Welcome to A Treasure House of Cave Art--Longmen Grottoes
Longmen Grottoes reflect the heyday of Tang Dynasty Culture. Since ancient times, it was regarded as the place contested by all strategists’ strategic point. It has been attracting numerous literators, scholars, writers with its picturesque scenery, tranquil and intangible environment, as well as the delightful climate. The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art. These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving. The sculptures of the Longmen Grottoes are an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity. They illustrate the perfection of a long-established art form which was to play a highly significant role in the cultural evolution of this region of Asia. What’s more, the high cultural level and sophisticated society of Tang Dynasty China is encapsulated in the exceptional and inimitable stone carvings of the Longmen Grottoes.
Located in the south of Luoyang City in Henan Province, lots of historical materials concerning art, music, religion, calligraphy, medicine, costume and architecture are kept in Longmen Grottoes. All these materials are precious and reflect the combination of Chinese traditional culture and foreign civilizations. Brimming with the cultural remnants of the belief emotion, Longmen Grottoes are the concrete refraction of ancient people who are full of imprecations to the realistic world. Visitors can’t help appreciating and admiring its exterior allopatric conformation and interior self-restraint filled with humanistic sense.
History and Culture
The construction of the Longmen Grottoes began in 493 during the reign of Emperor Xiaowen and continued through the successive six dynasties, including Tang and Song, for a span of over 400 years. One third of these cave sculptures belong to the Northern Wei Dynasty and two thirds to the Tang Dynasty. The style of sculpture, the design of clothing and the facial expression on statues, as well as carving methods show little foreign influence, rather they exhibit the pinnacle of development of Chinese grotto art.
While the cave sculptures of the Tang Dynasty are of a vigorous, elegant and realistic style, the stone statues in Fengxian Cave, carved under the edict of Empress Wuzetian (reigned 690-705), can be considered as the most typical of the period. These are composed of a 17.14-meter-high statue of Vairocana Buddha, and a series of pairs of Bodhisattvas, heavenly kings, protectors and worshippers. The huge statue of Vairocana Buddha is today praised as being the quintessence of Buddhist sculpture in China.
Wanfo Cave
Wanfo Cave 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.
Fengxian Temple
Fengxian Temple was built in the Tang Dynasty and it is the largest grotto in Longmen Temple with a width of 36 meters (about 118 feet) and a length of 41 meters (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. 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.
Admission fee: RMB120/person
Opening hours: 8:30 am-17:20 pm (April 15~October 27); 8:30 am-17:00 pm (October 28 ~April 14)
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