What are the Longmen Grottoes?
The UNESCO World Heritage Site at Luoyang Longmen Grottoes (sometimes referred to as the Longmen Caves) is a collection of around 110,000 stone carvings of the Buddha. The statues have been carved into the steep cliffs on the east and west banks of the Yi River 11km south of Luoyang, Henan Province.
The statues and their caves range in size from a couple of centimetres up to a staggering 17 metres in height and were first carved in the 5th century AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty continuing through to the Tang Dynasty in the 8th Century.
The grottoes stretch for one kilometre along the river with walkways leading up to many of the caves. The site is also home to the secluded Chinese Bai garden and large Xiangshan Temple set high above the river.
Where are the Longmen Grottoes?
The Longmen Grottoes are located on a small section of the Yi River 11km south of Luoyang (only 3km from Luoyang Longmen Railway Station).
The Yi River is flanked by two sets of large hill ranges; Xiangshan to the east and Longmenshan to the west. The grottoes are carved into a 1km stretch on the west side and a shorter section exists on the east, along with the Bai gardens and Xiangshan Temple.
What is there to see at the Luoyang Longmen Grottoes?
The Longmen Caves
Wanfo cave is the smallest of the Luoyang Longmen grottoes, but no less impressive for it as it houses 15,000 small statues of the Buddha! Each of these statues is only 4cm (2 inches) high.
Guyang cave is the oldest of the grottoes at Longmen and dates back to 494AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty that ruled from Luoyang.
There are over 1,000 niches carved into the rock with inscriptions and fine calligraphy.
The three Binyang caves were constructed during the Norther Wei Dynasty (386 – 535) and the centre cave houses the Shakyamuni Buddha. The walls of the caves have been embossed with stories from the period. Look out for the lotus flower carved atop the Buddha!
Fengxian temple is the largest of the Longmen caves and houses the largest statue; the Vairocana Buddha. The carvings here represent the best example of Tang Dynasty architecture in all of China.
The impressive Vairocana Buddha stretches 17 metres up almost to the top of the hillside. The ears alone are 2 metres in height!
It is said that the Buddha was carved with the likeness of Empress Wu Zu Tian, though I can’t find much info to back up this claim.
The Luoyang Longmen Grottoes are bisected by the wide Yi River and connected by two bridges, one at either of the site. There are boat tours for impressive views of the caves, and at the northern end of the site the river becomes a lot more wild and beautiful.
The cool, secluded Bai Garden is a nice place to sit in tranquillity after all that walking. The Chinese really do make some of the best gardens in the world and this is no exception.
At the top of the east hill is the grave of Chinese Tang Dynasty poet Baijuy who later made Luoyang his home.
The Xiangshan Temple clings to the eastern hillside across from the main site. It was first constructed during the Northern Wei Dynasty but, like many such places in China, has been rebuilt many times since.
Ticket Prices for Longmen Grottoes
Entrance to Luoyang Longmen Grottoes is ¥90 ($13) per ticket.
The price includes entry to all the caves, Bai Gardens and Xiangshan Temple.
There are tourist buses (electric buggies) that go from the ticket office to the entrance 3km away and these cost ¥10 ($1.40) per journey.
How long do I need to visit the Longmen Caves?
You can see all the caves in around two hours but if you wish to see the gardens and temple then at least half a day or longer is required.
When is the best time to visit the Luoyang Longmen Grottoes?
Early morning or evenings are best during Luoyang’s hot summers as there is little shade on either side of the river, save for the Bai Gardens.
During the summer the caves are illuminated after dark making a night-time trip an interesting experience.
Longmen Grottoes Opening Hours
February to March: 8am to 6pm
April to October: 8am to 6:30pm
November to January: 8am to 5pm
How to get to the Longmen Grottoes
From Longmen Station
Take bus 71 to Longmen Shiku Station.
From Luoyang Railway Station
Take bus K81 to the last stop.
From Luoyang City
Take any of buses 53/K53, 60/K60, 71, 81/K81, 99/K99, or 167 to Longmoen Shiku Station.
From Beijing, Xian or other Chinese cities
Take the train to Luoyang Longmen Station and then bus 71.
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