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Buddhist Charm of Longmen Grottoes

 2014-05-13    Ada    Tours    Luoyang    1131  

The Longmen Grottoes are one of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art. Located in the south of Luoyang City, the grottoes contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). In 2000 the site was inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity,” for its perfection of an art form, and for its encapsulation of the cultural sophistication of Tang China. These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving. There are several major grottoes with notable displays of Buddhist sculptures and calligraphic inscriptions.

Guyang Cave is the earliest cave in Longmen Grottoes. There are three tiers of niches on the northern and southern wall of the cave, in which are hundreds of statues, and most of the statues are engraved with the names of the artists, the dates and the reasons for carving them. The sculptures are of diverse shapes and patterns that are representations of the Gandhara Art style after the grotto art transmitted to Luoyang. A statue of Sakyamuni is situated in the middle with a whole height of 7.82 meters (about 25.66 feet). Nineteen of the most famous Twenty Calligraphies are found in Guyang Cave. Twenty Calligraphies represent the steles of the Wei's style, which are the essentials of stele calligraphies in Longmen Grottoes.

Wanfo Cave, completed in 680, is a typical chronological cave of the Tang Dynasty of two rooms and square flat roofs. 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.

Chiseled grottoes on the base of the natural limestone caves are also seen in Longmen, and the Lotus Cave is one of this type. Differing from sitting statues, Sakyamuni is of standing figure, showing that he has trudged a long distance to develop Buddhism from India to China. A huge relief of a well sculpted lotus flower is engraved on the dome, seedpod in the centre, petals in the outer and each leaf with honeysuckle patterns.

Around the lotus are six flying musicians with vivid gestures, as if they are dancing along with the melodies of the music. In addition, there is Prescription Cave that has about 140 prescriptions engraved on the walls, showing the achievements of medicine in ancient China. Some of the prescriptions are still used today. Other caves and temples like Xiangshan Temple, Huangfugong Cave, and Qianxi Temple can also be fond in Longmen Grottoes.
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).

The most impressive figure in Fengxian Temple 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.

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