Saturday, August 29, 2009

Longmen Grottos

Another long post about last weekend, but I think this one may be worth it. Last weekend we realized that this was definitely in our top 3 or 4 trips...

Last year our friend, that doesn't know how to eat fruit, sent us a link to a Conde Nast article about these Buddhist caves carved into the mountains. Neat we thought and just put it into the depths of our memory banks, too much to see and not enough time...

Well, sure enough we finally managed to find time to get up to the grotto since it was listed on the quick tours that went to Shaolin temple. It wasn't until much later that we realized the link Heather had sent us was for a totally separate set of Buddhist statues carved into the cliffs. We were up early on Saturday and on the road to Luoyang, the city that the caves are just outside of, and after about a hour drive we were ready for some sightseeing.
This is just walking up to the site, it's along a river and fairly picturesque. It was still cloudy out but there wasn't any rain. Climbing up the first set of step leads you to this statue...There's a story behind it but I don't remember. Wikipedia doesn't really provide a lot of information on this site other then "It's nice, and there are over 100,000 Buddhist images". From that first impressive sight it opened into a courtyard that had three dug in caves with statues carved into them.
It was at about this time that we realized we would never be able to capture all of this on film (I don't know the digital equivalent of that, but you know what we mean). We had 4 cameras and they all took varying quality photos (you can see the difference in the photos) - be glad you're only getting what we deemed as acceptable.
Yeah, we were amazed at it all only to find out that there were even more small little caves carved into the cliffs as you walked further.

It's unbelievable the amount of detail carved into each statue, and there was still a lot of the color that at one time must have just been brilliant. Surprise to us and a little further down and there are some bigger statues then the ones we first saw.
And then another reprieve form the big statues with hundreds of smaller ones...
This is the staircase leading up to the lotus flower cave (we think?) which was also called the cave of 10,000 Buddhas.
If you notice on the side wall those are all little carvings, all about 2-3" high, the ones in the back behind the main statue had to be about 9" tall.

Just when you are about to be totally overwhelmed by it all you get a quaint reminder that you're still in China.
A guard relaxing and listening to pop music on his cellular phone.

And then it kept going...Climbing up that next staircase we were just floored - we hadn't really even expected to see half of what we had seen - and it was all just so mind-bogglingly beautiful. In a way we were glad that on this one we never looked up photos for this trip on the internet as we would have been looking forward to the grand finale....

Hopefully this creates a break in the post - click continue to see the rest of our photos or just move on. This is to help the few people that might show up looking for information on the Longmen caves. (Okay - the break didn't work and all my attempts to correct it didn't work. Sorry about that - I'll just throw in a "stop reading now" statement and call it done. It seems like it should be easy to do but for some reason we can't get it to work and we arent' going to spend a lot of time working on it...)

Yeah, the final stop was spectacular. The size and detail is just beyond anything that you can imagine.
Tina reached the first platform where you can see all of this and started shouting down to me to hurry up. I was straggling taking photos of little caves that seem unimportant once you reach the first platform of the staircase and this all comes into view.
Crazy good stuffs, it was an incredible way to spend a Saturday morning. Enough that I would recommend it for just one day, skip the Shaolin temple and just come straight down to see the grottoes....


Mark's Mom said...

WOW, WOW, WOW !!!!!!!

heather said...

Too cool. I'm really upset we weren't able to visit with you guys. Looks just amazing!

The one who freaking DOES know how to eat fruit!