Longmen Grottoes in China

Tuesday, 22 June 2021 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  5 minutes

© Anagoria/cc-by-3.0

© Anagoria/cc-by-3.0

The Longmen Grottoes or Longmen Caves are some of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art. Housing tens of thousands of statues of Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples, they are located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of present-day Luoyang in Henan province, China. The images, many once painted, were carved as outside rock reliefs and inside artificial caves excavated from the limestone cliffs of the Xiangshan and Longmenshan, running east and west. The Yi River flows northward between them and the area used to be called Yique (‘The Gate of the Yi River’). The alternative name of “Dragon’s Gate Grottoes” derives from the resemblance of the two hills that check the flow of the Yi River to the typical “Chinese gate towers” that once marked the entrance to Luoyang from the south.

There are as many as 100,000 statues within the 2,345 caves, ranging from 1 inch (25 mm) to 57 feet (17 m) in height. The area also contains nearly 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, hence the name “Forest of Ancient Stelae”, as well as over sixty Buddhist pagodas. Situated in a scenic natural environment, the caves were dug from a 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) stretch of cliff running along both banks of the river. 30% date from the Northern Wei and 60% from the Tang dynasty, caves from other periods accounting for less than 10% of the total. Starting with the Northern Wei Dynasty in 493 AD, patrons and donors included emperors, Wu Zetian, members of the royal family, other rich families, generals, and religious groups.

In 2000 the site was inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity,” for its perfection of an art form, and for its encapsulation of the cultural sophistication of Tang China.

© flickr.com - Kevin Poh/cc-by-2.0 © Gary Todd © Charlie/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Anagoria/cc-by-3.0 © Alex Kwok © Kwz/cc-by-sa-3.0
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© flickr.com - Kevin Poh/cc-by-2.0
This complex is one of the three notable grottoes in China. The other two grottoes are the Yungang Caves near Datong in Shanxi Province, and the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu Province. The valley formed by the Yi River enclosed by two hills ranges of Xiangshan (to the east) and Longmenshan (to the west) hills have steep slopes on the western and eastern slopes along the river. Yi is a north flowing tributary of the Luo River. The grottoes are formed in 1 km of the stretch of this river and were carved on both banks, in limestone formations creating the Longmen Caves. Most of the work was done on the western bank, while the eastern bank caves, of smaller numbers, served as residences for the large groups of monks.

Within the approximately 1,400 caves, there are 100,000 statues, some of which are only 1 inch (25 mm) high, while the largest Buddha statue is 57 feet (17 m) in height. There are also approximately 2500 stelae and 60 pagodas. The grottoes are located on both sides of the Yi River. Fifty large and medium-sized caves are seen on the west hill cliffs which are credited to the Northern, Sui, and Tang Dynasties, while the caves on the east hill were carved entirely during the Tang Dynasty. The plethora of caves, sculptures and pagodas in Longmen Grottoes depict a definite “progression in style” with the early caves being simple and well shaped with carvings of statues of Buddha and religious people. The change of style is more distinct in the Tang Dynastic periods which are “more complex and incorporate women and court figures as well”. The caves have been numbered sequentially from north to south along the west bank of the Yi River. Entry to the caves is from the northern end.

Read more on UNESCO.org – Longmen Grottoes and Wikipedia Longmen Grottoes (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Johns Hopkins University & Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center - Global Passport Power Rank - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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