三大石窟 The Three Famous Grottoes
Buddhism spread into the hinterland of China by way of Xinjiang around the first century. In the Southern and Northern dynasties, grottoes were carved in cliffs to house statues of Buddha and sacred murals. In the Sui and Tang dynasties, grotto art made great strides. The three most famous groups of grottoes are the Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Shanxi Province, the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Henan Province, and the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu Province. They are world-famous for their great number of rich and colorful Buddhist frescos, sculptures and statues.
The Yungang Grottoes are the most eminent among the Buddhist artistic works of the Northern Wei Dynasty. They are cut into the foot of a mountain, and stretch 1,000 m from east to west. They contain thousands of Buddhist sculptures of various sizes, among which the biggest one is 13.7 m high.
The largest cave in the Longmen Grottoes was hollowed out during the Tang Dynasty. The Buddhist statues in these grottoes show the influence of the esthetic concepts of the people of India and Central Asia.
The Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang used to have over 1,000 caves, but nowadays there remain only a few hundred, of which 60-70% were made in the Sui and Tang dynasties. The walls and ceilings of the grottoes are covered with colored frescos, totaling more than 45,000 m2. The frescos depict Buddhist stories. Many of them reflect the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty. The Mogao Grottoes boast over 2,400 statues, almost half of which date from the Sui and Tang dynasties.