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The Yungang Caves

Yungang Caves, one of China’s four most famous “Buddhist Caves Art Treasure Houses”, is located about sixteen kilometers west of Datong, Shanxi Province. Here is the Yungang Grottoes, the world cultural heritage, a key preservation unit of cultural relics, a famous museum of religious art in the world and a treasure-house of oriental stone carving art.

There exists 53 caves, most of which are made during the Northern Wei Dynasty between 460 and 494 AD, and over 51, 000 stone sculptures. It extends one kilometer from east to west and can be fallen into three major groups. 

The first group (including Cave 1, Cave 2, Cave 3 and Cave 4) are at the eastern end separated from others. Cave 1 and Cave 2 have suffered from rigors of time and the weather. Cave 3, an afterthought after the Northern Wei Dynasty, is the largest grotto among Yungang caves.

Tours normally begin from the second group ranging from Cave 5 to Cave 13.Yungang art manifests its best in this group. Cave 5 contains a seated Buddha with a height of 17 meters. In Cave 6, a 15-meter-high two storey pagoda pillar stands in the center of chamber and the life of the Buddha from birth to the attainment of nirvana is carved in the pagoda walls and the sides of the cave. The Bodhisattva was engraved in Cave 7. The rare seen Shiva Statue in Yungang with eight arms and four heads and riding on a bull is illustrated in Cave 8. Cave 9 and Cave 10 are notable for front pillars and figures bearing musical instruments. Musicians playing instruments also appear in Cave 12. Cave 13 has the Buddha statue with a giant figurine supporting its right arm.

The rest caves belong to the third group. Cave 14 has eroded severely. Cave 15 is named as the Cave of Ten Thousand Buddha. The caves numbered 16 to Cave 20 are the oldest complex and each one symbolizes an emperor from the Northern Wei Dynasty and the subject of “Emperor is the Buddha” is embodied. The caves from No. 21 onward are built in the later times and can not compare to their better preserved counterparts.

That was 1500 years ago, Yungang Grottoes are gems of oriental art universally acknowledged and with Azhantuo Grottoes of India as representative and Bamiyang Buddhist art with Bamiyang Grottoes of Afghanistan as representative, also one of the “three Grottoes”in China universally acknowledged by the academic circles both at home and abroad and equally famous with Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang of Gansu Province and Longmen Grottoes in luoyang of Henan Province, it is valuable culture heritage of China, also very precious historical information for research of ancient social history. Buddhist history and artistic history of China.

Grottoes temple is an architectural from of Buddhist temple, originating from ancient India because Sakyamuni. The Buddhist ancestor, reached the spiritual state of an immortal by practicing Buddhism in grotto among barren mountains. The common practice of digging grottoes and carving figure of Buddha among mountains rose as Buddhism entering China 2000 years ago. The history building grotto temple had lasted more than 1600 years from the kingdom of Wei ,Jin ,the North and south Dynasties to Ming and Qing Dynasties.

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