The 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.
This page is Longmen Caves for Luoyang Attractions.The Longmen or Dragon Gate Caves are a colossal example of religious art lying 12 km south of Luoyang, in a forested area with springs and pavilions. They are built on either bank of the Yi River at a point which has long been of strategic significance and was referred to as the Yi River Watch Tower, as well as being praised for the impressive beauty of the sheer sides.
The two mountains on either side of the river are called Fragrant Hill and Dragon Gate Hill. A bridge, built in 1962, is a copy of the Zhao zhou Bridge built in Hebei Province in the Sui dynasty, characterized by the length of span and the relatively slender arch
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.
The Longmen Caves include an astonishing 1350 caves, 750 niches and 40 pagodas, which together contain some 110,000 sculptures. A clear progression in style can be seen over the half-millennium represented in the caves. The early caves have simple, rounded, formally modelled statues of Buddhist holy men, while those from the Tang dynasty are more complex and incorporate women and court figures as well.
The caves been beautifully renovated and have English labelling throughout. They stretch for 1km along the west bank of the Yi River; entrance is at the northern end and moves south. The following summary is given in this order and includes the largest and most important carvings.
Fengxian 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).
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, 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.
Fengxiansi Cave (completed in A. D. 675) is the largest open-air niche among all the caves in China , cut on cliffs, 34 meters wide and 38 meters deep. A total of nine giant statues stand in the cave, including one Buddha, two disciples, two bodhisattvas, two heavenly kings, and two warriors, on the north, west and south walls. In the middle of the back wall sits Grand Losana, cross-legged, on an octagon lotus seat, 17.14 meters in height, his ears 1.9 meters high and his head 4 meters high. The disciples are 10.65 meters high, the bodhisattvas 13.25 meters, the heavenly kings 10.5 meters, and the warriors 9.75 meters. Losana, which means “purity, fullness, bright shining across the land”, ranks the highest among the Buddhas in the Kegon School . The grand Buddha has a plump face, thick eyebrow, down-looking eyes, looking dignified, kind reserved, and wise. According to the stele under the seat of grand Losana, the cave was cut by Emperor Li Zhi of the Tang Dynasty, and Empress Wu Zetian donated 20,000 strings of cash to the decoration of statues in this cave. So Fengxina Temple was initiated by the emperor himself, designed by prestigious monks and supervised by high-rank officials in the court. This group of statues embodied the great material and spiritual strength of the Tang Dynasty, demonstrated the supreme level attained in the art of stone carving in the Tang Dynasty, and is a symbol of the Tang
Dynasty as a great era and an vivid example of the oriental Buddhist art.
THREE BINYANG CAVE
Altogether 11 statues were caved in the Middle Binyang Cave , the main statue of Sakyamuni, two disciples, two Buddhas, two Bodhisattvas, and so on.
The front wall from the top to the basement is covered successively with large reliefs of Vimalakirti, Prince sattva jataka, Prince Suddtta jataka, emperor and empress worshipping scene, as well and ten deity kings.
A lotus-flower pool decorates the floor. The center of the cave was engraved a large lotus-flower in full blossom, around with are eight musical apsarases, two attending apsarases, surrounded by various tassel-drapery patterns, thus forming a magnificent lotus-flower canopy. Outside the gate is carved a house-shaped niche on both sides, with a warrior standing inside.
The whole cave looks natural, graceful and magnificent, exhibiting the worship of religion during the northern dynasties and representing typical imperial artistic charm.
Wanfo Cave is a big cave located on the middle floor of West Longmen Hill. On the ceiling of the cave is the chronicle record of the date when it was completed. It was a contribution from eunuch Yaoshenbiao and Nun Zhiyun for the emperor, empress, and princes. On the main wall are five statues, the main Buddha, Amitabha, two disciples, and two bodhisattvas. Behind the halo of the chief Buddha are cut fifty four lotus-flower born offering bodhisattvas. They distinguish themselves and are graceful. On the south and north walls are scattered ten thousand sitting buddhas, cross-legged, with musical apsarases on the lower parts of the walls. On both sides beside the front wall is carved a full-figure heavenly king, and on the walls beside the gate arch are caved 500 statues of Maitreya and a niche. Outside the cave gate are carved two vajras, with two lions beside them. But unfortunately the lions were stolen and are now collected in the New York Metropolitan Museum and Nelson Art Museumof Kansas City in the United States.
From the end of the west bank, a bridge leads to the east bank for a fine view of the caves. Up the hill is the Tomb of Bai Juyi, the famous Tang poet, who spent his last years in Luoyang as the Retired Scholar of the Fragrant Hill.
Some of the grottoes are open to sunlight; many are not. It is recommended that you bring a flashlight and plenty of water for exploring the interior of the caves. While the major rooms contain English-language descriptions, it is quite possible to miss some of the most stunning caves if you’re going by yourself. There are literally thousands of caves here, so you could spend weeks spelunking and not have the same experience twice. For a little over $15 USD (120 yuan), you can hire an English-speaking guide to show you through the most interesting retreats and tell you the stories of the artists who created them. Whether or not you end up hiring a guide, your experience wandering through these museum caves is sure to be enjoyable, and unlike anything you’ve ever done before!
The section of Longmen Shíku currently open to visitors is concentrated in a 1km (1/2 mile) long stretch on the West Hill side of the Yi River. Morning is the best time to visit the Longmen Grottoes, which mainly face east and catch the light from the rising sun.
Although Longmen Caves mainly shows the Buddhist culture, it provides a large number of historical data for studying ancient religion, fine arts, architecture, calligraphy, music, dress, as well as medicine. Therefore, it has been considered as a large scaled stone-carved art museum.
Apart from the Longmen Caves is renowned for the caves; it is also endowed with lush mountains and ridges, springs and waterfalls. The two mountains are covered with green pines and cypresses. Towers and pavilions set each other off. It's a unique scenery area. Seeancient grottoes in China.
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