Longmen Grottoes

The Longmen Grottoes are located in the south of Luoyang City. They are between Mount Xiang and Mount Longmen and face Yi River. Longmen Grottoes, Yungang Caves and Mogao Caves are regarded as the three most famous treasure houses of stone inscriptions in China.

The grottoes were started around the year 493 when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) moved the capital to Luoyang and were continuously built during the 400 years until the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). The scenery measures 1,000 metres (about 1,094 yards) from north to south where there are over 2,300 holes and niches, 2,800 steles, 40 dagobas, 1,300 caves and 100,000 statues. Most of them are the works of the Northern Wei Dynasty and the flourishing age of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Lots of historical materials concerning art, music, religion, calligraphy, medicine, costume and architecture are kept in Longmen Grottoes.

Fengxian Temple

Luoyang Longmen Caves, HenanFengxian Temple was built in the Tang Dynasty and it is the largest grotto in Longmen Temple with a width of 36 metres (about 118 feet) and a length of 41 metres (about 136 feet). There are nine major figures of various facial appearances and temperaments in the temple that were built in accordance with the Buddhist rite and their relationships by the artists.

The most impressive figure is the statue of Vairocana Buddha sitting cross-legged on the eight-square lotus throne. It is 17.14 metres (about 56.23 feet) in total height with the head four metres (about 13 feet) in height and the ears 1.9 metres (about 6.2 feet) in length. Vairocana means illuminating all things in the sutra. The Buddha has a well-filled figure, a sacred and kindly expression and an elegant smile. According to the record on the epigraph, the Empress Wu Zetian together with her subjects took part in the ceremony of Introducing the Light (a Buddhist blessing that the Buddha opens the spiritual light of himself and shares it with others).

Vairocana Buddha, the chief Buddha in Fengxian Temple, Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang.The face of the Vajra on the north wall of Fengxian Temple, Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang

At the sides of Vairocana there are two statues of Vairocana Buddha's disciples, Kasyapa and Ananda, wearing prudent and devout expressions. The figures of Bodhisattvas and devas can also be found in the temple. Some have dignified and genial expressions, while others are majestic and fiery. The various appearances and delicate designs are the representations of Empire Tang's powerful material and spiritual strength as well as the high crystallization of people's wisdoms.

Wanfo Cave

The chief Buddha, Sakyamuni, in Lianhua Cave, Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang.Wanfo Cave, completed in 680, is a typical chronological cave of the Tang Dynasty of two rooms and square flat roofs. Its name is due to the 15,000 small statues of Buddha chiseled in the southern and northern walls of the cave. The main Buddha Amida sits on the lotus Sumeru throne, having a composed and solemn face. The wall behind Amida is carved with 54 lotuses upon which there are 54 Bodhisattvas in different shapes and with various expressions.

In addition, there are lifelike reliefs of pretty and charming singers and dancers on the wall. The singers are accompanied by various kinds of instruments and the dancers dance lightly and gracefully to the music. The whole model in the cave has created a lively and cheerful atmosphere. On the southern wall outside the cave is carved a statue of Kwan-yin of 85 centimetres (about 33 inches) in height, holding a pure bottle in the left hand and deer's tails (as a symbol of brushing off the dust in spirit) in the right hand. This figure is well designed and is regarded as an example of Bodhisattva statues of Tang Dynasty in Longmen.

Guyang Cave

A general view outside the three Binyang Caves, Longmen Grottoes, LuoyangGuyang Cave is the earliest cave in Longmen Grottoes. There are three tiers of niches on the northern and southern wall of the cave, in which are hundreds of statues, and most of the statues are engraved with the names of the artists, the dates and the reasons for carving them. The sculptures are of diverse shapes and patterns that are representations of the Gandhara Art style after the grotto art transmitted to Luoyang. A statue of Sakyamuni is situated in the middle with a whole height of 7.82 meters (about 25.66 feet). Nineteen of the most famous Twenty Calligraphies are found in Guyang Cave. Twenty Calligraphies represent the steles of the Wei's style, which are the essentials of stele calligraphies in Longmen Grottoes.

Binyang Cave

The lotus seat on which the Bodhisattva stand, Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang.After the constructions of Guyang Cave, the royalty of the Northern Wei Dynasty constructed a series of lager scale caves, which are the northern, southern, and middle Binyang Caves. The middle cave, taking the longest time from 500 to 523, is the only one of the three finished during period of the Northern Wei. There are 11 big statues in the cave. Sakyamuni is of dignified and serene appearance, while his disciple and Bodhisattva are of slender figure and elegant look, which are the typical style of the late Northern Wei Dynasty. The floor is engraved with lotus patterns and on the rooftop is a rilievo of flourishing lotus flower.

Lotus Cave (Lianhua Cave)

The chief Buddha, Amitabha, in Southern Binyang Cave, Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang.Chiseled grottoes on the base of the natural limestone caves are also seen in Longmen, and the Lotus Cave is one of this type. Differing from sitting statues, Sakyamuni is of standing figure, showing that he has trudged a long distance to develop Buddhism from India to China. A huge relief of a well sculpted lotus flower is engraved on the dome, seedpod in the centre, petals in the outer and each leaf with honeysuckle patterns. Around the lotus are six flying musicians with vivid gestures, as if they are dancing along with the melodies of the music.

In addition, there is Prescription Cave that has about 140 prescriptions engraved on the walls, showing the achievements of medicine in ancient China. Some of the prescriptions are still used today. Other caves and temples like Xiangshan Temple, Huangfugong Cave, and Qianxi Temple can also be fond in Longmen Grottoes.

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