Yungang Grottoes

I did mention I’d be writing about the Yungang Grottoes, didn’t I? Well here it is! Yungang was my last tourist stop when I was in Datong. I did a little research about the place and I was mildly all right with visiting it – I’m really not much into statues of Gautama Buddha so I was somewhat indifferent. I was looking forward to seeing it, but wasn’t jumping up and down in excitement. When I first saw the entrance to the place, I was like “So what’s so special about it?” – yeah yeah, I know that’s really mean, but can you blame me? Look at the images below, you have to admit that the place looks uninspiring – but this trip made me realise that the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” does not only apply to books (and people), but places as well. Once I entered those gates, I was in for the shock of my life. 🙂

By the way, unlike other entries, the photos here will not be bundled together in one big gallery but in separate ones. It’s better to present Yungang that way. And please click on the images because I’ve put a wee bit more sensible text on each than in my previous posts. 

I wasn’t too impressed at what I saw – I mean, look at them! Holes carved into mountains – how thrilling is that, right? Oh – I did see a few figures carved on the side of the mountain (think Mount Rushmore, only on a much smaller scale) – but these still did not rock my boat.

However, when I stepped inside one “cave” – I was OVERWHELMED! I stood, eye to knee with the BIGGEST STATUE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE! What made it even more awe-inspiring was the fact that this and the cave that houses it were all hand carved. According to Mei-Li, the monks would create a “cave” and from there, start chipping away until Buddha’s form is complete.

And then there were more hidden gems. More holes on the sides of mountains that would reveal caverns filled with intricate carvings – both large and small – showing Buddha’s likeness, or depicting an aspect of his life. The place was simply overwhelming!

And that’s just the right (if you’re facing the main entrance) of the mountain. There’s still the left side, and that had a lot of carvings and statues as well. Unlike the right side where the statues were all inside caves, on the left side of the entrance, the statues were still inside caves, but most looked out of what could be described as a window.

The left side is more popular – more tourists were there, I don’t know why. ANYWAY, according to Mei-Li, by looking at the physical features of the statue, you’d somehow know who the reigning monarch was during the time it was carved. I did notice that some had rounded features, while some were more angular. I won’t mention nationalities anymore – we’ve become too PC and I don’t want to offend anybody. Here are some of the many faces of Buddha, as I saw them at Yungang way back in 2008.

So that’s it. That’s Yungang Grottoes for you. Maybe I’ll pass up on China and write about something I visited while I was in Paris (perhaps, the famous Love Lock Bridge) next?


Author: Viv Phillips

That's not exactly a flattering image. Eh! Anyway, when I'm not taking photos, I do acrylic painting or write about my adventures (and misadventures) in this wonderful journey called life. :)

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