Yungang Grottoes in China

Thursday, 26 August 2021 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  4 minutes

Cave 12 © G41rn8/cc-by-sa-4.0

Cave 12 © G41rn8/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Yungang Grottoes, formerly the Wuzhoushan Grottoes, are ancient Chinese Buddhist temple grottoes near the city of Datong in the province of Shanxi. They are excellent examples of rock-cut architecture and one of the three most famous ancient Buddhist sculptural sites of China. The others are Longmen and Mogao.

The site is located about 16 km west of the city of Datong, in the valley of the Shi Li river at the base of the Wuzhou Shan mountains. They are an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. There are 53 major caves, along with 51,000 niches housing the same number of Buddha statues. Additionally, there are around 1,100 minor caves. A Ming Dynasty-era fort is still located on top of the cliff housing the Yungang Grottoes.

© Marcin Bialek/cc-by-sa-4.0 Cave 11 © Felix Andrews/cc-by-sa-3.0 Cave 12 © G41rn8/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Charlie fong/cc-by-sa-4.0 Entrance © Marcin Bialek/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Felix Andrews/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Entrance © Marcin Bialek/cc-by-sa-3.0
The grottoes were excavated in the south face of a sandstone cliff about 2600 feet long and 30 to 60 feet high. In 2001, the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Yungang Grottoes are considered by UNESCO to be a “masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art… [and] …represent the successful fusion of Buddhist religious symbolic art from south and central Asia with Chinese cultural traditions, starting in the 5th century CE under Imperial auspices.” It is classified as a AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration.

Since the end of the works, the sandstone of the grottoes has been exposed to heavy weathering. Many of the grottoes are exposed to the open air, and are therefore vulnerable to various forms of pollution and deterioration. Windblown dust and air pollution from the industrial city of Datong, as well as dust from mines and highways near the site pose a threat to the preservation of the ancient statues. The site is also in proximity of the Gobi Desert, the storms of which can contribute to the decay of the statues. The ensuing centuries therefore saw several attempts to preserve the caves and to repair sustained damage. During the Liao Dynasty the caves saw some renewing of statues and, from 1049 to 1060, the buildup of the “10 temples of Yungang”, which were meant to protect the main caves. However, they were destroyed again some 60 years later in a fire. The wooden buildings extant in front of caves 5 and 6 were constructed in 1621, during the early Qing Dynasty. Since the 1950s, cracks in the sandstone have been sealed by grouting, and forestation has been implemented in an effort to reduce the weathering due to sandstorms. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards damaged many of the carvings, and bullet marks are still visible to observers. During April and May 1991, Caltech personnel conducted air pollutant measurement experiments in the Yungang Grottoes. It was found that nearly all of the airborne matter was mineral dust or carbon particles, allowing a focus of attention on sources of these kinds of matter.

Read more on TheChinaGuide.com – Yungang Grottoes, UNESCO.org – Yungang Grottoes and Wikipedia Yungang Grottoes (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - 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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