Longmen Caves


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November 11th 2015
Published: March 14th 2018
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When I arrived at longmen, I was overwhelmed by the great Buddhist art found there. Thousands of caves and niches can be witnessed along the great limestone cliffs extending for about a mile and containing more than 100,000 Buddhist stone statues.

For the lovers of Buddhist history, Longmen is probably one of the most striking Buddhist site I have seen, while travelling in China.

The grottoes are situated about ten kilometers south of the historical city of Luoyang and I lodged in a guest house just outside of downtown.

The entire complex is settled in a beautiful mountain scenary on both sides of the Yi river.

It was a lovely day at the end of october, the air was not aggressive, tourism diminished, twittering birds created a lovely ambiance, street vendors selling food and those imposing structures that were easily seen and admired from anywhere within the complex. Longmen is not only fabulous for its great Buddhist art but also for the many walking trails that can be found allover the place, mountains, rivers, wildlife and numerous historical sites as Luoyang was an ancient capital of China.

I have been really attracted by Chinese history and

Vaiśravana, one of The Four Heavenly Kings, is on the left "indicated by the stupa in his right hand". Vajrapāṇi, on the right, are spiritual beings 673-67.
I am studying it for about three years, now. The historical period of the carvings at the Longmen site date between the end of the 5th century and the middle of the 8th century "the periods of the Northern Wei (486 ­ 534 C.E.) through early Tang dynasty (618 – 907 C.E.). It was a time of great conflicts after the long and enduring Han dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 C.E.). The Northern Wei dynasty was one of the most powerful of the northern Chinese dynasties and kingdoms that held power before the reunification of China under the Sui dynasty (589 - 618 C.E.).

The Wei dynasty was founded by nomads from the frontiers of northern China which were called "Tuoba tribesmen" who were considered to be barbaric foreigners by the Han Chinese. The Great Wall of China was built during the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 B.C.) by the great emperor "Qin Shi Huang Di" for the purpose to keep away the invaders and barbarians of the Mongolian steppes. The Northern Wei Emperor Xiao Wen decided to move the capital south to Luoyang in 494 C.E., a place considered the cradle of Chinese civilization, used as an administrative region
Longmen sculpturesLongmen sculpturesLongmen sculptures

Central Vairocana Buddha surrounded on either side by a monk, bodhisattva, heavenly king, a Vajrapani "thunderbolt holder", 673–75 C.
and later as a religious hub with the construction of monasteries and temples around the area.

The central Buddha is one of my favourite Buddhist sculptures, seated on a throne, is generally identified as Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha) assisted by two bodhisattvas and two disciples, Ananda and Kasyapa (bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have put off entering Nirvana in order to help others attaining enlightenment).

Also amazing are the low relief carving covering the lateral walls, ceiling, and floor. Finely chiseled massive sculptures gives the idea of the great techniques and ability of the Chinese civilization of the ancient past.

Other spectacular sculptures are: the Vaisravana and Vajrapani spiritual beings. They are giant sculptures 55 feet high including its pedestal, Vaisravana is a Heavenly King, holding a stupa in his right hand, flanked on either side by a bodhisattva, and Vajrapani who is a spiritual being wielding the thunderbolt.

The emperor Li Zhi known as "Gaozong" of the Tang dynasty (618 - 907 C.E.) liked the idea of the power of one supreme deity over all the others. Tang dynasty was a cosmopolitan empire and arguably the greatest dynasty of China. Those monumental sculptures signaled the
religious importance of the Tang dynasty that reached its summit at the end of the seventh century.

I rerely seen such a precision in the stone carving of those enormous strucures, I remember only the Banteay Srei and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.


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