Longmen Grottoes, one of the four Grottoes of China, is located in a beautiful place of green mountains and clear water, 13 kilometers away to the south of Luoyang. 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, 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). Thousands of niches and statues on Yique Mountain were mostly carved in the Northern Wei Dynasty and the booming period of the Tang Dynasty, the two climaxes in the continuous building of 500 years.
Among the numerous caves chiseled in the Northern Wei Dynasty, the Guyang Cave, the Middle Binyang Cave, the Lianhua Cave and the Shikusi Cave are the representatives. Statues of the royal family members, aristocrats and ministers of the Northern Wei Dynasty during the capital-moving period were kept in the Guyang Cave reflected the typical historical worship of Buddhism of the whole nation in the Northern Wei Dynasty. These marvelous stone carvings of fancy appearances show the typical style of the earliest grotto art of Gandhara Buddhism sculptures in Luoyang.
Among the key grottoes built in the Tang Dynasty here, the grand cluster statues of Vairocana Buddha are the most impressive of all. Centered by the statue of the Buddha Vairocana which carries an air of grace, divinity and magnanimity, the open grotto shrine built according to the description of the Hua-yen Sutr expressed artistically and thoroughly an ideal Buddhism world of peace and lenity with a cluster of images of vivid appearances and infectious expressions. The Buddha Vairocana
● Comments of World Cultural Heritage Committee：
The Grottoes and Buddha niches in the Longmen area indicate the most outstanding ancient Chinese sculpture arts of the largest scale during the period ranging from the late Northern Wei Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty (493 – 907 A.D.). These art works of Buddhism describing religious subjects with details and accuracy represent the peak of Chinese artistic stone carving.
Wei Dynasty Grottoes —— The Guyang Cave was first built in 495 A.D. by Qiu Huicheng, a royal member of the Wei Dynasty, and the three caves of the Binyang Grotto built since 500 to 523 A.D. by two Wei Emperors cost more than 800,000 people in labor. Other grottoes built in this dynasty include the Yaofang Grotto (Prescriptions Grotto) and the Lianhua Grotto built in the Eastern Wei Dynasty. Stone Buddha statues in the Guyang Grotto whose construction lasted for more than 50 years and others represented by the major Buddha statue in the Middle Binyang Grotto built in this historical period on the Longmen Mountain are all amiable and agreeable in expressions with smiles, quite different from those august ones in the Yungang Grottoes (another famous grottoes in Shanxi province), showing more artistic Buddha statues of typical Chinese style.
Tang Dynasty Grottoes —— Most of the grottoes here, 60%, to be exact, were built in the Tang Dynasty, a flourishing age for grottoes, especially in the age of Queen Wu Zetian. The Fengxian Temple Grotto completed in four years, sponsored by the Queen herself with a donation of 20,000 guan (guan, a string of 1000 coins in ancient China), is a representative as well as the largest among all grottoes in Longmen. With 2 Bodhisattvas of 13.25 meters tall and several attendants of 10.5 meters tall standing aside, the major statue (the Buddha Vairocana) sitting in the center is 17.14 meters tall, overwhelming in size, with majesty and artistic value.
Among the 20 Longmen Statue Epigraphs, invaluable treasures holding the essence of the calligraphy of the Weibei (Steles of the Wei Dynasty) Style, 19 of them are cherished in the Guyang Grotto. Those graceful Chinese characters carrying a vigorous air represent the transitional calligraphy from the Li Style (official script, an ancient style of calligraphy) to the Kai Style (the standard script).
Being a masterpiece of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 512 A.D.), the Middle Binyang Grotto took 24 years to complete, the most time-consuming of all. Among the 11 large Buddha statues, the statue of Sakyamuni, the major one in the grotto, is a masterpiece of stone carving in the middle Northern Wei Dynasty, with his natural expressions and comely face. In front of the major statue stand two strong lions, guarding. Two disciples and two Bodhisattvas are standing aside, the latter with gentle and sincere smiles on the face. The embossment of Bodhisattvas and disciples absorbed in the Buddhism lecture are very vivid, just like the lifelike carvings of apsarases (flying female Buddha of lower status) on the roof.
Fengxian Temple Grotto, the largest one among all grottoes here, is more than 30 meters both in length and width. What makes the Fengxian Temple Grotto prominent is the tremendous statue of the Buddha Vairocana sitting in the middle which is really an incomparably superior masterpiece of great beauty. It is 17.14 meters (about 56.23 feet) in total height with the head four meters (about 13 feet) tall and the ears 1.9 meters (about 6.2 feet) in length. Vairocana means illuminating all things in the sutra. With slightly plump cheeks, comely eyes, delicately upturned lips of a smile and a looking down face leaning downward a little, the statue impresses people as a mature woman of profound wisdom and mercy instead of an august Buddha, winning the respect of people instead of fear. It is said that her great artistic fascination came from a perfect combination of great virtues, rich sentiments, the generous mind and elegant appearances in the carving.
The sculpture complex of the Fengxian Temple Grotto is a perfect artistic integration. Disciples, Bodhisattvas standing beside the great statue of Buddha Vairocana are either kind or devout while the warriors and heaven lords are either ferocious or aggressive, serving as perfect foils to the grace of the major statue.
Guyang Grotto, the earliest and the most substantial one, is another representative grotto built in the North Wei Dynasty. The epigraphs of the large amount of statue niches in the Guyang Grotto recording the date, the reason of building the statue and the name of the builder are very valuable for the study on calligraphy and sculpture of the Northern Wei Dynasty.
Most of the 20 Longmen Statue Epigraphs, the prominent landmark in the history of Chinese calligraphy, can be found here. Representing the calligraphy of the Weibei (Steles of the Wei Dynasty) Style, these graceful Chinese characters carrying a vigorous air hold the essence of the inscription calligraphy of the Longmen Grottoes, highly praised by people of all generations.
The Yaofang Grotto (Prescriptions Grotto) with 140 inscriptions of medical prescriptions reflected the ancient glory of Chinese medicine. Carving medical prescriptions into stones is an important way to hand down medical achievements to later generations, as similar cases were found in other places.
The Longmen Grottoes, a large museum built with stone carvings, house lots of substantial materials in religion, art, calligraphy, music, clothing and accessories, medicine, architecture, transportation and exchanges between China and other countries. Xiangshan Temple
Xiangshan Temple, the top one among the Ten Temples of Longmen, is located in the East Mountain of Longmen. With flourishing fragrant kudzu, the East Mountain is also called “Xiangshan” which literally means “the fragrant mountain”. In a similar way came the name of the Xiangshan Temple. Major scenic spots are the Daxiong Hall, the Arhat Hall, the Stele of Qianlong (a famous emperor of the Qing Dynasty), the Hall of Qianlong, the tower of drum and bell, the wing-room, the eighteen arhats and the Jiangsong (abbreviation for Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang) villa.
The Baiyuan Garden on the East Mountain of the Longmen is the mausoleum of Bai Juyi, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty. As an important scenic spot in the Longmen tourist area, it is a good place to appreciate a changing view of beauty as walking along the quiet, winding paths.