EXPOSED: The magnificent Longmen Grottoes—2,345 artificially carved caves
The Longmen Grottoes are home to 2,345 artificial caves, 2,800 inscriptions, 40 pagodas and about 100,000 Buddhist images. 30% of the caves date from the period of the Northern Wei dynasty, while 60% is from the Tang Dynasty period and the other 10% is from different periods. the 2,345 artificial caves were excavated, thousands of years ago from the limestone cliffs of the Xiangshan and Longmenshan mountains.
These magnificent caves were dug from a 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) stretch of cliff running along both banks of the river.
The Longmen grottoes are artificial caves that extend approximately one kilometer along the Yi River, and are located about 15 kilometers south of Luoyang City in China between the Xiang Shan and Longmen Shan Mountains.
The Longmen Grottoes were built between centuries V and VII, when the Wie dynasty moved to Louyang, resulting in the sculpting of more than 100,000 images of Buddha inside a limestone mountain, becoming one fo the best examples of Buddhist art in China.
When the Wei dynasty moved to Luoyang, each of the following emperors contributed to the construction of the caves. Construction continued during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Each one of the statues represents a different style.
Among the most noteworthy grottoes are the following.
The Fengxian Grotto is the largest of all the caves. It is located in the highest part of the mountain. Originally a temple with a wooden roof. In the center is a statue of 17 meters that represents Vaicorana. It is flanked by the statues of Ananda and Kashpaya his two favorite disciples.
The Grotto of the ten thousand Buddha’s was built in the year 680 by Empress Wu Zetian. It is known as the grotto of the ten thousand Buddha’s due to the numerous Buddha images carved on the walls.
The Binyang grottoes are three caves whose construction began during the Wei dynasty. The central grotto was built by the Emperor Xuanwu in honor of his parents. Construction began in the year 500 and ended in 523. The north grotto was not completed until the Tang Dynasty. It contains an image of Amitābha and other figures. Finally, the southern grotto was not completed until the Sui dynasty. It has multiple inscriptions.
The Grotto of Guyang is the oldest of them all. It has numerous inscriptions and bas-reliefs as well as a Buddha figurine.
The Grotto of medical prescriptions contains more than 120 inscriptions with remedies on how to cure numerous diseases. It was built between the years 550 and 557.
The Longmen grottoes are home to as many as 100,000 statues within the 2,345 caves, ranging from an 1 inch (25 mm) to 57 feet (17 m) in height.
The area is also known as “Forest of Ancient Stelae” due to the 2,500 stelae and inscriptions found in the vicinity.
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.