Grotto refers to stone cave built with its back on mountain. Originating from India, Grottoes is a kind of Buddhist architecture style. The layout of Indian grottoes was as the center of a square hall with pillars surrounded. The several small meditation halls were caved on the walls of three directions. Chinese grottoes were first built in imitation of Indian style in Southern Wei Dynasty (386-534), which were distributed almost in the north of the Yellow River Valley. Chinese grottoes flourished in Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasty, especially there were many great grottoes built in Tang Dynasty.
Grotto art is a kind of religious culture that emerges the art of Gandhara from India and traditional painting and sculpture art of China. It mainly embodies the Buddhist thought and its developing process, which is the precious material to research Chinese social history, Buddhism history, art history and cultural exchange history between China and foreign countries.
Mogao Grottoes, also called Thousand Buddha Cave, is located in Dunhuang City of Gansu Province. It is famous for is exquisite mural and sculpture. Mogao Grottoes was originally built before Pre-Qin Dynasty (before 221 B.C.). It is a sacred Buddhist art site that has the largest scale and the richest contents. There keeps 735 grottoes, the area of mural of 45,000 square meters, 2,415 colored clay sculptures and so on. In recent years, sutra preserving cave was found, and there preserved ancient relics of more the 50,000 pieces, but lots of relics were robbed. Mogao Grottoes was listed on World Cultural Heritage in 1987.
Yungang Grottoes is located in Wuzhou Mountain, 16 km west from Datong City, Shanxi Province. The whole grottoes stretches one kilometer from east to west. There are main surviving grottoes of 45, large and small shrines of 252, Buddha’s statues of 51 thousand. The tallest statue of Buddha is 17 meters high and the smallest one only is 2 centimeters. With a history of over 1,500 years, Yungang Grottoes is the representative of China excellent Buddhist grottoes art. Among them, “Tanyao five Grottoes” are classical artwork in the first peak period of China Buddhist art. Yungang Grottoes was on the World Culture Heritage list in 2001.
Maijishan Mountain lies 45 kilometers southeast of Tianshui City of Gansu Province. It is only 142 meters high, and it gains the name because it shapes a wheat buttress. Grottoes are caved on the cliffs southwest of Maijishan Mountain. As one of the greatest grottoes in China, Maijishan Grottoes has the best scenery among Chinese grottoes. It was first built in 384. There are 194 grottoes remaining, 7,200 stone sculptures and the area of murals of 1,300 square meters. Maijishan Grottoes is known for clay sculpture, and it is praised as “Grand Sculpture Hall”. The tallest sculpture here is over 15 meters, and the shortest one is 10 centimeters. Sculptures in Maijishan Grottoes embody features of sculpture in past dynasties from four century, and systematically respect the developing process of China clay sculpture art.
Longmen Grottoes is located in 12 kilometers south of Luoyang City, Henan Province. It was first built in 493 before or after. It stretches out one kilometer from south to north, and covers grotto shrines of 2,345, lots of inscriptions and inscribed stone steles, Buddhist pagodas of 70 and Buddha statues of 100,000. Fengxian Temple is the largest grotto completed in 675 of Tang Dynasty. Buddha statues in Fengxian Temple embody the Buddha art in Tang Dynasty, and the sitting statue of Vairochana Buddha in the center is the largest Buddha in Longmen Grottoes, which is 17.14 meters high.
Dazu Grottoes is famous for stone carvings. Dazu Stone Carvings is the general name for grotto Buddha art in Dazu County of Chongqing Municipality. Dazu County is reputed as “County of Stone Carving”. Built in 758, Dazu Stone Carvings was listed as World Cultural Heritage in 1999. The most famous and largest scaled stone carvings are concentrated in Baoding Mountain and North Mountain, which are representative artwork of late period of Tang Dynasty.
>>Take a tour to see the grottoes in China:
4 Days Dunhuang Buddhism Grottoes Tour
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6 Days Shanxi Culture Tour
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