Yungang Grottoes

Located 16 kilometers west of Datong City in Shanxi Province and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001, the Yungang Grotto complex consists of 252 caves and 51,000 statues. As one of the four most famous sets of caves (the others are Mogao, Longmen, and Maijishan), this complex represents the excellence of the sculptures of Buddhist art in China.

The caves are the first witnesses of Buddhist art in China. They were carved into the sandstone cliffs on Wuzhou Mountain between the 5th- and 6th centuries. Several tens of thousands of workers have spent 60 years creating these spectacular caves, and they are probably the finest example of Buddhist sculptures in all of China.

Visit Yungang Grottoes

Based on the development of grotto shape, statue content, and style, the Yungang Grottoes can be divided into three stages: early, middle and late. It has 21 main grottoes, and travelers could start the route with caves 16 to 20, which are the oldest, to better understand the chronological order of grottoes excavation.

Tanyao Caves

These are the caves numbered 16 to 20, which were constructed under the command of the famous monk Tan Yao.

In 452, the monk Tanyao asked Emperor Wencheng to sculpt 5 giant Buddhas representing him with his four predecessors, which manifest the imperial power of the royal family. By associating the emperor and the Buddha, the spiritual and the temporal, he responded to the desire to make people forget the persecutions perpetrated by his predecessor Emperor Taiwu who killed the monks and burned the sutras. The carving skills inherited and developed the excellent traditions of the Han Dynasty, absorbed and integrated the essences of ancient Indian Gandhara and Dodo art, creating a unique artistic style. These 13 to 17 m high statues were made in 15 years.

Wuhua caves

“Wuhua Cave” is the common name for the 9th to 13th caves of Yungang Grottoes, which means the ‘Five Magnificent Caves’ because they are the only painted work in the Yungang Grottoes. They are precious materials for studying the history, art, music, dance, calligraphy, and architecture of the Northern Wei Dynasty and are one of the most important parts of the Yungang Grottoes. For example, the shapes of the musical instrument and performer sculptures in Cave 12, and the composition of the groups, embody the style and social music system of the court of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534).

Useful information

Chinese Name: 云冈石窟
Location: 16 km west of Datong city
Opening time:
High season (01/04-15/10): 08h30 -17h30
Low season (16/10-31/03): 08h30 – 17h00
Ticket: 150 RMB/pers. (high season) or 120 RMB/per. (low season)
Recommended time of visit: 2-3 hours

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