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The Longmen Grottoes are located in the south of Luoyang City. They are between Mount Xiang and Mount Longmen and face Yi River. Longmen Grottoes, Yungang Caves and Mogao Caves are regarded as the three most famous treasure houses of stone inscriptions in China.
The grottoes were started around the year 493 when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) moved the capital to Luoyang and were continuously built during the 400 years until the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). The scenery measures 1,000 metres (about 1,094 yards) from north to south where there are over 2,300 holes and niches, 2,800 steles, 40 dagobas, 1,300 caves and 100,000 statues. Most of them are the works of the Northern Wei Dynasty and the flourishing age of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Lots of historical materials concerning art, music, religion, calligraphy, medicine, costume and architecture are kept 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). There are nine major figures of various facial appearances and temperaments in the temple that were built in accordance with the Buddhist rite and their relationships by the artists.
The most impressive figure 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. According to the record on the epigraph, the Empress Wu Zetian together with her subjects took part in the ceremony of Introducing the Light (a Buddhist blessing that the Buddha opens the spiritual light of himself and shares it with others).
At the sides of Vairocana there are two statues of Vairocana Buddha's disciples, Kasyapa and Ananda, wearing prudent and devout expressions. The figures of Bodhisattvas and devas can also be found in the temple. Some have dignified and genial expressions, while others are majestic and fiery. The various appearances and delicate designs are the representations of Empire Tang's powerful material and spiritual strength as well as the high crystallization of people's wisdoms.
The Longmen Grottoes (ch. 龙门石窟, lóngmén shíkū; lit. Dragon's Gate Grottoes) or Longmen Caves are located 12 km south of present day Luòyáng in Hénán province, China. The grottoes, which overwhelmingly depict Buddhist subjects, are densely dotted along the two mountains: Xiangshan (to the east) and Longmenshan (to the west). The Yi River flows northward between them. For this reason, the area used to be called Yique (The Gate of the Yi River). From north to south, the distance covered by grottoes is about one km. Along with the Mogao Caves and Yungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites in China. There are over 2100 niches, more than 100,000 statues, some 40 pagodas and 3600 tablets and steles in the caves of Guyang, Binyang and Lianhua.
Wanfo Cave, completed in 680, is a typical chronological cave of the Tang Dynasty of two rooms and square flat roofs. Its name is due to the 15,000 small statues of Buddha chiseled in the southern and northern walls of the cave. 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.
In addition, there are lifelike reliefs of pretty and charming singers and dancers on the wall. The singers are accompanied by various kinds of instruments and the dancers dance lightly and gracefully to the music. The whole model in the cave has created a lively and cheerful atmosphere. On the southern wall outside the cave is carved a statue of Kwan-yin of 85 centimetres (about 33 inches) in height, holding a pure bottle in the left hand and deer's tails (as a symbol of brushing off the dust in spirit) in the right hand. This figure is well designed and is regarded as an example of Bodhisattva statues of Tang Dynasty in Longmen.