Chinese Buddhist Grottoes
What is Grottoes?
Literally, grottoes means a small picturesque cave that is carved in the mountains, in park or garden. Actually these grottoes were originated from India as a form of Buddhist architecture. The main objective to build these grottoes were for practicing Buddhism. As the Buddhism was spread to China, the practice of building grottoes were also spread to China, making world most notable Chinese Buddhist grottoes. Mostly the grottoes were built along the yellow River area in North China. Among them, the most famous Chinese Buddhist Grottoes are only four in number.
Famous Chinese Buddhist Grottoes
Actually, Maijishan Grottoes are a series of 194 caves. These caves are said to be an excellent example of rock cut architecture since they are made out of cutting mountain rock. The statues in this grottoes were made in two distinct sides of the cliffs- eastern and western. The eastern side of the cliff has 141 caves and western side of the cliff has 50 caves. The caves of western side of cliff are named as Cave #1-50 accordingly while the caves of eastern side of cliff are named as Cave #51- 191. These caves were explored by a team of Chinese archaeologists from Beijing in 1952-53.
Another major Chinese Buddhist Grottoes is the Longmen Grottoes which is believed that the Longmen Grottoes is the finest example of Chinese Buddhist art. This grottoes is situated at 12 Km south of present-day Luoyang in Henan province, China. The caves at Longmen Grottoes are also made in two distinct sides of cliff- eastern and western sides. This grottoes includes both natural caves and man-made which houses tens of thousands of Buddha Statues and his disciples. The height of these Buddha statues varies from 1 inch to 57 feet in height. Apart from these statues, the area also contains nearly 2500 Stelae and inscriptions. It is recorded that 30% of the statues were carved during the Northern Wei Dynasty, 60% of the statues were carved during the Tang Dynasty, and remaining other 10% of the statues were carved during different other Dynasties.
Another name for the Mogao Grottoes is Thousand Buddha Grottoes. This grottoes consists of 492 Buddhist temples which is situated at 25 km southeast of the center of Dunhuang in Gansu province, China. Since it is located at Dunhuang, these caves are also known as Dunhuang Caves, however, this term is also used for other Buddhist caves that surround Dunhuang- Western thousand Buddha Caves, Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves, Yulin Caves, and Five Temple Caves. It is not doubted that the caves contain finest examples of Antique Buddha Statues as well as Buddhist art.
Earlier the Yungang Grottoes was also popularly known as Wuzhoushan Grottoes. This ancient Grottoes are located about 16 km west of the city of Datong in the Shanxi province. These grottoes are carved at the base of the Wuzhou Shan Mountains in the valley of the Shi River. Like other grottoes, Yungang grottoes are also excellent examples of rock-cut architecture. It is believed that the antique Buddha statues and cave itself were built at 5th and 6th centuries. Regarding the number of the caves, there are 53 major caves along with 1100 minor caves and 51,00 niches which house the same number of Buddha statues.
Even though there are other Grottoes in China, the above mentioned one are the famous and mostly visited Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Not only religiously, the sites have also archaeologically importance. These sites help the archaeologists to understand about art and culture of the previous dynasties.