What are Longmen Caves?
The Longmen Caves are a series of grottoes filled with Buddhist sculptures, close to Luoyang city in Hénan, China. The grottoes extend for a kilometer along two limestone mountains, Xiangshan and Longmenshan, with the River Yishui flowing between them, a place of great natural beauty. The grottoes consist of a stretch of more than 2,100 caves, over 100,000 statues and innumerable pagodas. This vast collection of Chinese sculpture came into existence during the late Northern Wei and Tang dynasties (316-907). Work on the grottoes began in CE 493.
The caves have been frequently vandalized during their long history. During the early 1900s, Western collectors made off with many artifacts. Mao’s Cultural Revolution witnessed several statues being decapitated. The Longmen Caves were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in November 2000. The panorama of sculptures in several styles, larger-than-life statues of the Buddha, various bodhisattvas and others are a testament to the Chinese stone carving skills of those times.