1,000-year-old treasures in ancient caves
In the hundreds of years that followed the opening of the Silk Road, the ideas of Sakyamuni went eastward and Buddhism flourished from the Western Regions to the Hexi Corridor in the form of grottoes.
Representing the highest achievement of Chinese Buddhist art, the Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are located 13 kilometres south of Luoyang where the Xiangshan hills meet the Longmen mountain. The first grottoes were carved out during the Northern Wei dynasty, when the capital city was moved to Luoyang, and they reached their heyday with the vigorous support of Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty.
The grottoes are divided into two main groups, the Xishan and Dongshan, along the banks of the Yi river. The Xishan group is the larger. If you go in the morning, when the sun shines on the Vairocana Buddha at Xishan, the light sparkles off the ancient statue. If you don’t want to go on foot, you can take a boat tour with fares ranging from 1 to 3 USD.
While walking all the way along the Xishan Grottoes, you will see numerous caves in the cliff creating a honeycomb effect. The most beautiful and the only undamaged of the grottoes is the Fengxian Temple. It is magnificently carved. Sitting in the middle the Vairocana Buddha, in his incarnation as the Sambhogakaya Buddha, is about 17.14 metres high. The statue was originally painted but the colour has been lost due to weathering.