The Longmen Grottoes are located about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) south of Luoyang City of Henan Province, which are densely dotted along the two mountains, Xiangshan (to the east) and Longmenshan (to the west). The Yi River flows northward between them. Along with the Mogao Grottoes and Yungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the three most famous ancient sculptures in China.
The grottoes were begun in 493 CE when Emperor Xiaowendi of the Northern Wei Dynasty moved the capital to Luoyang. The grottoes were expanded by subsequent dynasties and finally completed during the North Song Dynasty. The grottoes depicting the Buddha and his disciples took more than 400 years to complete. It is estimated that the grottoes constructed during the North Wei Dynasty account for 30% of the statues, while the Tang Dynasty is responsible for about 60% and other dynasties, about 10 %. There are over 2,100 niches, more than 100,000 statues, some 40 pagodas, and 3,600 tablets and steles in Guyang, Binyang and Lianhua.
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The central cave, Binyang, is representative of the North Wei Dynasty, which took 24 years to complete. There are 11 large Buddha statues in this cave. The most magnificent is the sculpture of the Buddha with his followers standing on either side. It is said that a unique and splendid embossment at entrance of the cave was stolen and now is part of the Museum of the City of New York. The south Binyang cave was cut during the North Wei Dynasty but some sculptures of the Buddha were carved in the early Tang Dynasty. The main Buddha in the south cave is known as the Buddha of Immeasurable Life.
Guyang is situated in the south of Longmen Mountain which was carved in 493 CE. Guyang Cave enshrines the sculpture of Sakyamuni (one of the many names of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama). The carvings on one niche lintel depict the story about how Siddhartha established Buddhism. There are hundreds of niches in Guyang Cave.
Lotus Cave, also named Lianhua Cave in Chinese pronunciation, is renowned for its inlaid lotus on the roof of the cave. The lotus, as the symbol of Buddhism, springs out of muddy water in the pond without carrying a trace of dirt. The lotus symbolizes a person of noble sentiment and great personnel charm. The figure of Sakyamuni is also the main statute in this cave. The smallest figure of Buddha Longmen Grottoes was carved here, which is only one quarter-inch (2 centimeters) high.
There are other caves in Longmen Grottoes but these three caves are the most representative. Most of the statues’ heads had been destroyed during the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s and also during Eight-Nation Alliance the responded to China’s Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
The Longmen Grottoes were listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites in November of 2000.
For more on the rich history and cultural significance of the Longmen Grottoes, take a look at this article from Khan University.
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Admission Fee: 120RMB per person
8:00 – 18:00 (February 1st – March 31st)
7:30 – 22:00 (April 1st – October 7th)
7:30 – 18:00 (October 8th – October 31st )
8:00 – 16:00 (November 1st – January 1st of the following year)
How to get there: Take No.81 Bus at Luoyang Railway Station.