a bodhisattva as is described in the inscription.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Eyes and Marrow for a Cure jataka

The first of the two vignettes to deal with kingly repayments of filial acts is found immediately to the right of the seated Buddha figure depicted in the narrative relating the Buddha’s 32 minor marks. On the left we see the king, hampered by a serious illness, who reaches out to a doctor who kneels before him feeling for his pulse. This is the story depicting Shakyamuni while in the Causal Stages (of Bodhisattvahood) Performs the Filial Act of Gouging Out His Eyes and Marrow for the Sake of a Cure.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Filial Son in Cure jataka

Immediately to the right of the king and doctor, we see the necessary sequel, an image of the king’s virtuous and filial son, seated, offering up his eyes and marrow.


Tableau 17 - Prince Samaka jataka

The other method of repayment for a king is to extol the virtues of the Buddhist faith to his people, which is seen in the vignette on the far left of the top tier. This is the penance given to the king by the bodhisattva-turned-man Samaka, in the Shakyamuni while in the Causal Stages (of Bodhisattvahood) Practices Filial Piety as Prince Samaka” story. The artist depicts Samaka lain out, his mother cradling his head in her hands, his father clutching the arrow protruding from his chest. It is the moment when Indra has appeared, and he is shown standing behind the prone figure of Samaka.

另一种报答方法是国王向他的百姓赞扬佛的信仰与美德。它被雕刻在石窟顶层的最左边。这是菩萨给国王的苦刑。故事名为“释迦因地为睒子行孝”。 睒子躺在地上,他的母亲用手扶着他的头,他的父亲抓着他胸前突出的箭。就是在这个时刻因陀罗神出现了,他就站在躺着的睒子后面。

Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - King who shot Prince Samaka

To the immediate right of the inscription and Indra stands the guilt-ridden king, dressed in hunting attire, a quiver at his left side, his bow clutched to his right side as he holds his hands together in reverence.



Tableau 17 - Candala jataka

The second vignette on the left side of top tier is entitled Shakyamuni while in the Causal Stages (of Bodhisattvahood) Cuts His Own Flesh. In the inscription, the worshipper is told the story of a king who sought to understand the Buddha’s law. Upon at last finding a master who would expound the law to him, the king invites him to sit in his palace and instruct him in the Way. However, the master will only do so with the provision that the king “make 1000 cuts” upon his body, and “burn lanterns in offering”.



Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - The Goose jataka

There are two vignettes involving birds located on the top tier. One is carved between the narrative of the chakravartin and the main central Buddha icon; it is entitled Shakyamuni and the Goose (upon which) One Writes and Notifies the Prince. This is the story of the goose who notifies the prince, the Buddha in a previous life, that his parents have so worried in his absence that they have lost their eyesight. Upon receiving this news, the prince returns with the only “treasure” he has gathered on his expedition, a cintamani or wish-fulfilling jewel, emblematic of Buddhist enlightenment. With this gem, the prince restores his parents' eyesight, a clear demonstration of his desire to rectify his unfilial behavior in which he abandoned his parents.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Filial Parrot jataka

Finally, the last vignette of the third tier concerns a filial parrot. The scene depicted is quite minimal and is located at the far right - a man holding a bird in his left hand while apparently scolding it with his right. The accompanying inscription reads Shakyamuni while in the Causal Stages (of Bodhisattvahood, as a Parrot Performs Filial Acts.

Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Funeral of Shakyamuni's Father

The grouping viewed to the left of the central Buddha figure at ground level seems to answer to the heretics’ allegations, whose images mirror them on the right side of the tableau. A processional of six figures stretches out as it marches away from the central Buddha figure, on whose right flank is inscribed the accompanying inscription. Immediately recognizable to the worshipper is the Buddha Shakyamuni, clad in monk’s robe, hair shorn to close snail-shell curls, rays emanating from his forehead. The figures are carrying the coffin of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s father, King Suddhodhana. Leading the processional is Sundarananda, the younger brother of Shakyamuni. Head covered and bowed, he looks back over his shoulder to his brother, who leads the group of pallbearers.


Click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 17 - Detail of the Six Heretics

The six heretics who deride Ananda and the Buddha for not being filial.

Tableau 20 - Dizang Bodhisattva 地藏菩萨

At Baodingshan, Dizang’s position, seated on a lotus throne and central among the Ten Kings, yet linked to the heavens above, reminds the devotee of his vow to save the damned. Dizang is capable of releasing loved ones from their torments if their descendants perform the necessary rituals. Chapter seven of the Sutra on the Origins of Dizang Bodhisattva is devoted to the explanation of blessings received by the living who have masses said for the dead, make images of Dizang, or who but for one moment take refuge in Dizang.


Tableau 20 - Officer of Immediate Retribution and the Ten Kings

Every deceased individual passes in front of each of the kings at ten predetermined points over a three-year duration. These ten dates correspond to the “seven-sevens” - 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, and 49  - designating the days after one is deceased, plus the 100th day, one year and three year anniversaries of their death. On these days, offerings need to be made to each of the Ten Kings. Introduced by the Officer of Immediate Retribution 现报司官, the Ten Kings follow the standard order of placement as given in the scripture, beginning with King Guang of Qin 秦广大王 at the far right. Underneath the Officer of Immediate Retribution is inscribed the following verse: If one desires peace and happiness and to reside amongst men and gods, one must immediately stop taking money belonging to the Three Jewels. Once you fall into the hells within the dark regions of the underworld, there, amongst the clamor, you will receive punishment for untold years.

每个去世的人会在三年内经过是个提前决定好的十个大王所在的个地方。这十个日期都和七有关系,他们分别是7,14,21,28,35,42和49。他们指定了一个人去世后的第100天,一周年和三周年祭日。在这些天里,人们需要给十个大王上供。 . 在现报司官的介绍下,十个大王遵循经文给出的标准顺序从最右边的秦广大王开始排列着。现报司官的下面写着:欲求安乐,住人天必,莫欺凌三,宝钱一落,冥间诸地,狱喧喧受,罪不知年。

Tableau 20 - King Guang of Qin

The verse accompanying King Guang of Qin reads as follows: The various kings (of hell) dispatch messengers to inspect the deceased in order to see what merit these men and women have cultivated. Depending on one’s name, one can be released from the hells of the three paths, and escape passing through the dark regions therein encountering suffering and grief.



Tableau 20 - King of the First River

The hymn accompanying the King of the First River reads as follows: Wrongdoings are like mountains, their peaks as numerous as the sands of the Ganges; blessings are like fine grains of dust, there numbers also few. Yet the good spirits protect you, so you can be reborn into a powerful, rich and devout family.



Tableau 20 - King of Song

The text of the hymn accompanying the King of Song reads as follows: Actions of sin and suffering within the three paths are completed with ease; they are all conditioned by killing living beings in order to sacrifice to the gods. You should aspire to wield the diamond sword of true wisdom, using it to cut off all of Mara’s clan, and to awaken (to the truth of) the non-arising (of all phenomena).



Tableau 20 - King of the Five Offices

The text of the hymn accompanying the King of the Five Offices reads as follows: Breaking the fast and violating the precepts, you slaughter chickens and pigs. Illumined clearly in the mirror of actions, retribution will come without fail. If one commissions this scripture together with the painting of images, King Yama will issue a judgment that you be released and that your sins be eliminated.



Tableau 20 - King Yama, ' Yama - Son of Heaven'

The text of the hymn accompanying King Yama reads as follows: Compassionately (seeking to) augment universal conversion (to the good), he displays an awe-inspiring majesty. Revolution through the six paths (of incarnation) goes on unceasingly. Although his instruction is painful, he thinks only of (bringing creatures to) contentment and joy. Hence, he manifests himself in the form of the god Yama, Son of Heaven.



Tableau 20 - King of Transformations

The text of the hymn accompanying the King of Transformations reads as follows: If one truly believes that the Buddhist teachings are inconceivable, but copies the scriptures, aspiring to listen to them, receiving and upholding them, then upon giving up this life, one will instantly release himself from the three evil paths, and in this body he will forever avoid falling into Avici Hell.



Tableau 20 - The King of Mt Tai

The text of the hymn accompanying the King of Mount Tai reads as follows: A single life is fragile like a lantern in the wind; two rats creep up, gnawing at a vine in the well. If one does not cultivate a precious raft to ferry one over the bitter sea of life, then what can one depend on to attain deliverance?



Tableau 20 - The Impartial King

The text of the hymn accompanying the Impartial King reads as follows: At that time the Buddha put forth a ray of light that filled the great chilocosm; dragons and preta assembled with humans and gods. Indra, Brahma, the various gods, and the hidden multitude of the underworld all came to prostrate themselves in front of the World-honored One.



Tableau 20 - The King of the Capital

The text of the hymn accompanying the King of the Capital reads as follows: Each birth on the Six Paths contains suffering without limit; the Ten Evils and the Three Paths are not easy to bear. If all efforts are put forth to establish the feasts and complete meritorious deeds, then sins as numerous as the sands of the Ganges will disappear of themselves.



Tableau 20 - The King Who Turns the Wheel

The text of the hymn accompanying the King who Turns the Wheel reads as follows: For the last three, where they pass is an important crossing. Good and evil depend only on felicitous actions as a cause. The unvirtuous will yet continue to suffer grief for a full one thousand days.  They will be reborn into a womb only to die in birth, or to die at a young age.



Tableau 20 - Officer of Rapid Recompense

The text of the hymn accompanying the Officer of Rapid Recompense reads as follows: Not constructing a boat or bridge is man’s folly; meeting with danger, you will at last begin to understand. If you awaken to the fact that one hundred years will pass like a snap of the fingers, (then) one must surely not delay in observing days of fast and listening to the Law.



Tableau 20 - The 18 Hells

As one’s eye travels down from the top of the hell tableau at Great Buddha Bend, it moves from the meditative calm of the heavens of the Buddhas of the Ten Directions, through the orderliness and symmetry of the Ten Kings and Dizang Bodhisattva, to the first level of hell, where the worshipper encounters the sensation of disorder that will serve as a precursor to the chaos still to come. Still arranged along a horizontal register, the ten hells depicted on this level do not fit neatly below the Ten Kings above, nor do they correlate to the occasional hell mentioned in the inscriptions accompanying the Ten Kings. The first hell on the right is Knife Mountain Hell; the inscription accompanying the image reads: If once a month one chants the name of the Dipamkara Buddha 1000 times, one will not fall into the Knife Mountain Hell. The hymn says: Hearing tell of Knife Mountain yet unable to climb it, the outlines of its rocky hills, lofty and precipitous, causing the heart to swoon. Assiduously cultivating blessings when the days of fast occur, one avoids becoming victim of the drag of evil karma on the path ahead.


把视线从大佛湾地狱石窟的顶部向下移时,他人们会先看到静静冥想的十向佛,然后看到整齐对称的十个大王和地藏菩萨,最后是地狱的第一层。参禅的人在地狱的第一层会先遇到六根的干扰之后会有更大的挑战。十大地狱虽然水平排列,但是他们既不是整齐的排列在十个大王的下面,也不和十个大王题词中描绘的地狱有关。刀山地狱 - 图的旁边写着:“月一日念定光佛,一千遍不堕刀山,地狱诗赞曰,闻说刀山不可攀,嵯峨险峻使心酸,遇逢斋日勤修福,免见前程恶业牵。”

Tableau 20 - Boiling Cauldron Hell 1

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the name of the Buddha of Medicine 1000 times, one will not fall into Boiling Cauldron Hell. (The hymn says:) Exhort the ruler to strive to be mindful of the Lord Master of Medicine, and escape from enduring the suffering of the boiling cauldron. Fallen into the waves, wondering when one will get out, early cultivation of the Pure Land helps to escape perishing.



Tableau 20 - Freezing Hell

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the names of the One Thousand Buddhas of the Present Kalpa 1000 times, one will not fall into the Freezing Hell. (The hymn says:) The worst of sufferings to be found therein are its cold and ice (where one), with eyes covered, (is) naked and exposed to the gods. Merely chant to the various Buddhas seeking merit and evil karma will be eliminated, and one will be reborn in a good place.



Tableau 20 - Sword Tree Hell

Although much of this inscription is effaced, a reconstruction of it based on other textual precedents is given here: (If daily one chants the name of Amitabha) 1000 times, one will not fall into Sword Tree Hell. The hymn says: (I have heard tell that the blessings of Amitabha are most) powerful. (Upon touching) the deadly sword trees, death occurs automatically. (Whatever) one invites upon oneself, one brings (in retribution) upon oneself. (This retribution) is not something that depends upon (affliction by another).



Tableau 20 - Tongue Extraction Hell

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the name of Tathagatha 1000 times, one will not fall into the Tongue Extraction Hell. The hymn says: The Hell of Tongue-Extraction is caused by sending the ox out with the iron plow; all types of grasping does not still it for even one moment. If one desires to avoid personal interrogation by King Yama, recite the name of Dizang 1000 times.



Tableau 20 - Hell of Poisonous Snakes

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the name of the Tathagatha Wisdom of Great Power 1000 times, one will not fall into the Hell of Poisonous Snakes. The hymn says: The compassion of the bodhisattvas is vast and plentiful; they deliver one from suffering and provide constant instruction, drawing one out from the river of desire. The lotus blossoms of the nine grades (of being) each have their share of the dew. What can cause one to be sent through the poisonous snakes?



Tableau 20 - Hell of Cutting and Grinding

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the name of the Bodhisattva who Regards the World’s Cries 1000 times, one will not fall into the Hell of Cutting and Grinding. The hymn says: Chopping up bodies, cutting and grinding, no time for repose; all here performed evil deeds, not cultivating and maintaining good. Avalokitesvara grieves for the suffering of all sentient beings; revealing her mercy and compassion, she aids all to escape from hell.



Tableau 20 - Hell of Being Sawn into Pieces

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the name of Vairocana Buddha 1000 times, one will not fall into the Hell of Being Sawn into Pieces.  (The hymn says:) The Tathagata's merits are vast and perfect radiance, which follows like a bright moon coming out among the myriad stars. Merely by chanting (his name) one is able to eliminate all manner of sins. Only a sovereign presumes to saw into pieces without cause.



Tableau 20 - Hell of the Iron Bed and Karmic Mirror

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the names of the Bodhisattvas Medicine King and Medicine Excellence 1000 times, one will not fall into the Hell of the Iron Bed. (The hymn says:) The Bodhisattvas true names are those of Healing Kings, and they can dissolve the flames of the iron bed. They have mercy on those who created evil karma as heavy as a mountain, and by merely chanting their true names all living creatures can avoid such calamities.



Tableau 20 - Hell of Darkness

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: If daily one chants the name of Sakyamuni Buddha 1000 times, one will not fall into the Hell of Darkness. The hymn says: Keeping the fast-days, serving the Buddha, and taking delight in reciting the scriptures, one accumulates good (deeds), and the inspectors of the netherworld inscribe one’s name (in the registers of merit). Additionally reciting the name of Amitabha 1000 times, naturally the darkness will manifest brightness.



Tableau 20 - Hell of Feces and Filth

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: The scripture states that Kasyapa asked the Buddha, “Those who eat meat fall into which hell?” The Buddha informed Kasyapa, “Those who eat meat fall into the Hell of Feces and Filth. Therein one finds feces and filth 10,000 ‘feet’ deep, the meat eater is thrown into this hell, and repeatedly he goes through the cycle of immersion and exit. When he goes through the first cycle, myriads of spikes situated all around him stab and rupture this body, and serrate his limbs.  This is the great torment (of this hell). For five million lifetimes, he knows no release.”



Tableau 20 - Halberd Hell

As noted in the inscription that flanks the preaching monk figure in the lowest depths, this hell is for “people who kill living creatures”.



Tableau 20 - Iron Wheel Hell

As described elsewhere in the tableau, this hell is for “people who seize upon others”.



Tableau 20 - Smaller Iron Wheel Hell

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: The Buddha said, “(If one) eats (food) or if (one) prepares food and serves it to parents, (teachers, elders), friends, wife, children, and family, then in future lives they will fall into Iron Wheel Hell. There in the armpit on the right side (x), (x) copper is poured (x), suffer for eating during the days of fast (x), likewise it is thus."



Tableau 20 - Boiling Cauldron Hell 2

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: The Buddha spoke,“(Although all living creatures) create bad karma, the Buddha is all compassionate. The body which falls into the Three Paths meets with pain and suffering; those who believe in one truth bring together ones’ own knowledge.” The Buddha then informed Kasyapa,“Those who seize upon others fall into Iron Wheel Hell. Those who cook meat of any living creature fall into the Boiling Cauldron. There in the midst of water, with a fire below they are kept stewing until they burst. Also boiled are those who urge others to cook meat; they enter this hell and endure its great torments. People who broil meat fall into the Hell of the Iron Bed. Those who cut and chop meat fall into the Hell of Cutting and Grinding while those who kill living creatures fall into Halberd Hell, wherein an iron-faced (halberd) is used during the daytime, with a copper-iron (halberd) being employed during the evening. The halberd's body has a blade the length of four feet.  Facing (the damned), it is run through (his or her) chest, coming out his back. For those who kill living creatures it is so. Consequently, to expound the dharma is to explain it to all living creatures.”



Tableau 20 - Knife Boat Hell

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: Receiving the penalty for one's own sins, it is not a case of heaven meting out punishment to humans.



Tableau 20 - Hungry Ghost Hell

The inscription accompanying the vignette reads: The scripture states: Kasyapa Bodhisattva then addressed the Buddha saying, “Those who do not honor the days of fast fall into which hell?” The Buddha informed Kasyapa, “Those who do not honor the days of fast fall into Hungry Ghost Hell....”



Avici Hell - Mountain Enclosed by Iron

The inscription regarding Avici Hell does not accompany an image per se, but could be argued to position the worshipper firmly in hell as well as to serve as a transition between the earlier hell scenes and the final grouping of admonitions carved on the lower right section of the hell tableau. A portion of the inscribed text reads as follows: The Buddha told Kasyapa, “If a mendicant here puts on my dharma robe, (he or she must) one, abstain from drinking alcohol, two, abstain from eating meat, three, abstain from envying the good at heart, four, abstain from engaging in ignoble or impure deeds. Those who do not do so fall into Avici Hell....”



Remains of Dizang's Lion

Remains of head of lion, vehicle for Dizang Bodhisattva. More commonly known as the vehicle of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjusri [Ch. Puxian], the lion is also often shown accompanying Dizang Bodhisattva in China.

地藏菩萨的狮子坐骑 图中的狮子头为地藏菩萨的狮子坐骑的残迹。更多人称其为文殊菩萨的坐骑。这只狮子在中国也经常出现在地藏菩萨图像的身边。

Tableau 20 - Monk in Hell

Found on the lowest level of the hell tableau, this image of a monk preaching, text in hand, serves as a visual reminder of the human frailties that lead to the punishments outlined in the inscribed texts and sculpted stone vignettes of the hell scenes. The inscribed text flanking the carved image of a monk reads, "Heaven’s halls are vast and broad, yet hell is also vast; not believing in the Buddha’s word, then how the heart suffers! My Way is to seek pleasure in the midst of suffering, but all sentient beings (being confused) seek pain in the midst of pleasure."

僧人雕像 它在地狱石窟的最底层,展现的是一个正在念经,手执经书的僧人。它是对人类弱点导致的经书和地狱石窟中描述的惩罚的警示。僧人侧面刻的经文写着:“天堂也广地狱也阔,不信佛言且奈心苦,(左)吾道苦中求乐,众生乐中求苦。”

Parents Offering Son Choice of Gold or Food

The text accompanying this image is carved next to that of the Hell of Feces and Filth, and reads as follows:

Kasyapa addressed the Buddha saying, “When you preach the dharma to sentient beings, do they accept it or not?”  The Buddha then told Kasyapa, "(It is analogous to) a person whose years having reached the age of 80, (remains) poor, poverty-stricken, and forlorn. A ruler bears a single son. (Filled) with the utmost pity and compassion (for his son), he holds gold in one hand and food in the other, offering both at the same time (to the child). The child being ignorant does not recognize the gold, but grasps the food. For all sentient beings, even rulers, it is so. I (the Buddha) take pity on sentient beings (and preach the dharma) in the same way as just as kind as that loving father (offered the gold). Yet all the sentient beings cast it aside, do (not) pay reverence to it, do not take it to heart, nor put it into practice."


Tableau 20 - Soul Suffering in a Cangue

Cangues were a popular form of punishment in China until the early 20th century. They are seen used throughout the Hell tableau, helping to link future punishment to real world realities and hopefully keep worshippers on the Buddhist path.


Tableau 20 - Remains of Lotus Altar

Large carved stone lotus altar stands in front of the Hungry Ghost Hell at the base of the Hell tableau.


Tableau 20 - Cooking and Eating Meat

Image of two male diners with a woman preparing meat representing several sure ways to get into hell!


Tableau 20 - Red Hot Iron Wheel Chant

Inscription carved on pagoda above monk in hell, also seen above the Repayment of Kindness tableau, and at several other points within Great Buddha Bend. "Even if a red hot iron wheel rotated on top of my head,  I would not give up my pursuit of enlightenment." Given its position here, it functions as a textual relic, the Buddha's words instead of the Buddha's body placed inside the pagoda.


Admonition Against Raising Animals

Largely effaced, the beginning of the inscription reads as follows: The Buddha told Kasyapa, “All sentient beings who raise chickens, enter into hell....’”



Admonition Against Alcohol

At the lower right hand side of the hell tableau is a depiction of a monk, now without a head, being offered a bowl of wine by a merchant, behind whom stands a young woman, hair up in braids, holding a vessel of wine. Next to these images are two sculpted works depicting the text of the inscription, which describes how alcohol caused Angulimala to rape his own mother and kill his father.



Please click here to read a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Tableau 20 - Hell of Being Cut in Two at the Knees

According to the accompanying inscriptional evidence, those suffering the most in the hells are not those who themselves had overindulged, but rather those who sold alcohol to monks, in essence enabling them to break the precepts.  Two examples can be seen within the Admonition against Alcohol grouping. The first example depicts the horrific fate of a man guilty of selling wine to monks. The inscribed text reads: In addition to people who drink, those who press alcohol on a monk will fall into the Hell of Being Cut in Two at the Knees, within which a strong man (jailer) with his sword will brutally cut the damned's two knees.  Those who press alcohol on a monk will receive such suffering as this."

截膝地狱    根据文字证据,那些在地狱遭受最多痛苦的人不是那些过于沉溺于饮酒中的人,而是那些卖酒给这些僧人的商人,因为是他们让这些僧人打破了戒律。鸯掘摩罗的饮酒警示中两个例子可以证明这一点。第一个例子描述的是一个向僧人卖酒的男人的可怕命运。就像题词中写的:“皆由沽酒况饮之人,若劝比丘酒者堕截膝地狱,其中力士将其刀剑截其两膝,强劝比丘酒者受如是苦。”

Tableau 20 - Hell for those who Buy and Sell Alcohol

The second example is seen in the carved image of a seated, naked woman. The accompanying inscription reads: A person such as the girl who buys and sells alcohol, will die and fall into hell. When receipt of her punishment is concluded, she will be (reborn with) a body three feet high, two ears blocked shut, a face without two eyes, likewise without nostrils, underneath the lips, a gaping mouth, hands without ten fingers, legs without two feet. This inscription further notes that suffering the pains of these particular hells is a joint effort, none being guiltier than the monk who does not have the willpower to abstain from drink. The carved text continues: The sutra states: At that time, the World-honored One informed all Buddhist monks, “If someone receives the Five Precepts and the 250 Precepts and the full range of rules of proper deportment, and yet does not abstain from drinking alcohol, then he or she has violated the 250 Precepts with regard to right conduct. If you transgress as such you will accordingly enter hell.”

买卖酒者的地狱  第二个例子是一个坐着的裸着身子的女人。旁边的题词写着:“女为人沽酒死堕地狱,受行法竟身长三尺,两耳闭塞复无两目,亦无鼻孔下唇褰哆,手无十指脚无两足。”这首题词强调了遭受来自这些地狱的痛苦是买卖酒者共同造成的后果,比那些没有意志力戒酒的僧人更有罪。题词还写着:“大藏经云尔时世尊,告诸比丘若受五戒,二百五十戒威仪具,足戒不听饮酒犯波,罗提目义若犯即入地狱。”

Admonition Against Alcohol - Father and Son

Heightening the edifying effect of the Angulimala story are the images carved next to these two depictions that include the two vignettes of a husband not recognizing his wife and a father not recognizing his son. Below these two are an older sister not knowing her younger sister, placed to the left of an older brother failing to recognize his younger brother.

饮酒的后果     两幅雕刻在这些雕像的旁边的作品强调了由鸯掘摩罗故事得到的启示。这两幅作品包括了一个丈夫不认识自己的妻子和一个父亲不认识自己的儿子。这两幅作品的下面描画了一个姐姐不认识自己的妹妹和一个哥哥不认识自己的弟弟

Please click here for a complete translation of the inscribed text.

Effects of Alcohol - Brothers

Those who drink alcohol do not know their own families. Elder brothers do not recognize younger brothers, or younger brothers do not recognize elder brothers.

两幅雕刻在这些雕像的旁边的作品强调了由鸯掘摩罗故事得到的启. 一个哥哥不认识自己的弟弟。

Effects of Alcohol - Sisters

Those who drink alcohol do not know their own families.  Elder sisters do not recognize younger sisters, or younger sisters do not recognize elder sisters.


Effects of Alcohol - Husbands and Wives

Those who drink alcohol do not know their own families. Among those who drink alcohol, there are cases where husbands do not recognize their wives, or wives do not recognize their husbands.


Admonition against Alcohol - Angulimala Violates his Mother

In the kingdom of Sravasti, there was Angulimala;  his action of drinking alcohol caused stupidity and confusion, causing this son to violate his own mother.



Admonition Against Alcohol - Angulimala Kills his Father

In the kingdom of Sravasti, there was Angulimala;  his action of drinking alcohol caused stupidity and confusion, causing this son to violate his mother and kill his own father.


Big Character Inscription along Steps to Hell

西竺一脉   India on one mountain range


At the time of the new year, a person from Ba, Ceng Zhimin, held a vegetarian feast. 60 [people], having two right and left. Simultaneously he wrote; and respectfully [it was] finished by engraving it into stone.

 Carved on the right side: The nineteenth day of the eleventh month, the sixth year of the xianfeng era [1856] of the Qing dynasty.  Gu Dan.


To Endure 忍

逊斋诸恶莫作众善奉行。Endure inferiority. Of all evil, nothingness make. Pursue a multitude of goodness

1690 Vimalakirti Temple Restoration Stele

1425 Sagacious Longevity Temple 圣寿寺 Restoration Stele

与佛有缘 With the Buddhists, having an affinity - inscription

与佛有缘  'With the Buddhists, having an affinity'

Resolving to construct the Buddha Reliance Bridge. In the fifth month of 1909 I was transferred from the east to Tibet and I was able to establish friendship with the Dimu Living Buddha for more than four years. In the third month of 1913, I was sent back to Sichuan’s imperial bridge unexpectedly meeting old ancestors. On my way [I saw] the scriptures of Buddha Bend, tarrying by the cliffside and staring at the scenes of India before arriving (at my destination); I couldn’t help but journey in spirit. After a long while, when the bridge was almost finished, they begged a preface from me. Military affairs were pressing, and I had no leisure to write in detail, so I have taken up my pen to write this, so that that which has been handed down will last forever.

Successful provincial candidate of the Army division, First Brigade, stationed in Tibet. Brigade chief concurrent with undertakings of the office of the Department of Rewards and Punishments. Adviser to the prefectural military general, Fengzou, Long Feisheng.



结欢喜缘四载有余。癸丑三月派代回川龙桥竭祖逅.道经佛湾,沿岩瞻躅悦凝西竺再到,不禁神游。久之时逢修桥将竣乞序于余军事星火不暇详说,因援笔书此, 垂不朽. 陆军部举人驻藏第一营营长兼赏罚科官承武将军府参谋凤陬龙蜚声.


Buddhas of the Ten Directions - East Side of Hell

While various Buddhas are mentioned in the inscriptions attached to both the Ten Kings and the various hells below them, due to weathering it is difficult to know if they are in line with the Buddha images carved above.


Buddhas of the Ten Directions - West Side of Hell

While various Buddhas are mentioned in the inscriptions attached to both the Ten Kings and the various hells below them, due to weathering it is difficult to know if they are in line with the Buddha images carved above.


Poem written by Three Song Emperors

Anonymous Inscription dated to 1614

Read right to left : "River Wind Mountain Moon"  江風山月

Pathway Down to River

Path leading down to the river below. Now unused and off-limits. The two sculpted figures of a man and the Liccavi woman are to the left but out of sight.


1917 Inscription

Tableau 17 - Inscribed 'Red Hot Iron Wheel' Chant

Short inscription that stretches across the top of the tableau, “Even if a red-hot iron wheel rotated on the top of my head, I will not, because of this suffering, give up the mind of enlightenment.”  This inscription echoes an inscribed verse seen elsewhere at the site.

短的题词:“假使热铁轮,于我顶上旋,终不以此苦,退失菩提心。” 它和其他地方的一些题词互相呼应.

Tableau 17 - Inscribed 'Red Hot Iron Wheel' Chant 2

Short inscription that stretches across the top of the tableau, “Even if a red-hot iron wheel rotated on the top of my head, I will not, because of this suffering, give up the mind of enlightenment.”  This inscription echoes an inscribed verse seen elsewhere at the site.

短的题词:“假使热铁轮,于我顶上旋,终不以此苦,退失菩提心。” 它和其他地方的一些题词互相呼应.

Tableau 17 - Three Sages Poem

This inscription lauds Song Taizong, Song Zhenzong and Song Renzong as exemplary imperial leaders for their support of Buddhism and their reverence for Buddhist relic. Concluding the inscription is a poem written by Song Renzong in praise of the Buddha's tooth, “ The substance of the three sage kings has completely returned to the earth. The true forms of the five [mythological] emperors have changed to dust. Master Kong was praised as the Sage in our region. Laozi was called the True [Lord] in this world. Gone were their buried bodies so their graves were left empty. Where could they show their bodies to all posterity? Only our master's [the Buddha’s] relics are still there; their color remains fresh after being refined a hundred times by fire.”

三皇掩质皆归土△五帝潜形已化尘. 夫子域中夸是圣△老君世上亦言真. 埋躯只见空遗冢△何处将身示后人. 惟有吾师金骨在△曾经百炼色长新。

Qing Dynasty Large Character Inscription

“Long life.” Chen Xiyi wrote this.

'寿'  陈希夷书。

Qing Dynasty Large Character Inscription 2

“Good Fortune.” Chen Xiyi wrote this. This is the same author who wrote the large character for 'Longevity' nearby.

福  陈希夷书.

Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 1

Two men representing the many people who were sick with an epidemic on behalf of whom Master Liu preformed this austerity.

柳本尊的苦行修行   苦行1


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 2

A scholar representing one of the many people who accompanied Master Liu up Emeishan to witness his actions.

柳本尊的苦行修行   苦行2


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 3

One man representing the suffering masses on behalf of whom Master Liu preformed this austerity.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行3


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 4

Lord Zhou’s messenger who receives Master Liu’s eye.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行4


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 5

Two female converts who represent those who were swayed by Master Liu’s wisdom through his actions.

柳本尊的苦行修行   苦行5


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 6

Two Buddhist nuns, converts to Buddhism through Master Liu’s actions, carrying a lotus and a stylized mountain form, both meant to represent the Buddhist teachings.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行6


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 7

A time-lapsed image of the Great Light Wisdom King giving up his hair and giving alms in response to Master Liu’s actions.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行7


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 8

Wang Jian, the commander within whose ritual area Master Liu performed his austerity in order to aid the masses.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行8


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 9

The King of Shu’s scholar edict bearer.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行9


Recipients of Master Liu's Austerity No. 10

The King of Shu’s message carried by a scholar.

柳本尊的苦行修行  苦行10


One of Master Liu's Offerings

Woman holding Master Liu’s ear.



Another of Master Liu's Offerings

Woman convert holding Master Liu’s hand.


Tableau 29 - Kneeling Bodhisattva

Image of bodhisattva brought down to earthly realm, head bowed and hand clasped as he kneels before Vairocana.