Introduction to Caves
Yungang Grottoes, an Example combining the Chinese Culture with Western One in 5th Century A.D.
As one of the three leading grottoes in China, Yungang Grottoes are located in the south of Wuzhoum mountain north bank of Ten-Mile River. It is about sixteen kilometers to the west of Datong, Shanxi Province. All the Caves, extending about one kilometer from east to west, were hollowed out of the mountain. The 254 Caves are made up of three groups of east, middle and west with 45 major grottos and 209 secondary caves. The carving area ammouns to more than 18000 square meters. There are 1100 niches and 51000 statues with the biggest statue of 17 meters and the smallest statue of 2 centimeters. It's a historic monument combing the Chinese culture with Western one as it is a Buddhist art treasure house of royal style, which a nationality has spent nearly a dynasty completing for the first time ever since the Buddhist art was spread to China. It was promulgated one of the first group of key cultural relics preservation units by the State Council in March 1961. Yungang Grottoes were inscribed into the World Cultural Heritage List by the UNESCO In December 2001 and became first group of 5A levet Chinese Tourist Areas in May 2007.
Yungang Grottoes were formerly called the grotto temple of Wuzhou mountain and renamed Yunggang Grottoes in Ming Dynasty. As Li Daoyuan, the famous geographer in the Northern Wei Dynasty, once described in the “Commentary on Waterways classic”, “It was excavated into the mountain because of the rock structure. It is rare and unusual in the world because of its grandness and magnificence. With halls in the mountain and palaces on the water, smoke and temples look at each other. From the distance, the great woods and beautiful landscape await you.”
As the big- scale grotto temple relics built in the Northern Wei Dynasty, It took seventy years to complete the project starting under the reign of Emperor Wencheg who rivived Buddism, and ending in Zhengguang Era. Rich in content and magnificent in sculpture, the Grottoes was a large Buddhist temple constructed by the skillful craftsmen by groups and generations with best technology and funding from the royal family of the Northern Wei Dynasty. As the older group grottes built in the east of Xinjiang, Yungang Grottoes are different from other older grottoes for its magnificent royal family style. The Buddhist culture and art shown in the Grottoes invloves in history, architecture and music etc. Yungang Grottoes has played an important role in artisitc history of China and World due to the highest Buddhist art level it represented as an example combining the Chinese and Western cultures and masterpeice of oriental sculpture art. It is one of the top three grottoes with Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang and Longmen Grottes in Luoyang. Yungang Grottoes, along with Ajanta Caves of Indian and Bamyan Caves of Afghanistan, are the three stone carving treasure houses of fine arts in the world.
The Buddhist art reflected in the Yungang Caves is divided into early, middle and late periods in the perspective of cave shape, statue pattern evolution.
Division of the Periods of the YunGang Grottoes:
Early Grottoes: now theCave 16 to 20, also known as the Tan Yao Cave. "Wei • Buddhist and TaoistChi" (Volume 114) reads: "the beginning of the peace, Mason anddeath. Tan Yiu on behalf of the renamed Salmonella system early, Tan Yiucomplex method of next year, since Zhongshan life to Beijing, the value theEmperor seen Road, Royal Horse title Yiu clothing, when people think that thehorses know the good, Empress Feng Shi Li Tan Yao, Bai Di, in the capital theSeibu state stopper, chiseled mountain stone walls, open cave five, Juan builtstatues and one each in as high as seventy feet, times sixty feet, carved Kiwi,crown in I,. "This paper describes the open cave 5 by the, was a famousmonk Tan Yao would choose a ZHONG Ling Yuk Sau Wu State of the mountain, cut amagnificent Tan Yao The five caves, opened a prelude to the Yungang Grottoesdrilled. 16 ~ 20 Cave imperial symbol of Tan Yao, with five caves to look atthe statues of style and creative techniques, the first of five caves inYungang whole cave group. Plane for the horseshoe-shaped, dome roof, outer wallfull of carved terra. The main statues of Buddhas (past, present and future),statues tall, face Feng Yuan, high nose and deeply set eyes, shoulders, quitehomogeneous, showing a Jin Jian, rich, rustic style of the statues. Theircarving skills to inherit and develop the excellent tradition of the HanDynasty, absorption and integration of ancient India, Gandhara, Mo the dodderLuo art essence, create a unique artistic style, this new style of art andforeign integration.