Thirteen kilometers south of the city of Luoyang, the Yishui |
River cuts its way northward through the Eastern Hills and
Western Hills. The hills form a natural gate that looks like a
huge dragon, hence the name Longmen (Dragon Gate). On
the 1,000-meter stretch of cliffs along the riverbank, there
are 2,345 grottos and thousands of Buddhist images and
Work on the grottoes began in 493 during the Northern Wei
Dynasty (386-534) and continued for more than 400 years
during succeeding dynasties, most notably during the Tang
under the Empress Wu Zetian.
Longmen Shiku faces the 伊河 Yi River, which has been attractively dammed so that before the caves it is full of clear water. The caves face the river with the main caves on 西山, West Mountain and the minor ones across the river on 東山 East Mountain.
Longmen Shiku's grandeur has been lessened by vandalism and robbery over the past centuries, including the 20th century by foreigners. Nevertheless the main caves are still impressive. The largest Buddha image in a gigantic cave which was the 奉先寺 Fengxian Temple, was just too large for vandals to cart away, and remains today the gem of the Longmen Shiku.