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A walk along the Longmen Grottoes

I don’t care what spiritual beliefs you have – if your not inspired by this historical site then there’s something wrong with you.

More than 2000 caves holding literally hundreds of thousand of statues of Lord Buddha and his disciples have been carved into the side of a limestone cliff stretching about a kilometre beside the Yi River in the Chinese province of Henan.

The return walk can be comfortably managed in a couple of hours but then you will miss out on the opportunity to soak in the magnificence of this ancient cultural site. Stopping to admire the caves and contemplate the magnitude of the work involved in their construction can easily consume the whole day.

The Unesco World Heritage Organisation describe it as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity” and if you get the opportunity to visit you’ll see why.

The statues have all been carved with exceptional detail and range in size from a couple of centimetres high to the largest which stands at 17 meters of Vairocana Buddha. The Guyang Cave, or Old Sun Cave, is reputed to be the oldest of them all and houses a statue of The Buddha with Bodhisattvas on either side.

The largest of all the caves is the Ancestor Worshiping Cave in which the central shrine stands an inspiring 39 metres high. The cave houses nine main statues depicting major Bodhisattvas and divine beings. The cliff shows signs of where the supports for an enormous roof used to be sheltering the shrine and its visitors

Regrettably, during the Japanese occupation in the midst of the second Cino-Japanese war a large number of the statues and caves suffered vandalism at the hands of the occupying forces. Many of the smaller statues together with other relics were taken as trophies by the soldiers though fortunately a large number are now displayed in Japanese museums.

The site is now managed by the Ministry for Culture and there are considerable efforts being made to preserve and restore the site for the future.

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