It was the 1st century CE when Buddhism arrived in China. Together with the religion and philosophy, Buddhism brought new types of art as well. One of the fields of art was statuary. During 5th and 6th centuries, Northern Dynasties developed abstract and symbolic models of representation which were with schematic lines. As China distanced itself from the original Buddhist objective, the artists changed the path of art. Their art was more about naturalism and realism. One of the best examples of Northern Dynasty art is found in the Longmen Caves, or Longmen Grottoes, in Henan, China.
The meaning of Longmen Caves is “Dragon Gate Grottoes”. The caves are 12 kilometers south of Luoyang, in Henan Province. Some of the images of the caves were once painted. In addition, the ones who created these images carved them. The result is fascinating—inside artificial caves and outside rock reliefs.
There are 2345 caves and 100.000 statues within them. The height of the Longmen Grottoes ranges from 1 inch to 57 feet. In 2000, UNESCO added the side to the UNESCO World Heritage list as a representation of “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity.” There are a couple major grottoes such as Guyangdong, Binyang, Fengxian, Weizi-dong, Shiku-si, Shisku, and so on.
Guyangdong is the oldest of the Longmen Caves. The other name of the cave is Guyang Cave or Old Sun Cave. Located in the west hill of the central part, the cave is the largest one. According to the records, Emperor Xiaowen gave the order to the Buddhas to carve the cave.
Binyang Cave refers to three caves: North Binyang Cave, South Binyang Cave, and Middle Binyang Cave. The Middle Binyang Cave is the most accessible one. The groups in Binyang cave represent the past, present, and future.
Fengxian or Feng Sian Si is the largest of all Longmen Caves which were carved between 676 and 676. The Fengxian cave represents the architectural perfection of the Tang Dynasty. At the Longmen Grottoes, the cave has the largest Buddha statue, measuring 39 x 35 meters.