The Longmen Grottoes, also known as Longmen Caves or Dragon’s Gate Grottoes, are a series of Chinese Buddhist cave temples located near the city of Luoyang in Henan province, China. The grottoes are an extraordinary example of ancient Chinese Buddhist art and architecture, and are considered one of the three most famous ancient Buddhist sculptural sites in China, along with the Mogao Caves and the Yungang Grottoes.
The Longmen Grottoes were carved into the limestone cliffs on both banks of the Yi River, stretching for about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from north to south. The construction of the grottoes began in the late Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 CE) and continued through the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Over the centuries, more than 100,000 statues, 2,300 caves, and 2,800 inscriptions were created, with the largest statue being 17.14 meters (56.3 feet) in height and the smallest only a few centimeters tall.
The sculptures found within the caves showcase the artistic and religious evolution of Chinese Buddhist art over a period of approximately five centuries. Many of the sculptures were commissioned by emperors, imperial families, and wealthy patrons to express their religious devotion, commemorate deceased relatives, or to seek blessings and protection.
The most famous sculptures at Longmen Grottoes are the ones in the Fengxian Temple, particularly the massive Vairocana Buddha, which is surrounded by other important Buddhist figures such as bodhisattvas, arhats, and heavenly kings. This masterpiece of Tang Dynasty art is an outstanding representation of the high level of craftsmanship achieved during this period.
In 2000, UNESCO recognized the Longmen Grottoes as a World Heritage Site, citing their artistic, historical, and cultural significance. The site is now a popular tourist destination and an important center for the study of ancient Chinese Buddhist art and culture.