Longmen Grottoes

Longmen Grottoes

The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving.

Grottes de Longmen

Les grottes et niches de Longmen abritent le plus grand et le plus impressionnant ensemble d'œuvres d'art chinoises des dynasties des Wei du Nord et Tang (316 - 907). Ces œuvres, dont les sujets touchent exclusivement à la religion bouddhiste, représentent l'apogée de l'art chinois de la sculpture sur pierre.

كهوف لونغمن

تأوي كهوف لونغمن المجموعة الأكبر والأعظم للتحف الفنيّة الصينيّة لسلالتي واي الشماليّة وتانغ (316-907). وتمثّل هذه التحف، التي تعالج مواضيعها حصراً الديانة البوذيّة، ذروة الفنّ الصيني للنحت على الصخر.

source: UNESCO/ERI

龙门石窟

龙门地区的石窟和佛龛包含北魏晚期至唐代(公元316至907年)期间最具规模和最为优秀的中国艺术藏品。这些艺术作品全部反映佛教宗教题材,代表了中国石刻艺术的最高峰。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Пещерные храмы Лунмэнь

Гроты и каменные ниши Лунмэнь содержат крупнейшее и наиболее впечатляющее собрание китайского искусства, относимое к периоду правления династий Северная Вэй и Тан (316 – 907 гг.). Эти произведения, неразрывно связанные с религией буддизма, демонстрируют расцвет искусства резьбы по камню в Китае.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Grutas de Longmen

Las grutas y nichos de Longmen albergan el mayor y más impresionante conjunto de obras de arte de la dinastía de los Wei del Norte y la dinastía Tang (316-907). Inspiradas exclusivamente por la religión budista, estas obras son una magnífica muestra del apogeo del arte de la escultura rupestre en China.

source: UNESCO/ERI

龍門石窟

source: NFUAJ

Longmen grotten

De grotten en nissen van Longmen bevatten de grootste en meest indrukwekkende verzameling van de Chinese kunst van de noordelijke Wei en Tang Dynastieën (316 tot 907). De kunst is geheel gewijd aan de boeddhistische religie en vormt het hoogtepunt van het Chinese steenhouwen. De grotten liggen 12 kilometer ten zuiden van de Chinese stad Luoyang. In totaal zijn er 2.345 nissen of grotten geteld. Ze omvatten meer dan 100.000 boeddhistische sculpturen, 2.500 gedenkstenen en graveringen en meer dan 60 boeddhistische pagodes. De oudste en grootste grot is Guyangdong. Hierin bevinden zich drie meer dan levensgrote boeddhistische standbeelden: Sakyamuni, met twee bodhisattvas aan zijn zij.

Source: unesco.nl

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Longmen Grottoes © OUR PLACE THE WORLD HERITAGE COLLECTION
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Longmen Grottoes, located on bothsides of the Yi River to the south of the ancient capital of Luoyang, Henan province, comprise more than 2,300 caves and niches carved into the steep limestone cliffs over a 1km long stretch. These contain almost 110,000 Buddhist stone statues, more than 60 stupas and 2,800 inscriptions carved on steles. Luoyang was the capital during the late Northern Wei Dynasty and early Tang Dynasty, and the most intensive period of carving dates from the end of the 5th century to the mid-8th century. The earliest caves to be carved in the late 5th and early 6th centuries in the West Hill cliffs include Guyangdong and the Three Binyang Caves, all containing large Buddha figures. Yaofangdong Cave contains 140 inscription recording treatments for various diseases and illnesses. Work on the sculpture in this cave continued over a 150 year period, illustrating changes in artistic style. The sculptural styles discovered in the Buddhist caves of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries, particularly the giant sculptures in the Fengxiansi Cave are the most fully representative examples of the Royal Cave Temples’ art, which has been imitated by artists from various regions. The two sculptural art styles, the earlier “Central China Style” and the later “Great Tang Style” had great influence within the country and throughout the world, and have made important contributions to the development of the sculptural arts in other Asian countries.

Criterion (i) : The sculptures of the Longmen Grottoes are an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity.

Criterion (ii) : The Longmen Grottoes illustrate the perfection of a long-established art form which was to play a highly significant role in the cultural evolution in this region of Asia.

Criterion (iii) : The high cultural level and sophisticated society of Tang Dynasty China are encapsulated in the exceptional stone carvings of the Longmen Grottoes.

Integrity

The caves, stone statues, steles and inscriptions scattered in the East Hill and West Hill at Longmen have been well preserved. The property area and buffer zone retain their natural landscapes and the ecological environment that have existed since the late 5th century. The works of humans and nature have been harmoniously unified and the landscapes possess high integrity.

Authenticity

In the continuous evolution of Longmen Grottoes, the aesthetic elements and features of the Chinese cave temples’ art, including the layout, material, function, traditional technique and location, and the intrinsic link between the layout and the various elements have been preserved and passed on. Great efforts have been made to maintain the historical appearance of the caves and preserve and pass on the original Buddhist culture and its spiritual and aesthetic functions, while always adhering to the principle of “Retaining the historic condition”.

Protection and management requirements

As one of China’sState Priority Protected Sites, the Longmen Grottoes have received protection at national level under the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics. The local legal instruments such as the Regulations of Luoyang City on the Protection and Management of Longmen Grottoes have ensured the legal protection system. The Management Agency of the Ministry of Culture of the PRC works with the Research Institute of Luoyang City together with professional teams on the protection, publicity, education and presentation for the Grottoes. The Management Agency has drafted The Conservation Plan of the Longmen Grottoes, and according to this plan, research capabilities have been strengthened, including the analysis of the deterioration mechanism of the caves, environmental monitoring, conservation materials and control measures. Based on the research results of tourist carrying capacity, the opening capacity of the property area is effectively controlled; the negative effects to the heritage made by different kinds of adverse factors have been minimized; the setting of the caves is protected; and a rational and effective balance between protection and development of the heritage place is maintained.

Long Description

The high cultural level and sophisticated society of Tang dynasty China is encapsulated in the exceptional stone carvings of the Longmen Grottoes, which illustrate the perfection of a long-established art form which was to play a highly significant role in the cultural evolution of this region of Asia.

Work began on the Longmen Grottoes in 493, when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei dynasty moved his capital to Luoyang. Over the next four centuries this work continued; it can be divided into four distinct phases. The period between 493 and 534 was the first phase of intensive cutting of grottoes: the first cave to be carved was Guyangdong (also known as the Shiku Temple). This phase of intense activity was followed by a period between 524 and 626 when very few caves, and those all relatively small, were cut. This is attributable principally to the civil strife between different regions of China that persisted throughout the Sui dynasty (581-618) and the early part of the Tang dynasty (618-907).

It was not until 626 that the third phase began, during the height of the Tang dynasty, when Chinese Buddhism had begun to flourish again. This was once again a period of intensive cutting of grottoes; it was the highpoint artistically of Longmen, especially during the reigns of Emperor Gaozang and Empress Wuzetian, who lived permanently at Luoyang. The group of giant statues in Fengxiansi Cave is most fully representative of this phase of Chinese art at Longmen; they are generally acknowledged to be artistic masterpieces of truly global significance.

The final phase, from 755 to 1127, during the later Tang through to the Northern Song dynasty, saw a steep decline in the carving of grottoes at Longmen. This began with the capture of Luoyang in the mid-8th century during a rebellion, an event from which the area never recovered. It was the outbreak of warfare during the Jin and Yuan dynasties that brought grotto carving to an end.

The Longmen Grottoes lie 12 km south of the historic Chinese city of Luoyang. Two hills flank the Yishui River at a place that combines considerable strategic importance and great natural beauty. The slopes of the West and East Hills become very steep and cliff-like as they approach the river valley, and it is here that the easily worked limestone was carved to produce the Longmen Caves. In total 2,345 niches or grottoes have been recorded on the two sides of the river. They house more than 100,000 Buddhist statues, about 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, and over 60 Buddhist pagodas. On the West Hill cliffs there are more than 50 large and medium-sized caves cut in the Northern, Sui and Tang dynasties (316-907); the caves on the East Hill cliffs are exclusively from the Tang dynasty (618-907).

The oldest and largest of the Longmen Caves is Guyangdong, in the middle of the southern floor of the West Hill. The work of Emperor Xiaowen, it attracted carvings sponsored by many of his nobles and officials and religious dignitaries, who approved of his reforming policies. On the main wall there are three over-life-sized statues erected by the emperor. In the centre is the Buddhist patriarch Sakyamuni, flanked by two bodhisattvas.

Huangfugong (also known as Shikusi), one of the best preserved of the major caves at Longmen, is located to the south of the West Hill. An inscription shows it to have been completed in 527. In front of the cave a roof has been carved imitating wooden construction, with seven Buddhas inside the lintel. The main wall is decorated with seven larger than life-size statues.

Li Zhi of the Tang dynasty cut Fengxiansi Cave, on the southern floor of the West Hill. Completed in 675, it is the largest and most typical example of Tang stone sculpture at Longmen. There are nine colossal statues in the cave, dominated by that of Buddha Vairocana, with plump features and a compassionate expression. This form of naturalistic representation is shared by the other large statues, the expression of each being clearly differentiated according to the characteristics of the subjects.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

Work began on the Longmen Grottoes in 493, when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty moved his capital to Luoyang. Over the next four centuries this work continued; it can be divided into four distinct phases.

The period between 493 and 534 was the first phase of intensive cutting of grottoes. The first cave to be carved was Guyangdong (also known as the Shiku Temple); records show that more than two hundred people were involved in the work. This marked the beginning of a major programme of grotto carving by the Northern Wei rulers. Emperor Xuanwu cut three, two in memory of his father, Xiaowen and one for his mother, Wenzhao. These are the three caves now known as the Three Binyang Caves (Binyangsandong), and the work took more than 24 years to complete. A number of other caves of all sizes were cut during this period on the West Hill: they account for some 30% of the total.

This phase of intense activity was followed by a period between 524 and 626 when very few caves, and those all relatively small, were cut. This is attributable principally to the civil strife between different regions of China that persisted through the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and the early part of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

It was not until 626 that the third phase began, during the height of the Tang Dynasty, when Chinese Buddhism had begun to flourish again. This was once again a period of intensive cutting of grottoes; it was the highpoint artistically of Longmen, especially during the reigns of Emperor Gaozang and Empress Wuzetian, who lived permanently at Luoyang. The group of giant statues in Fengxiansi Cave are most fully representative of this phase of Chinese art at Longmen; they are generally acknowledged to be artistic masterpieces of truly global significance.

Many other grottoes of all sizes were cut at this period on both the West Hill and the East Hill. They make up some 60% of the grottoes at Longmen. In addition, a number of fine Buddhist temples were built there during the Tang Dynasty against the magnificent natural landscape. Most of these only exist now in the form of ruins, but they are still an important component of the overall Longmen cultural complex.

The final phase, from 755 to 1127, during the later Tang through to the Northern Song Dynasty, saw a steep decline in the carving of grottoes at Longmen. This began with the capture of Luoyang in the mid-8th century during a rebellion, an event from which the area never recovered. It was the outbreak of warfare during the Jin and Yuan Dynasties that brought grotto carving to an end.

In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, the great artistic and cultural achievement represented by the Longmen grottoes gradually received national and then international recognition, and were the subject of much scholarly study. During the 1940s some of the stone carvings were stolen and sold abroad, but since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 they have been protected and conserved.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation