Yungang GrottoesA UNESCO-listed series of Buddhist Temple Grottoes Carved Into A Sandstone Cliff Marking The zenith of Chinese Buddhist Cave Art
“The Buddha in grotto 13 is suffering from various levels of decay, as is the colourful plaster on the backing of his cave, most of which is gone… During carving, the large right arm of the Buddha needed support hence the need to carve a smaller Buddha.”
IMAGE || Grotto 13, Yungang Grottoes, China. October 2, 2004.
Yungang Grottoes, Shanxi Province, China
Datong, in Shanxi province, China, is a walled city situated in the far north near the border with Inner Mongolia, about 250 kilometres west of Beijing. I knew I was further north than I’d previously been in China because the temperature difference between here and Xi’an, the previous stop on my loop of the country, was striking & I found myself having to wrap up for the first time since arriving in Beijing some 6 weeks ago now. Datong itself is an industrial city, an industrial Chinese city, most of which are rather ugly affairs. Datong is no exception and might even be classed as a little less aesthetically pleasing than most. Coal is the main culprit. The city produces a whopping one-third of all of China’s coal and it – the coal – dominates the modern city; it sits in donkey carts and lorries that judder up and down the main roads; it stains the buildings black; and it swirls in the air you breathe, helping to make Datong, not surprisingly, one of China’s dirtiest and most polluted cities.
Datong itself doesn’t have any attractions of note (unless you class a huge locomotive factory as an attraction) but amid the blasted landscape of modern, industrial China that surrounds the city – a landscape of endless coal mines and dotted with power stations – where you will find some marvelous ancient sites, remnants of the city’s glory days as the capital of two Han Chinese dynasties. One of these is the awesome Buddhist Yungang Grottoes, situated some 16 kilometres outside the city.
The Yungang Grottoes
The Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are ancient Buddhist temple grottoes carved into the side of a sandstone cliff of the Wuzhou Shan mountains south-west of Datong in the valley of the Shi Li River. The caves are excellent examples of rock-cut architecture and are the first, grandest, and best preserved of the three major Buddhist grottoes in China, the others being The Longmen caves in Henan province and The Mogao caves in Gansu province.
– UNESCO commenting on Yungang Grottoes
Nearby is the amazing The Hanging Temple of Heng Shan.