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Oriental capital of museums: Luoyang the magnificent (2)

By Kou Jie (People's Daily Online)    11:17, December 25, 2020

Longmen Museum

The Longmen Grottoes represent the best of Chinese Buddhist art. Located 12 kilometres south of Luoyang in central China’s Henan Province, the Longmen Grottoes site has more than 2,300 grottoes with 110,000 Buddhist figures and images, more than 80 dagobas and 2,800 inscribed tablets, all of which were created between the Northern Wei (386-557) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.

Ultimate art perfection of Tang dynasty – the Big Vairocana

The Big Vairocana (left) is the largest Buddha statue at the Longmen Grottoes. The statue is 17.14m high and has 2m long ears. (People’s Daily Online/Kou Jie)

Being the largest Buddha statue at the Longmen Grottoes, the Big Vairocana was built between 672 and 676 for China’s only empress Wu Zetian. The Vairocana image’s features are plumpish and of peaceful and natural expression, while its unparalleled beauty and magnificence is considered as the “quintessence of Buddhist sculptures in China.”

It is said that Wu Zetian donated "twenty-thousand strings of her rouge and powder money" to complete this edifice. Hence, it is conjectured that the Vairocana Buddha was carved to resemble the Empress herself, termed a "Chinese Mona Lisa, Venus or as the Mother of China.”

A filial tribute to parents – the Middle Binyang Cave 

The Middle Binyang Cave was built by Emperor Xuanwu to commemorate his father Xiaowen, and also his mother. It is said that it was created between 500 to 523 by 800,000 workers.(People’s Daily Online/Kou Jie)

The Middle Binyang Cave was built by Emperor Xuanwun to commemorate his father Xiaowen, and also his mother. It is said that 800,000 workers created it over the period from 500 to 523.

In the main wall of this cave, five very large Buddhist statues are carved all in Northern Wei style. The central statue is of the Sakyamuni Buddha with four images of Bodhisattvas flanking it. Two side walls also have Buddha images flanked by Bodhisattva. The Buddhas, arranged in three groups in the cave, are representative of Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future. The canopy in the roof is designed as a lotus flower. There were two large bas-reliefs of imperial processions that included Emperor Xiaowen, Empress Dowager Wenzhao, and the emperor's late parents in worship, which were stolen in the mid-1930s. The emperor's procession is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and two thirds of the empress's is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. 


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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