Being deemed the "Cradle of Chinese Civilization," no visit to Henan is complete with visiting the Longmen Grottoes. The Longmen Grottoes, considered one of the four Major Grottoes in China, is located in the beautiful and serene mountains of Luoyang. Construction began in the year 493 by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty and was continuously built for the next 400 years until the Song Dynasty. The grotto measures almost 3300feet in length, containg more than 2,300 holes and niches, 2,800 steles, 1,300 caves and 100,000 statues. Most were carved during the Northern Wei Dynasty and the flourishing age of the Tang Dynasty, representing the peak of Chinese artistic stone carving.
The most imposing and magnificent of all the caves, the Fengxian Temple Grotto was carved during the Tang Dynasty and contains the most beautiful and best examples of sculpture, despite weathering and erosion. The three-dimensional figures have natural expressions and the largest statue, a seated central Buddha, towers at 17m high.
Wanfo Cave was completed in 680, a typical chronological cave of the Tang Dynasty. The namesake is from the more than 15,000 small statues of Buddha chiseled in the southern and northern walls of the cave. A composed and solemn faced Buddha Amida sits at the center of the cave atop a lotus Sumeru throne. Lifelike reliefs of charming singers and dancers are also depicted on the wall.
Guyang Cave is the earliest of the caves, with three tiers of niches filled with hundreds of statues, most engraved with the name and dates of the artists. The sculptures are of diverse shapes and patterns, representing the Gandhara Art style. Nineteen of the 20 most famous calligraphies can be found in this cave.