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The Most Famous Buddhist Grottoes in China

China is a country with profound Buddhism Culture. Besides temples, there are also many Buddhist grottoes in China, which record the Buddhism culture in china vividly. These grottoes are outdoor art museums with fabulous frescos and statues. They represent an important chapter in China cultural and religious history. Flowing are the most famous Buddhist grottoes in china for your reference. These famous grottoes are must see attractions for you if you are interested in Chinese Buddhism culture and brilliant architectural art.

Yungang Grottoes
Yungang Grottoes is one of World Culture Sites. It is said that Yungang Grottoes are the best preserved sites in China with 53 caves containing over 51,000 stone carvings of Buddha and Buddhist. Located about 16 km southwest of the city of Datong in Shanxi province, Yungang Grottoes, mainly constructed between 460-525 AD during the Northern Wei dynasty, represent exceptional feat of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th century. It has got a total number of 53 grottoes consisting of more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes. The fusion of Buddhist religious symbolic art from central and south Asia with Chinese cultural tradition is the noted highlight of the site. Yungang Grottoes have been quite successful in vividly illustrating the power and endurance of the Buddhist belief in China. It is a must see destination for you if you are the one who loves to explore the architectural brilliance of the world.

Yungang Grottoes

Construction of the Yungang Grottoes was mainly financed by royal families and noble families, and the imposing manner and elaborate carvings of these Buddha images incorporate the artistic styles of China, India, Persia and other countries. The Yungang Grottoes are magnificent, and the contents are various. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the highest achievement of Chinese stone carving in 5th century. The carving-time can be divided in to three parts: Pro-phase, meta-phase and anaphase, and different carving-time grottoes has different style. The carvings about dancing and acrobatics reflect the popularity of Buddhism and the life in the North Wei Dynasty.

These statues range from the tallest of 17 meters to the shortest of a few centimeters high with some of them still retain their original color. The lines of the statue’s face are very graceful, with a pair of bright piercing eyes. In 2001, Yungang Grottoes was included in the UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List.

Opening time:

April 15th-October 27th: 8:30a.m.-5:20p.m. October 28th-April 14th :8:30-17:00
How to get:
1. take No.4 bus from trains station bus stop to Xinzhili bus stop, then take to No. 3 bus stop to Yungang Grottoes.
2. Take long-distance bus to running-water company at Long-distance Bus bus stop, then take the No.26 bus to Xinzhili bus stop, then take the No.3 bus to Yungang Grottoes. It will take about one and a half hours.
3. Take airport Express to Datong Hotel, then take No.17 to Xinkaili bus stop, then take the No.3 bus to Yungang Grottoes. It will take about two hours.

Longmen Grottoes

The Longmen Grottoes are located 12km south of present dayLuoyang, Henan province. It’s one of the biggest four grottoes in 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. From north to south, the distance covered by grottoes is about 1km. 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. Along with the Mogao Caves and Yungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites in China.

Carving began in the 5th century when the Wei dynasty moved its capital from Datong (where they created the famous Yungang Grotto) to Luoyang. At this time, Chinese Buddhism was reaching its first peak, and the emperor was a pious believer. Carving continued after the Wei dynasty and the Tang Dynasty witnessed the second peak of Buddhist belief.

Longmen Grottoes

There are two types of the cave sculptures that one third of them are in Northern Wei Dynasty style while two thirds of them are in Tang Dynasty style. Although this cave was built in the ancient time, the influence of the foreign culture can be found in the grotto art. This exotic culture helped the development of this traditional Chinese art. Differences between the Northern Wei and Tang styles are also obvious. Typical Northern Wei style Buddhist statues emphasize on the simple and compact depictions while the cave sculptures of the Tang Dynasty are of a vigorous, elegant and realistic style.

After 1,500 years, Longmen Grottoes is still magnificent. Its rich content reflects from different aspects the development and changes in ancient China's politics, economy, religion and culture. It has contributed tremendously to the creation and development of Chinese grotto art.

Opening time: 1. Spring, Summer, Fall: 7:00a.m.-6:p.m.; 2.Winter: 7:30a.m.-5-30p.m.
Recommended time: September

Mogao Grottoes

Mogao Grottoes are located precipice at the east foot of the Mingsha Hill, Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu province. It’s one of the biggest four grottoes in China. First dug in 366 AD, Mogao Grottoes is one of three noted grottoes in China for its fabulous frescoes and statues. And in December of 1987, the Mogao Grottoes have been listed into the List of the World Cultural Heritages by the UNESCO.

Today, the total number of Mogao Grottoes is 492 in which there are over 2,800 sculptures and 45,000 square meters of murals. There are five grottoes with a wooden structure. The Mogao Grottoes are the largest, oldest and the best-preserved Buddhist grottoes with the richest contents in the world today. Besides, they are regarded as Gallery in Desert, Museum on the Wall.

The construction of the Mogao Grottoes began in the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms (about 366 AD), and the endeavor continued through the later dynasties, including the North Dynasty, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Western Xia and Yuan. Today, the grand dimension of the site is shown by 735 caves, with murals covering 45,000 square meters and colored clay statues 2,415 square meters. It is the largest and richest extant treasure house of Buddhist art in the world.

Mogao Grottoes

In modern times, the Cave of Buddhist Scriptures was accidentally discovered and the Mogao Grottoes re-attracts attention from all over the world. Tragically, a large amount of rare scriptures were stolen. A new branch of international studies, the Dunhuang Studies, has come into being for the research on scriptures of this cave and Dunhuang's art.

The painted clay figures and the murals in Mogao Caves came into being at the same time. The ensuing thousand years witnessed their recreation, perfection as well as absorption of the merits of western ancient arts from India, Greece, and Iran etc on the national basis. It has become a brilliant pearl in the Chinese art treasure troves.

Opening time:
1. busy season: May 1st- October 31st: 8:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
2. dull season: November 1st- April 30th : 9:00a.m -5:30p.m.

Dazu Rock Carvings

Dazu, located in the west suburb of Chongqing City, is famous worldwide as Rock Carving Home. As one of the biggest eight Grottoes in the world, it’s a wonderful land for tourist. Dazu Rock Carvings is 160 kilometers to the west of Chongqing. Over 60,000 carved stone figures relating mainly to Buddhism are spread around 76 places. The content and craftsmanship are best at Beishan Hill and Baoding Hill. The art of Dazu, which emerged in the late Tang Dynasty (618- 907) and flourished in the Song Dynasty (960-1127), represents an important chapter in China cultural and religious history.

Dazu Rock Carvings

The Dazu rock carvings has made a significant contribution to artistic expression in China, taking into account a new realism and exaggeration in depicting the contrasts between good and evil, beauty and ugliness. In their contents the carved scenes reflect the moral and rationalistic call for the punishment of evildoers, while encouraging people to do good, to control their desires, and the regulate their behavior. Their layouts demonstrate an ingenious integration of art, religion, science and nature. Aesthetically they are mysterious, natural, elegant, and fully reflecting traditional Chinese culture, which emphasizes learning from the past.

The carvings were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999, citing "…their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period. They provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism."

Opening time: 8:30 a.m.-6:00p.m.

Maijishan Grottoes

The Maijishan Grottoes are located in the side of the Majishan in Tianshui City,Gansu Province. It’s one of the biggest four grottoes in China. There are a series of 194 caves with over 7,200 Buddhist sculptures and more than 1,000 square meters ‘murals. The grottoes originally constructed in the late Qin Dynasty.

Maijishan Grottoes

These grottoes were first explored by a Chinese archaeologist team from Beijing from 1952 to 1953. They devised a numbering system for the grottoes which is still in use now. There are 54 existing caves are situated on the eastern cliff face and 140 caves on the western face. They are famous for its exquisite clay sculptures. In 2014, the grottoes are designated as one of sites of Silk Road.

Bezeklik Caves

Gaochang Ancient City and Jiaohe Ancient City Bezeklik Caves, also known as the Bizaklik Thousand-Buddha Caves, is located in a gorgeous valley of the Flaming Mountains. More than 100 caves were hew out of this cliff face between the 6th and 9th centuries by Buddhist monks who farmed the valley below. It’s regarded as Orient Sculpture gallery. They were abandoned at about the same time as after the Muslim take over of the region in the late 14th century.

Bezeklik Caves

There are 77 rock-cut caves at the Bezeklik Caves. Most have rectangular spaces with rounded arch ceilings often divided into four sections, each with a mural of Buddha. The effect is of entire ceiling covers with hundreds of Buddha murals. Some ceilings in Bezeklik Caves are painted with a large Buddha surrounded by other figures, including Indians, Persians and Europeans. The quality of the murals varies, with some being artistically naive while others are masterpieces of religious art.

Opening time: 8:00a.m.-5:00p.m.

Bingling Thousand-Buddha Caves

Bingling Thousand-Buddha Caves, also called Bingling Grottoes, are a famous religious attraction inLanzhou, ranks the second after the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang. At some point the caves were named the Thousand Buddha Caves because Bingling means "ten thousand-Buddha" in the Tibetan language, despite the fact that there have never been more than 200 grottoes.

The first cave was built here in 420 AD, by daring Buddhists who descended from the cliff on ropes to carve their masterpieces. Although the cave complex was enlarged gradually over many centuries, it is the work of both the Song (960-1279 AD) and the Ming (1368-1644 AD) Dynasties that remains most impressive. The temple was, in-between these golden years, to become a Tibetan Monastery (in the Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368 AD). Within and on the cliff are a series of winding walkways and stairs that will lead you around the site.

Bingling Thousand-Buddha Caves

The stone sculptures in Bingling Thousand-Buddha Caves represent the social situations and customs during ancient times. In the vicinity of the caves are green hills, crystal-clear water, grotesque stones and precipitous cliffs, which add more beauty to this artistic site. After the founding of People's Republic of China, the State Council designated the site as a key cultural relic, and placed it under state protection.

Yulin Grottoes

The Yulin Grottoes, a brunch of the Dunhuang art complex and another name Ten-Thousand-Buddha Valley, are located in Qilian Mountain, southeast of the Mogao Grottoes. View from the mountain, a river flows and red-colored willows, elms grow luxuriantly on the both banks, beautiful frontier scenery shows here.

Yulin Grottoes

There are 41 major caves and hundreds of others scattered around. Among them, the cave 25 is the most complete preservation. Murals in these grottoes which consist of huge scripture drawings, portraits of Buddha etc. reveal the highly developed art of painting in the Tang Dynasty more than 1300 years ago. Scripture drawings on the southern and northern walls of cave 25 are big ones. These colorful, especially line drawings are rare. The precious ivory Buddha which in the Palace Museum in Beijing now had been protected in Yulin Grottoes for more than a thousand years.