Chinese Famous Grottoes
Dated back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 534 ), the Yungang Grottoes, in Datong city, Shanxi Province, with their 252 caves and 5l,000 statues, represent the outstanding achievement of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Five Caves created by Tan Yao, with their strict unity of layout and design, constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.
The Grottoes stretch for about one kilometer from east to west. A total of 53 caves are preserved, divided into the eastern, central and western sections. In addition, there are 110 niches containing 51,000 Buddhist statues. Construction of these caves began during the reign of Emperor Wencheng (460 - 465 ) and was completed in 494 during the reign of Emperor Xiaohe, of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Small niches continued to be cut until the reign of Emperor Xiaoming (520 - 525 ). The highest statue of Buddha is l7 meters in height, whilethe smallest measures a mere few centimeters. The most magnificent grottoes are the five cut under the direction of Monk Tan Yao. Cave 5, Cave 6 and Caves 9 to l3, and the Wuhua Cave are unmatched for their grandeur and beauty.
The Yungang Grottoes occupy an important place in China's art
history, for their grand scale and exquisite carvings. They integrate
foreign artistic influences and cralismanship with those of
the Qin and Han Dynasties
Located l3 km south of Luoyang, Henan Province, the Longmen Grottoes are concentrated on the east and west cliffs of the Yishui River, and stretch for one km. Work started on the grottoes
around the year 494 of the Northern Wei Dynasty, and continued for the next 400 years. In total there are over 2,l00 caves and niches, housing more than l00,000 statues of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and Arhats, together with 3,600 inscribed stone tablets and 43 stone stupas. Among them, the most representative caves are: Cuyang Cave, Binyang Cave, The Lotus (Lianhua) Cave of Northern Wei, Qianxi Temple, Cave of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Wanfuo ),
Fengxian Temple and Kanjing Temple.
The rich collection of statues and figures, most of which can
be dated, facilitate the study of the history of Chinese sculpture
with precise data. Large numbers of memorial texts and inscribed
stone tablets at the Longmen Grottoes, like the Twenty Gems of
Longmen Calligraphy and Zhu Suiliang's stone tablets, are considered
rare treasures of Chinese calligraphy. The Zhu Suiliang Inscription,
made in 641 in honor of the mother of the fourth son of Emperor
Taizong, is one of them. More than 140 prescriptions inscribed
the Prescription Cave offer first-hand materials for the study of China's ancient iatrology.
Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang
The Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, also known as the 0ne-Thousand-Buddha Grottoes, are located on the eastern, rocky side of Singing Sand Mountain, near Dunhuang City, Cansu Province.
According to historical records, the carving of them was started in 366 AD and continued for about l,000 years. Now, there are 492 grottoes in existence, with some 45,000 square meters of murals and 2,4l5 painted clay figures. The grottoes in the Mogao Caves are the world's largest and oldest treasure house of Buddhist art.
In l900, about 60,000 historical documents were found in the
Cang Jing Cave. These articles included Buddhist sutras, documents,
emhroidery works and paintings from the 4th to the l4th
centuries. Apart from ancient Chinese documents, there were also documents in other ancient languages, including Tibetan, Sanskrit and Uygur. These art works are treasures of human civilization, providing valuable material for studies of the politics, economy, culture, religion, ethnic relations and foreign exchanges of China in oldell times.
The Mogao Grottoes show examples of various types of art, such
as architecture, painting and statuary. By inheriting the artistic
traditions of the central and western regions of China and ahsorhing
the merits of ancient arts from India, Greece and Iran, ancient
Chinese artists created Buddhist art works with strong local features.
So far there are 492 grottoes, with murals and painted clay figures. There are meditation grottoes, Buddha hall grottoes, temple grottoes, vault-roofed grottoes and shadow grottoes. The
largest grotto is 40 meters high and 30 meters wide, whereas the smallest is less than one foot high.
These are the main treasures of the Dunhuang Grottoes. The figures
are in different forms, including round figures and relief figures.
The tallest is 34.5 meters high, while the smallest is only 2
centimeters. These painted clay figures show such a great variety
of themes and subject matter, as well as advanced techniques,
that the Mogao Grottoes are generally regarded as the world's
leading museum of Buddhist painted clay figures.
The murals in the Mogao Grottoes display Buddhist sutras, natural scenery, buildings, mountain and water paintings, flower patterns, flying Apsaras (Buddhist fairies) and ancient farming and
production scenes. There are 1,045 murals extant, with a total area of 45,000 square meters. They are artistic records of historical changes and customs and traditions from the 4th to the l8th