Vairocana Buddha - ( Image by Dr. Blog )

The world-famous Longmen Grottoes, is located 12km south of Luoyang. Here two mountains, namely, East Hill (Mt. Xiangshan) and West Hill (Mt. Longmen), confront each other with the Yi River traversing northward between them, just like a pair of Chinese gate towers. So during the Zhou and Qin dynasties, it was called "Yi Que" (Gate of Yi River). Later, when the Sui established its capital city in Luoyang, the palace gate was just facing Yi Que, hence the name "Longmen" which means "Dragon Gate".

Spanning a length of over 1,000 meters on the hillsides along Yi River, Longmen Grottoes, together with Mogao Caves in Dunhuang (Gansu Province) and Yungang Grottoes (Shanxi Province), are reputed as the three great stone sculpture treasure houses in China. In 2000, Longmen Grottoes was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

Longmen Grottoes were first sculptured and chiseled around 493AD when the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) was moved from Datong to Luoyang. The entire construction of Longmen Grottoes totally lasted more than four hundred years through the Northern Dynasties, Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and up to Song Dynasty. Today, there are still 2345 caves and niches, 100,000 Buddhist images ranging in size from 2 cm to 17.14 meters, more than 2800 inscribed tablets, and 43 Buddhist pagodas remaining in both East Hill and West Hill. Among all this remains, 30 % date from Northern Wei Dynasty, 60 % from Tang Dynasty and the rest 10 % from other periods.

Fengxian Temple (Ancestor Worshipping Temple)

Stretching on the precipitous cliff of the southern side of West Hill, Fengxian Temple, also named Grand Vairocana Buddha Niche, is the largest cave in Longmen. With 35 meters in width and 39 meters in length, this cave was carved over 1300 years ago (from 672 to 675 AD) during the Tang Dynasty. When it was first constructed, the entire grotto was covered with a roof, enclosed from the natural elements. Today the roof is missing and the sculptures stand out in the open air.

Guyang Cave

Guyang Cave, sculpted between 495 and 575, is regarded as the earliest one in Longmen Grottoes. Cut based on a natural limestone cave, this cave is a most important cave in the series and represents the high skill of carving, rock painting, and architecture of the Northern Wei.

Lianhua Cave (Lotus Cave)

This cave was so named because there is a large and beautiful lotus flower on its ceiling.

This cave was dug out about 527AD at the late period of the Northern Wei Dynasty. A statue of Sakyamuni, as the chief Buddha, is enshrining in this cave. Adopting a standing position, this statue is 5.1 meters high with the face and one forearm damaged.

Binyang Cave

Binyang Cave is another well-known cave. The construction of this cave spanned 24 years, believed to be the longest amongst all the caves.

The cave consists of three caves, namely middle, southern and northern Bingyang caves. It is the most splendid once of the grottoes from the Northern Wei Dynasty.

Wanfo Cave (Ten Thousand Buddha Cave)

Built in 690AD during the Tang Dynasty, this cave aimed to show the benefaction of Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian and their children. The cave took its name from the over 15,000 tiny statues of Buddha carved on its southern and northern walls.

Flanked by four guards and two Bodhisattvas on both sides, the main Buddhist statue is sitting on an octagonal lotus basis, with a plump face, peaceful eyes and a fearless gesture.

Qianxi Temple

Qianxi Temple, also called Zhaifutang Hall, is located in the northern end of the West Hill. Constructed during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty, this cave measures about 9 meter in height, width and depth. The chief Buddha of this cave, Amitabha Buddha is sitting in the exact center with two disciples on either side.