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Longmen Grottos

CHINA | Wednesday, 5 August 2009 | Views [841] | Comments [2]

"An invaluable Unesco World Heritage site, the ravaged grottoes at Longmen constitute one of China’s few surviving masterpieces of Buddhist rock carving. A sutra in stone, the epic achievement of the Longmen Caves was first undertaken by chisellers from the Northern Wei dynasty, after the capital was relocated here from Dàtóng in AD 494. Over the next 200 years or so, more than 100, 000 images and statues of Buddha and his disciples emerged from over a kilometre of limestone cliff wall along either bank of the Yi River (Yī Hé), 16km south of the city.

In the early 20th century, many statues were beheaded by unscrupulous collectors or simply extracted whole, many ending up abroad. Also removed were two murals that today hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Atkinson Museum in Kansas City. Some effigies are slowly returning and heads are being slowly restored to their severed necks, but other statues have had their faces crudely smashed off, deliberate defacement that dates to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution (the Ten Thousand Buddha Cave was particularly damaged during this period)."

Okay, that was copied right out of a Lonely Planet book.  The Longment Grottoes are huge and impressive.  Much of the Longmen Grottoes were destroyed in China's Cultural Revolution which focused on the Chinese destroying pretty much everything that made them Chinese. In those days the Chinese believed that religion and things of the past were holding them back, so many of the sacred places had been around for thousands of years were destroyed or seriously maimed. The only reason that this place was saved was because Zhou Enlai, Mao Tse Dong's buddy at the time, protected it.  Still, if you check out my pictures in my gallery on the blog - hands, heads, and entire statues are missing. 

The walk around longmen grottos was long, and was indeed a workout. I went to Longmen with my former roommate's gf Li Nai, her friend Wang, and her older sister.  We left at about 10am and I got back home at around 5:30pm.  We took the public bus up to the grottoes which took about an hour, but only cost us ¥1.5 [about 23 cents]. A taxi would have been probably 30x more expensive [which wouldn't... I guess still have been that expensive]. Wang told me that the buses around here can pretty much take you anywhere you want to go, you just need to figure out which buses go where, and sometimes that can be a challenge.  If that's the case, there's no way I'm taking a taxi anywhere else in the city. I'm going to start learning bus routes.  Taxi's are nice, but it seems like half the time the taxi driver doesn't really know where you're going, and just knows the vicinity.  I guess it still isn't much seeing that if you're going someplace relatively local, its only about .75 cents for a taxi flag.

The temple at longmen grottoes reminded me of stereotypical Chinese architecture.  Beautifully painted and carved buildings with tile covered roofs that stretched out and wound into knots on the corners of the buildings.  There was incense burning outside a couple of the buildings where people could go in and pray and talk about things that they hoped that sometime would cross them in the future. 

The temple area was sloped up the mountain, with some of the buildings at the top being the biggest and most important.  Wang told me that this was because in ancient [and sometimes modern] times, most things escalated in lesser importance to greater importance through elevation.  It's pretty easy to see this in modern buildings with penthouses and executive suites.

A couple other cool areas were the medicine cave and the statue with ten thousand arms and eyes.  The medicine cave supposedly had 150 prescriptions to cure 75 different types of headaches and ailments.  I don't really understand the math here, maybe they only worked half the time? Or maybe my tour guide was confused.  I guess it would make more sense if the numbers were swapped.  The statue with 10,000 arms/eyes supposedly represented a being that saw and knew everything.  If you knew you'd done something wrong, you could go up there and ask for forgiveness.  If the being allowed you passage, you were forgiven. 

All in all, it was a great experience. I didn't end up talking to Ming's gf as much as I'd wanted.  I'd heard she was a great person, but we'll probably end up seeing each other again, seeing as how she lives right around here.  Wang took my MSN S/N so maybe we can hang out or something sometime soon.

Yesterday I didn't do a whole lot.  I walked around for 5 hours.  Considering I'd walked like 8 the day before, this might sound like suicide.  I've been kinda concerned about wasting my time here.  Granted, I'm going to be here for a year, but that kind of thinking is exactly how people waste their time living abroad.  So I just walked around Luoyang for a few hours, and then went to a grocery store to pick up some essentials.  I've just been setting my silverwear/chopsticks on top of my microwave for the past few days, and I'm starting to feel like a slob.  So I found something that I can at least get them hung up on the wall like a proper human being. I also bought some bananas and apples.  FRESH FRUIT IS SO CHEAP. I got 12 bananas for .35 cents and 4 apples for .10 cents.  It'll be way easier to eat healthier here.

Tags: trips




That was very cool. Nice pictures.

Please keep eating healthy. Your father likes to hear that.



  Keith Brown Aug 7, 2009 2:06 AM


Hi! Just reading your blog as I'm thinking to do the grottoes today so it's good to see what others thought!!! :D

All the best!

  Greg Oct 11, 2009 1:04 PM

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