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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

EXTRA: Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang, Henan

Colossal Vairocana Buddha (毗卢遮那佛) at Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟) in Luoyang, Henan (河南, 洛阳市).
It's said that this is the face of Wu Zetian (武则天), the empress who paid for much of the carving.
Longmen is considered one of the three "Top Buddhist Grottoes" in China, and was the first of these that I visited. It is considered by some to be the best of the three. (I still have not been to Mogao/Dunhuang, but I have seen Yungang at Datong.)

I was not prepared for the overwhelming beauty of the place. Even on a dreary day, the one-kilometer stretch of carvings on the west side of a gorge of the Yi River was spectacular. The east side is less contiguous and linear, but still holds some fascinating images.

Overall there are estimated to be up to 100,000 figures in perhaps 1,400 caves (some put the figure at over 2,300). Most can be seen by the public, though not all of the caves can be entered.

The carvings began in 493 (when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty moved his capital to Luoyang) and were continued in four distinct phases well into the 12th century.

Perhaps the most outstanding grouping is the Fengxian, which were formerly sheltered by a temple building. The figures within the overhang are widely considered to be the pinnacle of Tang Dynasty art.

The central figure of Vairocana Buddha--the largest figure at Longmen--was completed in the year 626 under the patronage of Empress Wu Zetian. Because the empress is known to have paid for it, legend says that the feminine features of the Buddha are the face of Wu Zetian herself. Around the central figure are eight other major statues, representing the Buddha's attendants.

Also within the scenic area are Xiangshan Temple, and the garden and tomb of the Tang poet Bai Juyi.

[After leaving Longmen, we went to the temple at Guan Lin. See the "postcard" of this and Xiangshan Temple below.]

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily December 9, 2013.)

GPS Info: (click the links to view the maps)



Map:




GALLERY

Caves and pagodas at Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang
The Fengxian grouping
This Vairocana Buddha is at the center of the Fengxian
grouping. It may have the face of Empress Wu Zetian
A closer view of the Vairocana Buddha (see postcard above)
BONUS IMAGES: Some scenes from the sites above rendered as vintage postcards.

This Bronze Buddha (佛) and Attendants are at Xiangshan Temple (香山寺),
Luoyang, Henan (河南, 洛阳市), near the Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟).
This statue of Guandi (关帝) (also called Guanyu 关羽) is at Guanlin (关林), a Daoist
temple in Luoyang, Henan (河南, 洛阳市), where his head is allegedly entombed.

There are 33 pictures related to the sites in this article (some of them identical to these, but with different captions) in a FaceBook album starting here (available to all, even without a FaceBook account).

Click here to visit the next article in chronological order || Click here to view the trip details

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