Historical Sites and Scenic Sports

Yungang Grottoes

Release Time: 2017-01-09
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Yungang Grottoes

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                                  Photographed by Liu Yujun

Located at the southern foot of Wuzhou Mountain, 16 kilometers west of Datong City, Yungang Grottoes were carved into the mountain and extend about one kilometer from east to west. The 45 caves in Yungang Grottoes include some 254 niches with about 51,000 statues. Yugang Grottoes constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art. In March 1961, Yungang Grottoes was proclaimed as one of the first batch of Key Cultural Relics under the protection of Chinese State Council. In December 2001, Yungang Grottoes was included as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In May 2007, Yungang Grottoes was proclaimed as a National AAAAA-grade Tourism Attraction of China. The expansion project in 2010 made Yungang Grottoes a world famous tourist sightseeing destination with its combination of a royal ancient Buddhist cave temple, royal garden and the complex of ancient architecture. Yungang Grottoes, with their complexity, their rich variety and vigorous features constitute a classical masterpiece as one of the three most famous Buddhist cave temples in China. The Yungang cave art represents the successful fusion of Buddhist religions symbolic art from the Buddhist Art of Gandhara (a style of Buddhist visual art that developed in what is now northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan between 1st century BC and the 7th century CE.) with Chinese cultural traditions of the Qin and Han Dynasties. The Buddhist tradition of religious cave art achieved its first major impact at Yungang, where it developed its own distinct character and artistic power. Three main periods of Yungang Grottoes can be identified in the construction: the Early Period (460-465), the Middle Period (471-494) and the Late Period (494-524).

 

The grottoes of the early period are composed of five main caves from Cave 16-20these magnificent and simple caves were dug under the direction of the monk Tanyao and were named after him. Tan Yao Five Caves were constructed between 460-465CE. The layout of these five caves are similar with a U-shaped plan and arched roofs, imitating the thatched sheds in ancient India while on the outer walls thousand of small Buddhist statues are carved. The main images are three generation Buddha (Buddha of Past, Present and Future). The Buddha statues in the early period are giant statues with serene face, big nose and deep eyes taking on an exotic appearance which shows both vigour and simplicity.

    

The grottoes of the middle period were constructed between 471-494 CE. The caves in this period include four groups of twin caves, namely Cave 1 and 2, Cave 5 and 6, Cave 7 and 8, Cave 9 and 10 and one group of triple caves, namely Cave 11, 12, 13 and Cave 3 which was unfinished according to the original plan. There caves are mostly square in plan, usually with chambers both in front and in the rear, some caves have a pillar in the center; carvings on the walls are divided into upper and lower bands and right and left sections. Level caisson ceilings are caved on the roofs in most caves. In this period there was a rapid development of the Han Chinese style and many new subject matters and combinations of statues were introduced, shifting the attention to the creation of Devas images and various kinds of adornment.

   

The grottoes of the late period were constructed after the transference of the capital from Datong to Luoyang in 494 CE, the project continued until 524 CE. The caves in this period are mainly located to the west of Cave 20 and small niches of Cave 4, 14, 15 and 11. In total, over 200 caves and niches were cut in this period. These caves are of medium and small size with varied and complicated irregular shapes. These is a tendency towards simplification of the contents of the statuary and stylizing the forms, but with a new look of delicacy and gracefulness which reflect the main characteristics of Buddhist visual art of the later period of the Northern Wei Dynasty.

             Chinese Edited and English Translated by Datong Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office

                                                            English Revised By Adrian Frost (UK)

云冈石窟

云冈石窟位于大同城西十六公里的武州山南麓,石窟依山开凿,东西绵延一公里,现存大小佛龛254个,主要洞窟45座,造像51000余尊。石窟规模宏大、雕刻艺术精湛,造像内容丰富,形象生动感人,堪称中国佛教艺术的巅峰之作。19613月,云冈石窟被国务院公布为第一批全国重点文物保护单位;200112月,被联合国教科文组织列入《世界文化遗产名录》;20075月,成为国家首批5A级旅游景区。2010年扩建后的云冈大景区集皇家石窟寺、皇家园林、古建筑群于一体,成为具有国际水准的游览圣地。云冈石窟在中国三大石窟中以造像气魄雄伟,内容丰富多彩见称。其雕刻技艺继承并发展了秦、汉时代的艺术传统,并吸取和融合了犍陀罗佛教艺术精华,具有独特的艺术风格。云冈石窟按石窟形制和造像内容、样式的发展,可分为早期,中期和晚期。

云冈早期石窟:即今第16-20窟,亦称昙耀五窟。是当时著名的高僧昙耀开凿的,故得名。昙曜五窟开凿于公元460-465年,洞窟形制基本相同,平面均为马蹄形,顶部为穹隆顶,仿印度草芦形式,外壁满雕千佛。主要造像为三世佛(即过去、现在、未来三世)。佛像高大、面相丰圆、高鼻深目,双肩齐挺,显示出劲健、浑厚、质朴的造像风格。

云冈中期石窟:开凿时间为公元471-494年。主要洞窟有第12窟,第56窟,第78窟,第910窟,第111213窟以及未完工的第3窟。洞窟平面多呈方形或长方形,有的洞窟雕中心塔柱,或具前后室。壁面布局上下分层,左右分段,窟顶多有平綦藻井。雕刻造型追求工整华丽,侧重于护法形象和各种装饰。石窟艺术中国化在这一时期起步并完成全过程。

 云冈晚期石窟:开凿时间为北魏迁都洛阳(公元494年)以后,一直延续到公元524年。洞窟主要分布在20窟以西,包括第4窟、14窟、15窟和11窟以西崖壁上的小龛,约有200余座中小型洞窟。洞窟多为中小型洞窟,造像风格出现一种秀骨清香的艺术形象,成为北魏后期佛教造像的显著特点。

                                                       大同市政府外事侨务办公室编译

                                                                     Adrian Frost()英语审校


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