In 2001, Yungang Grottoes was inscribed on the list of world heritage by UNESCO.
Located in Datong, Shanxi Province, China. Yungang Grottoes was first chiseled in the first year of Year Heping in Northern Wei and Monk Tan Yao at that time chiseled it for duty of Emperor Wencheng. Most of the grottoes were finished in the eighteenth year of Year Taihe in Northern Wei before the capital moved to Luoyang, which lasted for forty years.
Stretching about one kilometer from east to west, the grottoes are chiseled at the foot of the mountain. Nowadays there are about 45 caves with different sizes of 51000 statues. The highest statue is 17 meters while the smallest is only several centimeters. The grottoes are very magnificent, Cave No.5 and Cave No.6 and Wuhua Cave are rich in content and can be called the essences of the grottoes artistic.
The Yungang Grottoes are divided into three parts –east , middle and west part. There are four caves in the east part, nine caves in the middle part. And forty caves in the west part.
Tan Yao’s Five caves
Tan Yao’s Five Caves are the first chiseled among the Yungang Grottoes and they are very magnificent. They are located in the middle of the Yungang Grottoes and there are Cave No.16、 Cave No.17、Cave No.18、Cave No 19and Cave No.20.Weizi-Buddhism and Taolsm Annals”, in the first years of Year Heping in Northern Wei, the famous Monk Tan Yao at that time presented a memorial to the Emperor Wencheng to chisel five caves in Wuzhou and carved five Buddhas shaped as Emperor Wei Daowu. Emperor Mingyuan, Emperor Taiwu, Emperor Jingmu and Emperor Wencheng. And this is Tan Yao’s Five Caves today.
The Yungang Grottoes –West Part
Most of the caves are in the west part and each has its own feature, acclaimed. Especially Cave No.16 to Cave No.20 in Tan Yao’s Five Caves, they are chiseled in a planned way under the direction of Tan Yao. It is said that this followed the order ,”the emperor is Tathagata.”. Tan Yao directed the five emperors’ figures since Emperor Tai Zu in Northern Wei to the cliff .on the Sakyamuni. Cave No.16 Buddha is the youngest one and it is simulated(模仿mó fǎnɡ) the 20-year old and more Emperor Wencheng reigned then, And the Buddha is 13.5 meters high.
The Yungang Grottoes –East Part
Cave No.1 to Cave No.2 are double caves which are situated in the east of Yungang Grottoes. In the middle of Cave No.1, there carved two floors of square tower pillar. At the back ,there was Maitreya. The Buddha around were mostly weathered, the carved Monaural(维摩文殊wéi mó wén shū) on two sides of the cave gate of the south wall and the Buddhist adopted story relief on the lower part of the east wall were well preserved. In the middle of Cave No.2, there was a three floors of square tower pillar .Each floor carved three attic niches around and also carved five-floor –tower on the inside walls which were the imaging information of the architecture in Northern Wei.
World Heritage Committee appraised: Located in Datong, Shanxi Province, the Yungang Grottoes have 252 niches and more than 51000 Buddhist cave art in China from 5 Century to 6 Century. Tan Yao’s Five Caves have a well-knit and united arrangement and they are the classical masterpieces in the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.
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