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Home >> China City Guide >> Shanxi Province >> Datong >> Yungang Grottoes

Yungang Grottoes

Yungang Grottoes, Datong tour China travel Shanxi tours
Yungang Grottoes, Datong travel China tour Shanxi tours

Not to be missed are the Yungang Grottoes located at the southern foot of Wuzhou Mountain fifteen kilometers west of Datong. The grottoes stretch for a whole kilometer from east to west. There are 53 grottoes and 1,100 niches, with about 51, 000 statues.

Legend says that in A.D. 446 during the Northern Wei Dynasty, Emperor Tai Wu suddenly renounced Buddhism and ordered that it be eradicated: monks and nuns were forced to resume secular life, and Buddhist monasteries and pagodas were burned down. Soon after he had launched this first "campaign to eradicate Buddhism" in Chinese history, Emperor Tai Wu fell ill and died. His grandson, Emperor Wen Cheng, took his sudden death as a sign of retribution. Wen Cheng therefore did his best to reinstitution Buddhism. Monk Yun Yao, who was then in charge of Buddhist affairs in China, was entrusted with the project of building grottoes at the foot of Wu Zhou Mountain. He conscripted a labor force of 10,000 men, and five grottoes were hewn in five years to commemorate the five emperors who had reigned since the founding of the Northern Wei Dynasty. The project was discontinued when Emperor Xiao Wen moved the capital from Datong to Lupyang. It is believed that the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang were a continuation of the Yungang Grottoes project.

On entering the grottoes, the visitor sees an astonishing number of Buddhist statues and decorative frescos. One seventeen-meter Buddha with down-cast eyes seems to gaze with penetrating insight into the human heart as it wavers between good and evil. One series of carvings depicts scenes from the life of Sakyamuni from birth until his attainment of nirvana. Many of the carvings combine traditional Chinese art forms with foreign influences to create a unique style that occupies an important position in the history of Chinese art.

Datong Travel Attractions
Shanhuasi Monastery
Yungang Grottoes
Hanging Monastery
Nine Dragon Screen
Yingxian Wooden Pagoda
Huayan Monastery
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