Stone carving is an ancient activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, evidence can be found that even the earliest societies indulged in some form of stone work.
Work carried out by paleolithic societies to create flint tools is more often referred to as knapping. Stone carving that is done to produce lettering is more often referred to as lettering.
Stone carving differs from stone as in marble quarrying in that it is the act of shaping or incising the stone, whereas quarrying is the activity of acquiring useful stone, usually in blocks, from geological sources.
The term stone carving is of particular significance to sculptors being a reference to a particular way of producing sculpture, as opposed to modelling in clay or casting. The term also refers to the activity of masons in dressing stone blocks for use in architecture, building or civil engineering. It is also a phrase used by archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists to describe the activity involved in making some types of petroglyphs.
The Dazu Rock Carvings (Chinese: 大足石刻; pinyin: DàzúShíkè) are a series of Chinese religious sculptures and carvings, dating back as far as the 7th century AD, depicting and influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist beliefs. Listed as a World Heritage Site, the Dazu Rock Carvings are made up of 75 protected sites containing some 50,000 statues, with over 100,000 Chinese characters forming inscriptions and epigraphs. The sites are located in Chongqing Municipality within the steep hillsides throughout Dazu County, located about 60 kilometers west of the urban area of Chongqing. The highlights of the rock grotto are found on Mount Baoding and Mount Beishan.
The carvings were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999, citing "…their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period. They provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism."