Longmen Grottoes, China
To the south of China’s Luoyang City lie Mounts Xiang and Longmen. It’s between these two you’ll find the Longmen Grottoes which, together with Yungang and Mogao caves, comprise three of China’s infamous stone inscription treasure houses. As you can imagine, such a priceless archaeological zone is worth more than a visit, it demands remembrance.
Longmen Grottoes History & Details
All the way back in 493 AD, Emperor Xiaowen—who belonged to the Northern Wei Dynasty—moved his capital to Luoyang; this happened in the fifth century. These magnificent grottoes found themselves being built in a continuous run since, spreading through the reigns of the Eastern and Western Wei, Song, Sui, Northern Qi, and Tang Dynasties.
To give you an idea of what you’re going to see here in the Longmen Grottoes, there are 1,300 caves, 100,000 Buddhist statues, 2,800 steles, 2,300 holes/niches, 40 dagobas, 70 stupas, 2,680 stone tablets/inscriptions and 2,345 grottoes.
There are so many topics covered in the artwork here. From medicine, religion, art and music to architecture, calligraphy and costumes, you’ll find them all here in the Grottoes, which have every right to be called one of the jewels in China’s ancient crown.
Longmen Grottoes Facts
UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritages and Relics list the Longmen Grottoes with affection worthy of the wealth behind the place’s history. You’ll essentially find Buddhism Sculpture Art from ancient China herein. Complimenting the Grottoes is a vast spread of lush scenery, from rivers and forests to majestic mountains.
‘Longmen’ isn’t an English name and in Chinese stands for ‘Dragon Gate’. This latter name is inspired from the way two specific mountains in the region—the ones on either side of the river—look, like some sort of naturally crafted gate. Whatever special significance they hold, the Longmen Grottoes deserve it.
It’s amazing how you can find the smallest statue, at 2 centimeters, and the biggest, towering at a height of 17.14 meters. Speaking of grand, the Fengxian Temple is the largest grotto here. It attains about 30 meters in both length as well as width, making it quite spectacular, especially when you decide to stand smack in the middle of the chamber and make a slow turn.
Keep in mind that this humongous grotto was carved during Wu Zetian and Tang Gaozong’s reign, finding completion in 675 AD. Aside from the obvious Dynastic influences you’ll also find touches from the powerful Tang Dynasty.
Don’t forget to see the Vairocana Buddha. Seated cross-legged on the eight-square lotus throne, this is the biggest statue mentioned earlier and is a sight to reckon with. Moving on from the several other things to see here in the Temple, check out Wanfo Cave, which gets its name from the 15,000 small Buddha statues chiseled in the northern and southern cave walls. Even here, you have plenty of artwork to admire.
All in all, the Longmen Grottoes are simply spectacular. This is one of those ancient places in the world where you can actually feel the magnificence.