Yungang Grottoes, China
When you hear people say ‘Even the caves in China are awesome’, they’re not kidding, many of them really are. Take the Yungang Grottoes, one of three cave clusters in China where ancient splendor comes alive. The cliffs of Wuzhou Mountain in Datong never looked more beautiful or more artistic.
Yungang Grottoes – Buddhist Caves, China
It’s awe-inspiring to know that a 1 km stretch of excavation along this mountain unearthed 53 caves and over 51,000 stone statues. That’s more than a fact, it’s an ode to human will. Here’s how you approach this site. You’ll find it divided into east, middle and west.
Occupying the eastern region are pagodas, beautiful, ancient and serene. The caves at the west end possess plenty of niches and are, as a consequence, quite small. The middle caves are superb, what with their front and back chambers and statues of Buddha taking up the center.
Yungang Grottoes History & Details
For all you history buffs out there, the Yungang Grottoes were begun in 450 AD by the Northern Wei Dynasty. There’s traditional Chinese art but the ones here are combined with the age’s social elements, giving them an original twist worth appreciating. To be specific, Indian Gandhara Buddhist art is what makes up a lot of the work here.
A monk was responsible for taking charge of construction efforts, his name was Tan Yao. You’ve simply got to see the largest cave, classified as No.6. It’s 65+ feet high and hosting a column inspired from a pagoda’s style. This singular piece of art is about 50 feet tall with Buddha statues and sundry other designs making up the decorative element.
With a cave this huge, you can expect to find a lot more. Like how the east, west and south walls display 33 embossed panels that take you through the tale of Saykamuni. In addition to this piece of history, you can learn a lot more from the guided tours.
Caves 16 through 20 are superb choices to check out. Aside from having some of the richest collections of ancient Chinese art and sculpture, you’ll find meaningful stories behind each design-addition. The Five Tan Yao Caves are named for an interesting reason. The statues hold the secret. There are similarities and there are differences in the art here, all working together to re-introduce a time in the distant past when China’s diversity stood very strong.
It may not be in a perfectly preserved state because the Yungang Grottoes did see their fair share of wars and natural disasters over the decades. The 1900s saw to a lot of protection, restoration and preservation attention being showered on this jewel of Chinese history and culture. Christmas of 2001 saw to it becoming a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
You can bet the Yungang Grottoes will leave you speechless and with a whole new outlook on the power history still holds on the modern world.