Longmen Grottoes

The Longmen Grottoes or lóngmén shíkū or Dragon's Gate Grottoes or Longmen Caves is a sculptured complex of tens of thousands of Buddhist statues and disciples in the outer rocks and artificial caves on a limestone cliff on the banks of the Yi River in Luoyang, Henan Province, China, by Northern Wei Dynasty at 493 AD. The sites are some of the best examples of Chinese Buddhist art and many have ever been painted.

The Longmen Grottoes has at least 100,000 statues as high as 25 mm (1 inch) up to 17 meters (57 feet) in 2,345 caves. The area also has at least 2,500 stupas, inscriptions and more than 60 Buddhist pagodas in beautiful natural surroundings, caves excavated from a 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) cliff stretching along both sides of the banks of the Yi River.

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Northern Wei Dynasty has at least carved a cliff of 30%, Tang Dynasty for as much as 60%, and another 10% from other periods. It starts with Northern Wei Dynasty in 493 AD where donors include emperor, Emperor Wu Zetian from Second Zhou Dynasty, members of the royal family, wealthy families, generals, and religious groups.

This complex is one of the three famous caves in China. The other two caves are the Yungang Cave near Datong in Shanxi Province and the Mogao Cave near Dunhuang in Gansu Province in western China. The valley formed along the Yi River is surrounded by Xiangshan hills on the east side and Longmenshan hill on the west side which has a steep slope.

Grottoes form at 1 km from the stretch of the river and carved on both banks of the river in limestone formations. Most of the work is done on the west bank, while the eastern bank has a smaller number as a residence for a large group of monks. About 50 large caves on the western cliffs were carved during the Northern Wei, Sui and Tang dynasties, while on the east cliffs were carved entirely during the Tang Dynasty.

The sculptures describe the development in a style where the early caves were simple. The style changes were more different in the more complex Tang Dynasty period and incorporated female figures and court figures. The caves have been numbered sequentially from north to south along the western bank of the Yi River. Entrance to the cave is from the north end.


Emperor Xiaowen from Northern Wei Dynasty moved the capital to Luoyang from Dàtóng. Grottoes were dug and carved with Buddhist subjects during 493 AD to 1127 AD in four different phases. The first phase begins with Northern Wei Dynasty (493-534), the second is Sui Dynasty (581-618) and the beginning of Tang Dynasty (618-907), third during Tang Dynasty when Chinese Buddhism flourished in 626 AD, and fourth during Northern Song Dynasty .

Guyangdong or Shiku Temple is dedicated to Emperor Xiaowen as the first cave temple built in the middle of the south floor of West Hill. Emperor Xuanwu from Northern Wei dug two caves to honor his father, Emperor Xiaowen, and a cave to commemorate his mother as Binyangsandong or "Three Binyang Caves" built for 24 years.

The Huangfugong or Shikusi Cave finished in 527 as a large cave to the south of West Hill. The Fengxiansi cave south of West Hill finished in 675 during Tang Dynasty which marked the third phase which at least accounted for 60% of the caves in Longmen during 626 AD to 755 M. The caves hold a Buddha statue of various sizes and several temples in open spaces with beautiful scenery and arrangements in the same complex were done in this period.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese looted the site and took many statues. The Longmen Relics Care Agency was founded in 1953 under the Ministry of Culture. The 1954 site inventory was carried out by Longmen Caves Cultural Relics Management and Conservation Office. The State Council announced the Longmen Grottoes as a national cultural monument requiring special protection in 1961.

The Management and Conservation Office was renamed the Longmen Grottoes Research Institute in 1990 and the People's Government of Luoyang City was responsible for the management of the heritage monument. The government organization was renamed the Longmen Grottoes Research Academy in 2002.

Location: Luoyang, Henan Province, China.

Routes and public transport: Flights to Luoyang Beijiao Airport in Luoyang City, then take a taxi or bus (No. 60, 67, 71, or 81) to Longmen Grottoes for 12 kilometres (7.5 mi). Travel overland from all parts of China to Luoyang Longmen Railway Station, then take a taxi or bus (No. 60, 67, 71, or 81) to Longmen Grottoes for 5 kilometres.

All the buses and taxis take you to the west entrance to Pedestrian Street 2 kilometers long to the north entrance to Longmen Grottoes on the western hill. Some shops on the street offer luggage storage services. Leave your big suitcase and grab your valuables.

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Advice: The Longmen Grottes site consists of two hills cleaving the Yi River and connected by two bridges. At least 4 sub-attractions are caves in the western hills, caves on the eastern hill, Xiangshan Temple on the eastern hill, and Bai Juyi's Tomb on the eastern hill. Both hills are connected by two bridges. Exploring all at least takes about 3 or 4 hours.

Electromobile is the main transportation in Longmen Grottoes to help visitors get around for a small fee. Another alternative is to tour the ship through the Yi River to have a broader perspective.

Although the river paths and caves are paved and well maintained, lots of stairs to climb up and down to see the various Buddhas in the cave. Tourists should wear comfortable shoes. Also taking a flashlight will help the dark caves, umbrellas, drinking water, and comfortable clothes.

Ticket information

February - March (8 am to 5 pm)
April 1 - May 10 (7.30 am to 9 pm)
May 11 - October 31 (7.30 am to 5.30 pm)
November - January (8.00 am to 4.30 pm)

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