Dazu Rock Carvings

Nicholas Quirke was impatient with Wei’s mood swings on 13 August 2020 when things didn’t go as planned. The sulky silence was not how he dealt with situations and the lack of communication meant he was in the dark about what exactly was happening. The trip to Dazu’s ancient Rock Carvings was meant to be a 2 hour bus ride through the mountains. There should have been an early start at 8.30 am but he woke at the time they were due to leave and once they had eaten breakfast it was nearly 10am before they left. Having checked with the hotel on the best route they took a Didi to the station where they were supposedly able to get a direct bus to the site. The roads were complex as the city was built on an S bend in the river and some roads had no turning point. This meant they drove past the station but it was impossible to cross the road so they could not get out. It was decided over his head, between the driver and Wei, to go to another station which they didn’t reach until 11am and to add to the frustration Wei had not checked the times and they were told the next bus was not until 1.40pm. The station was also a major railway stop and he suggested that they check the train times and take a train. It worked out well and would get them to Dazu Fu by lunch time. It was not the drive through the mountains he had expected but it was still a pretty route and by the time they had arrived Wei had shaken of his sulk and was more animated. A major problem then arose of getting to the site which was still a drive into the mountains and as no bus went there from the station it meant they would have to take a car from one of the drivers who had hectored them on their exit. Fortunately there was a legitimate taxi and some negotiating got the price cheaper then the others where asking. It hadn’t helped matters that the temperature was close to 40 and the sweltering weather was making him feel irritable with the journey. As they arrived later than expected they did not plan to see more than the rock carvings and the temple, though Nicholas wanted to walk to the site from the gate rather than take the cart. The sun was burning ferociously and he covered himself with sun cream and enjoyed the scenery. He was the only one taking the walk and he thought, ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’. The carvings were phenomenal. The effort it had taken had been worth it and once again he was awed by the scale, the creativity and the skill of the sculptures dating from 7th century and depicting a rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, of life in China during this period and is amazing proof of the harmonious fusion of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The rich colours and figures reminded him of his brothers paintings. A thousand hands, a thousand eyes Buddha was tucked into a grotto and its concept blew him away. There was of course a temple to be viewed but so powerful were the carvings that he he felt a little disinterested. The fact that the sun was still scorching didn’t help his concentration and energy. The fact that they were facing a long journey back and unsure of how they were going to get back seemed to put his companion in a bad mood again and Nicholas was really having to probe and to get some sense of how they would return to the city. Fortunately a car was at the gate and the driver agreed to take them to the Dazu Fu bus station for a mere 20 Yuan. The lady at the ticket office seemed reluctant to do business with them but eventually tickets were purchased And they only had to wait 7 minutes before the bus would leave. It was already 6.30pm and they wouldn’t get back till late but at least they were assured of getting back. His friend’s mood had lifted, and though Nicholas continued to smile and chat he was looking forward to departing the next day. The moody behaviour of his friend made him realise that although they had known each other for over 2 years they were in fact strangers sharing a space and it was a unique relationship he had with Peng whom had been a perfect travelling companion and friend in the 5 months he had been in China. The supper on the riverside was enjoyable but he started to feel anxious about his early departure next day and they returned to the hotel for him to pack and sleep, which annoyingly seemed to elude him.

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