The Longmen Caves

Dragon's Gate Grottoes (Photo credit: Kevin Poh)

Longmen caves, or Longmen Grottoes, are a collection of caves filled with giant and accurately built depictions of Buddhist subjects, near Luoyang in the Henan province, China. The caves were founded in 493 AD and had for 500 years been filled with Buddhist images and carvings donated by wealthy members of the imperial family, religious groups and generals, in the hopes that their carvings would bring them good fortune. The Longmen caves were declared a World Heritage Site in the year 2000 because of their artistic and cultural relevance.

Juxiansi (Photo credit: James Jin)

The caves were built into two mountains called the Xiangshan and the Longmenshan, which are separated by the Yi River. Nestled in these two mountains are more than 2100 caves, 43 pagodas, and 2800 inscriptions. The most awe inspiring features of the Longmen Caves, however, are the sometimes gigantic statues, of which there are over 100,000. The early statues mostly depict the Buddhist Holy men, while later carvings by the Tang Dynasty show a progression in culture with the depiction of court figures and woman as well.

The Longmen Grottoes (Photo credit: Kevin Poh)

The Longmen Caves are open to the public for the price of 120 RMB (~17$), and indeed the experience is worth it. The caves stretch for about 1 km so be prepared to walk. Excellent caves to visit include the Bingyang caves. These three caves were some of the earliest to be developed in the Grottoes, and were built by the Northern Wei Dynasty from 500 to 523 AD.

Rock carvings in Longmen (Photo credit: James Jin)

The Longmen Caves feature endless fascinating grottoes, including the Wan Fo Dong caves which contain about 15,000 statues of Buddha in many different niches, each Buddha varying in size. One of the more astounding caves is the Medical Prescription Cave, which dates back to 575, and contains several inscriptions for cures, some of which are still used today.

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