The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving. (Source: UNESCO World Heritage site which also provides much more detail about the caves.)
There are caves on both sides of the Yi (Yishui) River (shui is the word for water) to the south of the ancient capital of Luoyang, Henan province. The slopes of the west and east hills become very steep and cliff-like as they approach the river valley, and it is here that the easily worked limestone was carved.
I believe we visited the West side of the river, but it was mid-day so the shadows in this photo, which suggest we were on the north side, are misleading.
In total 2,345 niches or grottoes have been recorded on the two sides of the river in a one kilometer long stretch. They house more than 100,000 Buddhist statues, about 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, and over 60 Buddhist pagodas or stupas.
It was very crowded around the statues, and it was HOT; the highest temperature that I can recall during our whole trip. There was nowhere to get out of the sun. By the time we reached some of the major grottoes, the heat had gotten to me and I couldn’t take yet another climb.
As we neared the end of our guided tour, we were offered the choice of walking back, or paying the equivalent of about 40 cents to ride a small passenger boat.
We all chose the boat (at least there was shade!) Hence, these views from the river.
Next post: Suzhou – Venice of the East