Longmen Caves - History and Facts | History Hit

Longmen Caves

Yichuan, Henan, China

The UNESCO listed Longmen Caves contain a vast collection of Buddhist statues dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty.

Peta Stamper

13 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Longmen Caves

The Longmen Caves or Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang, China, are a series of approximately 2,000 caves containing in excess of 100,000 stone carved Buddhist statues, some dating back as far as the 5th century. The Longmen Caves are today a UNESCO World Heritage site and are one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in China.

Longmen Caves history

The Longmen Caves were created during the rule of the Northern Wei Dynasty in around 494 AD. It was at around this time that they moved their capital from Datong to Luoyang. Once painted, the images were carved inside artificial caves in the area known as Yique meaning ‘The Gate of the Yi River’, marking the entrance to Luoyang.

One of the most well preserved of the Longmen Caves is the Lotus Flower Cave, whilst one of the most impressive sites is the 56 foot statue of the Vairocana Buddha, with her mysterious smile. The incredible collection of statues at the Longmen Caves has been added to over the centuries, notably by the Sui Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty.

The Ten Thousand Buddhas Cave is also a famed member of the Longmen Caves, probably constructed in around 680 AD during the Tang Dynasty and housing, as the name suggests, many statues of Buddha.

Longmen Caves today

Open between 7.30am and 10.30pm, today the massive Buddhas continue to cut an impressive landmark into the surrounding rockface, surrounded by cave dwellings. It is advisable to leave several hours to wander the site, which is well-signposted and allows you to get really close to the caves and carvings.

Unfortunately, many of the statues at the Longmen Caves have been destroyed or vandalised, mostly during the 20th century. Some parts have even been removed from the caves and can be seen at various museums such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Getting to the Longmen Caves

The caves are only a 15 minute car journey from Luoyang station or you can hop on the 53 bus (which costs 1 RMB), and you are advised to take a small golf buggy from the ticket office if you do not fancy a trek up to the statues.

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