Friday, July 17, 2015

Longmen Grottoes and Museum of Charriot in Luoyang (Henan and Xi'an Trip Day 5)

Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟) has a long history. 493 AD, Emperor Xiao Wen of North Wei (北魏孝文帝) started building the first grotto at Longmen Mountain (龙门山). Then, many emperors followed until the carving of grottoes stopped 400 years later in Northern Song Dynasty (some sources stated from North Wei to Tang Dynasty). More than 100 thousands of statues, 3800 inscription steles, and 80 pagodas were carved 1 km along the river of Yi (伊河), 12 kms from Luoyang City. Completely devoted to Buddhism, the grottoes show the stone work skills in China more than one millennium ago.

Endured the local vandalism and looting, destruction by wars, and damage by nature elements, Longmen Grottoes received the status of UNESCO Heritage Site in 2000. It was the third UNESCO Heritage Site that we visited in Henan Province. The entrance fee for the site was CNY100, with extra CNY10 for one way trip with electric car. Later, we took a boat ride with CNY25 per person back to the car park.

We stayed at Longmen Grottoes for around 2 hours 30 minutes. The shopping area outside of Longmen Grottoes offered various souvenirs and local delicacies. We bought two Chinese stone stamp with our names with really good bargained price there (about 1/2 of what we could get in our country).

The electric car stopped at the ticketing counter. Then, we had to walk for a few hundred meters to the entrance of Longmen Grottoes. We enjoyed the nice view of Yi River on our way to the entrance (upper row). The tourist center (lower left) is located near to the majestic entrance.

The weather was cold and comfy with few visitors. It was a lucky morning for us.

The caves were carved deep into the limestone cliff along Longmen Mountain. Stairs were built for the visitors to access the higher caves.

Our tour guide was telling the history of the sculptures in the caves.

The Buddha statue with "V" pose were believed to be built in Tang Dynasty by Tang Gaozong (唐高宗李治). The statue is one of the most popular photo spot in Longmen Grottoes (upper left). The cave housing the statue was exquisitely decorated (upper right). The uncompleted work by the last emperor of Song Dynasty (lower left)- Moya Sanfo Kan (摩崖三佛龛) revealed the process how a ordinary stone being carved into a statue. The stone wall of Longmen Mountain is dotted by many sculptures with different sizes.

Wanfo Cave (万佛洞) or the cave with ten thousand Buddha is another attraction at Longmen Grottoes. The wall of the cave is filled with 15 thousands sculptures.

What is the size of the smallest sculpture in Longmen Grottoes? These 1 inch tall sculptures in Wanfo Cave are really small, but still not the smallest.

Lianhua Dong (莲花洞) or Lotus Cave is another interesting cave there. The Buddha statue was carved in standing position with a hand holding a walking staff. There is a big lotus flower carved on the top of the cave as well. Another interesting thing to see in this cave- the smallest statues with 2 cm long caved on the both sides of the Buddha statue.

 The red arrow marks the location of the smallest statues in Lotus Cave.

The old name of Longmen Grottoes- Yique or the Gate of River Yi was carved at the entrance of Lotus Cave.

The biggest Buddha statues are located at the far southern end of Longmen Grottoes. To see them, we need to conquer the stairs.

This is the biggest statue in Longmen Grottoes- 17.2 m tall with the head 4 m long and ears 1.9 m long. Some local sources stated that the Buddha statue was built with the expression imitating Empress Wu Zetian (武则天), as a token of appreciation for her donation. With her donation, the statue was completed around 675 AD.

Panoramic view of the Fengxian Si (奉先寺) or Fengxian Temple- the temple where the colossal statues locates. Click on this photo to see the bigger view.

Guyang Cave (古阳洞) is the oldest cave in Longmen Grottoes. Built during the year of Emperor Xiaowen, the cave contains 19 well calligraphed inscriptions and exquisite stone works.

This is the last cave we visited- Yaofang Cave (药方洞) or the Cave of Prescription. The cave recorded 140 traditional Chinese prescriptions which can be used to cure more than 70 illness.

We took a boat ride from the end the grottoes back to the entrance. The boat trip gave us a nicer view of Longmen Mountain.

This is how the caves were built on the cliff of Longmen Mountain.

The former residence of Baijuyi (白居易) is located at the other side of Yi River, opposite of Longmen Grottoes. The tomb of this well-known poet is just next to his former residence.

Luoyang City was the capital for 13 dynasties with more than 100 emperors. The city has the history of 4000 years, starting from Xia Dynasty. Instead of the vibrant development with modern high rises, historical icons like Longmen Grottoes and Guanlin Temple scatters around the city. Back to Luoyang, we took our lunch at Kunyang Restaurant (lower right). We took our dinner the night before at the same restaurant (the one without ice cube). After lunch, we moved on to visit another thousand years old relics- the excavated pit at the Museum of Luoyang Eastern Zhou Royal Horse and Chariot Pits (天子六骑博物馆).

Museum of Luoyang Eastern Zhou Royal Horse and Chariot Pits (天子六骑博物馆), or we would like to directly translate it into Emperor's Six Horses Chariot Museum was built on the real sacrificial pit of Zhou Dynasty's Emperor. According to the ancient books, emperor's chariot was driven by six horses, while feudal kings five, ministers four, scholars and bureaucrats three, officials two, and commoners one. This record was proven by the discovery of the pit in 2002, during the construction to expand the Luohe Plaza. The museum now is located at the center of the Dongzhou Wangcheng Square (王城广场) or the Eastern Zhou Emperor City Square.

The museum entrance fee was CNY30 per person, while tour guide was available with CNY50 per trip, with opening hours from 9 am - 5 pm. The museum was quite small, with three different sections. The largest section was the burial pit itself. We spent 45 minutes in the museum.

The entrance of the museum is marked by a Chariot with 6 horses. The whole museum is located a level below the ground.

The surrounding area of the museum.

The burial pit of the museum, with the second chariot from the right was buried with six horses. There were other chariots with two horses and four horses. There were hunting dogs tied to each chariot as well.

Both Longmen Grottoes and Museum of Luoyang Eastern Zhou Royal Horse and Chariot Pits are must visit places in Luoyang as they carries important information from the past. The historical values of these sites are beyond measurement. For more information about these two sites, you can visit Tour-Beijing site about Longmen Grottoes and Museum of Luoyang Museum.

We left Luoyang at around 3:30 pm and took a three hour drive westward to Lingbao, a town in between Luoyang and Xi'an. We rested at Zingy Good Hotel and prepared ourselves for the trip to Terracotta of The Warriors and Horses in Xi'an.

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