The Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang Province in central China is one of three main Buddhist cave complexes in the country; the other two being the Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi Province, and the Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang in Gansu Province.
Of the three though it is the Longmen Grottoes which are regarded as containing the peak of Chinese Buddhist art. The complex itself is huge, almost 12km from end to end, carved out of the limestone cliffs over a period of more than 400 years.
Unfortunately the rise of the European art market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, saw mass looting at the site for artifacts that could be sold to foreign collectors and museums, and most of these have never been returned.
Meanwhile nearly 100 of the grottoes suffered serious damage, hundreds of Buddha and Bodhisattva statues were stolen, and more than a thousand were destroyed.
What remains, however, which is substantial, points to the amazing achievements of Buddhist art in the medieval period, when Buddhism itself was at the height of its influence in China.
This documentary from China Central Television gives within its short compass a tour of the caves and their history, and the efforts now being made to restore and catalogue the remaining artworks.
The film is narrated in Mandarin, but has English subtitles, which are adequate for gaining a better understanding of this World Heritage Site, which is probably the most accessible of the cave sites in China.
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