Restoration plan to be drawn for China's 800-year-old Buddhist rockcarving

Xinhua News, April 25, 2008

Chongqing, China -- A comprehensive restoration plan will be drawn up for an 800-year-old rock carving -- the "Qianshou" ("A Thousand Hands") Guanyin (Buddhist) statue, in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

Under an agreement signed on Thursday between the Dazu Rock Carvings Museum and Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage (CACH), the designing of the plan would start this month and be completed by December 2010 at an estimated cost of 10.3 million yuan (1.47 million U.S. dollars).

Engraved during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 to 1279) on Mount Baoding in Dazu County, the statue of Guanyin, or the "Goddess of Mercy", has 1,007 arms, with one eye carved on each palm. The niche is 7.7-meters high and 12.5-meters wide. The carving is on the face of a cliff ranging in height from 15 to 30 meters.

Due to hundreds of years of weathering, the statue has been afflicted by problems, such as loss of coloring and cracks, which have seriously damaged its intactness and aesthetic image, according to Li Fangyin, the museum's curator.

Zhang Tinghao, president of the CACH, the designer for the plan, said:"This is not only the most comprehensive protection project for the Qianshou Guanyin statue, but also a rare one for a single rock carving in the country."

He said the project involved many disciplines, such as geology and coloring, and would face great difficulties from designing to implementation.

The restoration work would start after the plan was approved between March 2011 and December 2013.

More than 50,000 individual rock carvings were found dotted and scattered in the grottoes at Dazu. The carvings dated back to the early Tang Dynasty (618-907). They were listed among items of major World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 1999.