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Chinese Famous Grottoes

Grottoes are an outdoor art museum of stone carvings and have significant value. The Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang (Henan Province), the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang (Gansu Province) and the Yungang Grottoes near Datong(Shanxi Province), are known as the three greatest stone sculpture treasure houses in China. They vividly record the culture of Buddhism, which is a very important religion in China and one of the three major schools of thought along with Confucianism and Taoism. The three noted grottoes also reflect political, economic, and cultural states in ancient China. They give us historical data for the researching of ancient religion, arts, architecture, calligraphy, music, dress, and medicine, and can be called a large scale stone-carved art museum.

Yungang Grottoes

Dated back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 534 ), the Yungang Grottoes, in Datong city, Shanxi Province, with their 252 caves and 5l,000 statues, represent the outstanding achievement of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Five Caves created by Tan Yao, with their strict unity of layout and design, constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.

The Grottoes stretch for about one kilometer from east to west. A total of 53 caves are preserved, divided into the eastern, central and western sections. In addition, there are 110 niches containing 51,000 Buddhist statues. Construction of these caves began during the reign of Emperor Wencheng (460 - 465 ) and was completed in 494 during the reign of Emperor Xiaohe, of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Small niches continued to be cut until the reign of Emperor Xiaoming (520 - 525 ). The highest statue of Buddha is l7 meters in height, whilethe smallest measures a mere few centimeters. The most magnificent grottoes are the five cut under the direction of Monk Tan Yao. Cave 5, Cave 6 and Caves 9 to l3, and the Wuhua Cave are unmatched for their grandeur and beauty.

The Yungang Grottoes occupy an important place in China's art history, for their grand scale and exquisite carvings. They integrate foreign artistic influences and cralismanship with those of the Qin and Han Dynasties

Longmen Grottoes

Located l3 km south of Luoyang, Henan Province, the Longmen Grottoes are concentrated on the east and west cliffs of the Yishui River, and stretch for one km. Work started on the grottoes
around the year 494 of the Northern Wei Dynasty, and continued for the next 400 years. In total there are over 2,l00 caves and niches, housing more than l00,000 statues of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and Arhats, together with 3,600 inscribed stone tablets and 43 stone stupas. Among them, the most representative caves are: Cuyang Cave, Binyang Cave, The Lotus (Lianhua) Cave of Northern Wei, Qianxi Temple, Cave of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Wanfuo ),
Fengxian Temple and Kanjing Temple.

The rich collection of statues and figures, most of which can be dated, facilitate the study of the history of Chinese sculpture with precise data. Large numbers of memorial texts and inscribed stone tablets at the Longmen Grottoes, like the Twenty Gems of Longmen Calligraphy and Zhu Suiliang's stone tablets, are considered rare treasures of Chinese calligraphy. The Zhu Suiliang Inscription, made in 641 in honor of the mother of the fourth son of Emperor Taizong, is one of them. More than 140 prescriptions inscribed on  the Prescription Cave offer first-hand materials for the study of China's ancient iatrology.

Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang

The Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, also known as the 0ne-Thousand-Buddha Grottoes, are located on the eastern, rocky side of Singing Sand Mountain, near Dunhuang City, Cansu Province.According to historical records, the carving of them was started in 366 AD and continued for about l,000 years. Now, there are 492 grottoes in existence, with some 45,000 square meters of murals and 2,4l5 painted clay figures. The grottoes in the Mogao Caves are the world's largest and oldest treasure house of Buddhist art.

In l900, about 60,000 historical documents were found in the Cang Jing Cave. These articles included Buddhist sutras, documents, emhroidery works and paintings from the 4th to the l4th centuries. Apart from ancient Chinese documents, there were also documents in other ancient languages, including Tibetan, Sanskrit and Uygur. These art works are treasures of human civilization, providing valuable material for studies of the politics, economy, culture, religion, ethnic relations and foreign exchanges of China in oldell times.

The Mogao Grottoes show examples of various types of art, such as architecture, painting and statuary. By inheriting the artistic traditions of the central and western regions of China and ahsorhing the merits of ancient arts from India, Greece and Iran, ancient Chinese artists created Buddhist art works with strong local features.

So far there are 492 grottoes, with murals and painted clay figures. There are meditation grottoes, Buddha hall grottoes, temple grottoes, vault-roofed grottoes and shadow grottoes. The largest grotto is 40 meters high and 30 meters wide, whereas the smallest is less than one foot high.

These are the main treasures of the Dunhuang Grottoes. The figures are in different forms, including round figures and relief figures. The tallest is 34.5 meters high, while the smallest is only 2 centimeters. These painted clay figures show such a great variety of themes and subject matter, as well as advanced techniques, that the Mogao Grottoes are generally regarded as the world's leading museum of Buddhist painted clay figures.

The murals in the Mogao Grottoes display Buddhist sutras, natural scenery, buildings, mountain and water paintings, flower patterns, flying Apsaras (Buddhist fairies) and ancient farming and production scenes. There are 1,045 murals extant, with a total area of 45,000 square meters. They are artistic records of historical changes and customs and traditions from the 4th to the l8th centuries.

Maiji Hill Grotto, located some 45 kilometers from Tianshui,  is one of the four famous grottoes in China. Built in 16 countries Later Qin dynasty period, and future generations are tired amended redevelopment, I Mian calendar year 1500. Cave shrine of the existing 194, 7200 I own sculptures and murals of over 1,300 square meters, in particular pair of well-known art world. "Oriental Sculpture Museum" reputation. Covering an area so 215 square kilometers it includes several such scenic attractions as the Maiji Hill,Immortal Cliff, Stone Gate, Twisting streams and the Old Town of Jieting...

Dazu Stone Carvings: Dazu Stone Carvings represent the Chinese art of stone sculpture of the Tang and Song dynasties. At present there are more than 50,000 sculptures in 74 places on faces of rock walls. Of these sculptures and grottoes, those in Baoding Mountain and North Mountain have the highest artistic value, and they are as valuable as those in Dunhuang, Yun-gang, Longmen and Maijishan Mountain.

The main part of Dazu Stone Carvings is made up of sculptures of Buddhist figures, with some Confucian and Daoist figures among them. They are fine models of grotto art of the Tang and Song dynasties, marking a new height in the development of Chinese stone carving art. They have a prominent position in the fields of religion, art, history, and cultural history.

The carvings, grand in scale and rich in content, are mastery works of art, showing the idea of "Gods are human-like, while humans are god-like", which is characteristic of Buddhist stone carvings of the Tang and Song dynasties. Some of the carvings have very high artistic value, such as The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with a Thousand Hands and eyes, Nine Dragons Bathing the Royal Prince, Weighty Kindness of Parents, and Cowherds. The Beads Counting Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) has been regarded as "Venus of the East". In 1999, the Dazu Stone Carvings were listed as one of the World Cultural Heritages.

Binglin Temple grotto :Binglin Temple Grottoes located 80 km southwest of Lanzhou, is on the Silk Road cultural treasures. When you take boats visited the vast expanse of ocean, and sky after the Liujiaxia Reservoir, Reservoir west of the cliff, you can see the Binglin Temple Grottoes.


Yulin Grotto, located some 68 kilometers away to the south of the County seat of Anxi,  is caved in a mountain valley. consists of the existing Tang, Five Dynasties, Song, Western Xia, Yuan dynasty, such as Cave 42, located in Yulin east of the river, on both the precipice, Dongya 31, West Cliff 11, 4,200 square meters murals, colorful 259. Due to natural and man-made reasons, the Yulin Grottoes colorful originals into obscurity now more colorful for future generations of repair or remodeling.

The Bezeklik Thousand-Buddha Caves contain 67 caves, noted for their exquisite murals dating from the Northern and Southern dynasties (AD 317 - 589) to the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368). Here we have arranged for a special opening of one of the caves that is closed to the public. After a short tour of the Sugong Minaret, built in the mid-eighteenth century by the chief of Turpan Prefecture as a memorial to his father, it's on to the Tuyuq Valley caves, at the far end of the Turpan Depression, with murals that have only recently been opened to the public.
The Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves Situated 67 kilometers west of Kucha County  the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves is the oldest of its kind in China and the largest ruins of Buddhist culture in Xinjiang. It is also the second largest treasure house of mural paintings the world over, next only to the Dunhuang Grottoes in Gansu Province. There are now 236 numbered grottoes in this cave, which houses nearly 10,000 square meters of mural paintings.