This buddhist complex of caves or grottoes lies approximately 15 kilometres south of the Chinese city of Luoyang. Work began at Longmen in the year 494 AD under the Wei dynasty (386-534). For at least 400 years people sculpted statues out of the limestone walls and grottoes here, which stretch for over 1.5 kilometres along the banks of the Yi river.
There are as many as 1,325 grottoes here, as well as 750 niches and 40 pagoda’s, testament to the enormous importance of Buddhism in the Chinese Middle Ages. More than 97,000 statues of the Buddha and his followers (known as bodhisattva’s) have been hacked out of the rock. The largest is 20 metres high, the smallest measures only 2.5 centimetres.
Luoyang was an important region for Buddhism, which began here in the 3rd century BC. By the end of the 2nd century AD a flourishing community had developed, which later became the focal point of Chinese Buddhism.
The grottoes are almost completely covered with decoration. There are countless rows of figures in many different forms, clearly showing the individual character of these statues, which sets them apart from Buddhist statues in other parts of Asia.
Text Harrie Wolters
Translation Alun Harvey