Wandering through Longmen Grottoes

100,000 statues are carved into the face of Mount Longmen. Below is a journey into the grottoes, including the many world-listed heritage sites along the way. The largest of all caves, Fengxian, was built between 672 and 676 CE for Chinese empress Wu Zetian and is claimed to be the ultimate in architectural perfection of the Tang dynasty.

Represented in the 100,000 carvings are a diverse arrangement of Buddhist traditions, including the Pure Land school, Zen school, Hua-yen school and Tantric Buddhism. The introduction of Budhhism to China dates back to 68 CE where Buddhist scriptures were first translated at the White Horse Temple at nearby Luoyang, the capital of China from 25 CE to 189 CE.

 
 
 
 
 

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looking east across the Yi River we observe the Manshui bridge and pass through gates with overgrown vines, marking the entrance to the grottoes
 

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in the distance is the Xiangshan Temple, one of the earliest of the ten temples at Longmen

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the first statues we encounter are small buddhas and bodhisattvas carved into the face on the mountain

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the fog of the winter morning settles across the Yi River

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delicate sculptures are seen along the path, here a fish circles a vase

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the hand-railing encases a beautiful lotus sculpture, symbolising purity of body, speech and mind

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at the foot of the staircase we observe the immense scale of Mount Longmen

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here we catch a glimpse of Longmen's largest Buddha statue, also known as the Big Lushena from the Hua-yen school of Buddhism

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the Buddha draws a large crowd, with many gathering to see the sculpture up close

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an offering of fresh flowers is laid down beneath the Buddha

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the Buddha's ears are 2 metres tall, taller than most men

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to the left of the Buddha we see an ordained monk dressed in robes and a bodhisattva decorated with jewels

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to the right of the Buddha, a fragmented sculpture of an ordained monk and another crowned bodhisattva

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the largest grotto provides a vantage point across the Yi River

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from here we cross a bridge to the eastern side of the river

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looking south, a path stretches off to the horizon

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climbing up into to the mountains, we pass through another gate

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the path offers a breathtaking view of the mountains and grottoes

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now we enter the Xiangshan Temple, previously seen from a distance at the beginning of the journey

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here we observe a beautiful fountain with running water and the stunning architecture of the temple

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the rooftops are well preserved and hand-written prayers hang from the railing

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through a window we see the Xiangshan bell tower

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we pass Manshui bridge again on the opposite side of the river and say farewell to Mount Longmen