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  Yungang Grottoes

Yungang Grottoes, one of the three major cave clusters in China, punctuate the north cliff of Wuzhou Mountain, Datong. The area was excavated along the mountain, extending 1 km (0.62 miles) from east to west, revealing 53 caves and over 51,000 stone statues.
The Caves are divided into east, middle, and west parts. Pagodas dominate the eastern parts; west caves are small and mid-sized with niches. Caves in the middle are made up of
  front and back chambers with Buddha statues in the center. Embossing covers walls and ceilings.


Started in 450, Yungang is a relic of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Absorbing Indian Gandhara Buddhist art, Yungang sculptures developed traditional Chinese art melded with
social features of the time.


During the reign of Emperor Xiao Wen a monk named Tanyao took charge of the construction of Yungang Grottoes. The largest cave is No.6. In the 20-meter (65.6-foot)-high cave
stands a 15-meter (49.2-foot)-high pagoda-like column decorated with Buddha statues and designs. On the four sides of the tower pillar, and on the east, south and west walls of the cave, 33 embossed panels depict the story of Saykamuni.


Caves worth special attention are No.16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Upon Tan Yao's suggestion, five statues of Emperors Taizu, Taizong, Shizu, Gaozong, and Gaozu as Buddha express the
religious theme that the Emperor is Buddha. Caves housing these statues are known as the Five Tan Yao Caves, similar in style but not identical. The statue in Cave 20 is martial and stately, No.19 handsome and elegant, while No.18 is dignified but lively. Their similarity lies in their thick lips, big noses, slanted eyes and broad shoulders depicting the ethnic culture of the time.

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