Return of a goddess

By Wang Kaihao ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-16 07:11:36

 Return of a goddess

The 800-year-old Thousand-Armed Goddess of Mercy at the Dazu Rock Carvings in Chongqing is unveiled to the public on June 13 after eight years of restoration. [Photo by Wang Kaihao / China Daily]

A community cheers as a famous 800-year-old Buddist statue among the Dazu Rock Carvings is restored and returns to public view, Wang Kaihao reports from Chongqing.

Finally, the Goddess of Mercy smiles again on pious pilgrims - with even more golden glitter than before.

After an eight-year restoration, the 800-year-old Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara (better-known as Guanyin in Chinese, or the Goddess of Mercy), a famous Buddhist statue among the Dazu Rock Carvings in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, was unveiled to the public on June 13, China's 10th Cultural Heritage Day.

One day before, an elderly woman, already impatient, walked directly toward the statue and presented her tribute, while organizers were still busily rehearsing the completion ceremony.

"It is not only a cultural relic. As a religious relic, the statue has close connections with pilgrims from neighboring areas," says Zhan Changfa, chief scientist in charge of the restoration project from the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage. Zhan says the work posed many challenges because of the statue's size. It's 7.7 meters high and 12 meters wide.

He adds that restoration includes a complicated combination of sculptures, rock carvings and colored drawings, and there were no similarly complex examples to learn from anywhere in the world.

The Dazu Rock Carvings, which are spread over 100 locations in Chongqing's Dazu district, date back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) and peaked in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). They are generally considered to represent the world's last such comprehensive grotto artworks, and the five most representative locations were inscribed onto the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list in 1999. Among them, the cliffside carvings complex on Baoding Mountain, including the Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara statue, reflect the high point of Buddhism's localization in China.

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