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The Crazy Craftsmen of the Yungang Grottoes

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya Wow! Let's talk grottoes shall we! You know stone carvings, carvings in stone, stones, carvings and a billion Buddha's! Early morning found Jiang Ni and myself out front of the train station trying to find the right bus that would take us to the Yungang Caves (Datong Grottoes). We asked a million people and received a million different answers and thankfully some of them were bus numbers. It is strange the answers you get when you ask someone what BUS NUMBER or BUS to take to get you somewhere. Especially when you have a Chinese person asking another Chinese person. One person said after, 'lunch' another said 'to take the train' and the best answer was that 'we should ask the bus driver'. That was strange as Jiang Ni was asking a bus driver. He obviously forgot his occupation and maybe thought he was a tram driver in a city that has no trams! And so many people ask me why I don't learn Chinese. Mate, they have enough trouble trying to understand each other! All China needs is for me to step in and unleash my Chinese on them! Most of the time when I do use it the person thinks I'm speaking English! This gave Li Ping (Joyce) many hours of laughter in Shaowu. I'd ask for something in Chinese and the person would look at me and automatically say 'I don't understand I don't understand' (in Chinese of course). I'd try again and they'd say they don't speak English. Li Ping would laugh and ask for the same thing using the same Chinese words and they would give it to her straight away and I'd say, but that's what I said! HHHHHhhhhhmmmmm! Today the other usual happened also. When people see me they automatically think that the Chinese girl I am with can not speak Chinese. She looks Chinese but obviously she can't speak or understand Chinese because she is a foreigner just like me. It is funny the reaction on peoples faces when she begins to blurt out questions in Chinese and tells them that she is from such and such a Chinese city. Anyhow, after a good while we finally figured out we could actually catch the bus we had been standing beside for the last forty minutes. At least we found out before it left. So for those who want to know the latest information on how to travel the thirty minutes from Datong City to the Grottoes you no longer have to take a bus from Xinkaili Bus station. Well you can if you are near that station, but if you are near the train station like we are you can actually take Bus Number 3 - 2. Yes, that is right, it is how I have written it 3 - 2. Some Chinese will tell you 222 but that doesn't mean bus number 222 like I thought and for twenty mintues I was looking for bus number 222. They will say San Gar Er which doesn't mean bus number 32 or 222! It simply means bus number 3 - 2 and it even took Jiang Ni awhile to figure this one out! So Grottoes hey! Last summer I visited the Louyang Grottoes and a year later I visted the Datong Grottoes. I kind of got it the wrong way around. I should have visited the Datong Grottoes first as they were carved first. They began somewhere between AD400 and AD430 and for the next sixty years a heap of freaky people spent their lives carving somewhere up to fifty thousand Buddhist statues into the Datong cliff face. Then to their despair someone made a decision that would have really pissed them off in a big way. One of the big guys sat up and said, Um..... Nice work guys, I mean this is simply fabulous! I really like what you have done with the place, I really do! I guess someone forgot to tell you, we are moving the capital to Louyang! So around AD494 hammers and chisels were put down and I'm sure many of those who had spent the last sixty years of their lives creating master pieces for the Emperor jumped off the same cliff face they had been sleeping in and those that didn't jump moved their carving equiptment to the new capital of Louyang City. For the next two hundred years they and some other freaky people carved over one hundred thousand Buddha images into the stone cliff faces at Louyang City. Then one day The Big Guy sat up and said, Hey, I'm sick of this place, its time for some new scenery. Let's move the capital! He then ran down to the Louyang Grottoes and said; Um, Nice work guys, I mean this is simply fabulous! I really like what you have done with the place, I really do! I guess someone forgot to tell you, we are moving the capital to Linzhang! So around AD534 hammers and chisels were put down and I'm sure many of those who had spent the last many years of their lives creating master pieces for the Emperor jumped off the same cliff they had been sleeping in and those that didn't jump moved their carving equipment to the new capital of Linzhang City. So within sixty years fifty thousand carvings had been created in two hundred and fifty two small caves in a cliff face around one kilometer long in Wuzhou Shan (Wuzhou Mountain) half and hour from what is now known as Datong City. So, get your family and friends together, choose a mountain near your home, grab your shovels and picks and give that ago! Jiang Ni and I spent the evening walking around the very crowded streets around Red Flag Square which I guess is the city's Peoples Square. The sidewalks were lined with market stalls and 'You Buy You Buy' people selling their wares. We slowly moved in the general direction of the crowd and around eleven we began our journey back towards the train station down Da Bijie and Caochangcheng Jie. What a beautiful end to an adventurous day! Beers N Noodles toya.....shane _________________________________________________________ The soundtrack to this entry was by Mr Bruce Springsteen The album was his ultimate album 'Blues' __________________________________________________________ <u>Yungang Shiku Caves/Grottoes:</u> The Yungang Grottoes are ancient Buddhist temple grottoes near the city of Datong in the Chinese province of Shanxi. They are excellent examples of rock-cut architecture and one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites of China. The others are Longmen and Mogao. The site is located about 16 km south-west of the city, in the valley of the Shi Li river at the base of the Wuzhou Shan mountains. The grottoes were mainly constructed in the period between 460-525 AD during the Northern Wei dynasty. They are an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes. In 2001, the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site The Yungang Grottoes is considered by UNESCO a "masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art... [and] ...represent the successful fusion of Buddhist religious symbolic art from south and central Asia with Chinese cultural traditions, starting in the 5th century CE under Imperial auspices." Yungang Grottoes, one of the three major cave clusters in China, punctuate the north cliff of Wuzhou Mountain, Datong. The area was excavated along the mountain, extending 1 km (0.62 miles) from east to west, revealing 53 caves and over 51,000 stone statues. The Caves are divided into east, middle, and west parts. Pagodas dominate the eastern parts; west caves are small and mid-sized with niches. Caves in the middle are made up of front and back chambers with Buddha statues in the center. Embossing covers walls and ceilings. Started in 450, Yungang is a relic of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Absorbing Indian Gandhara Buddhist art, Yungang sculptures developed traditional Chinese art melded with social features of the time. During the reign of Emperor Xiao Wen a monk named Tanyao took charge of the construction of Yungang Grottoes. The largest cave is No.6. In the 20-meter (65.6-foot)-high cave stands a 15-meter (49.2-foot)-high pagoda-like column decorated with Buddha statues and designs. On the four sides of the tower pillar, and on the east, south and west walls of the cave, 33 embossed panels depict the story of Saykamuni. Caves worth special attention are No.16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Upon Tan Yao's suggestion, five statues of Emperors Taizu, Taizong, Shizu, Gaozong, and Gaozu as Buddha express the religious theme that the Emperor is Buddha. Caves housing these statues are known as the Five Tan Yao Caves, similar in style but not identical. The statue in Cave 20 is martial and stately, No.19 handsome and elegant, while No.18 is dignified but lively. Their similarity lies in their thick lips, big noses, slanted eyes and broad shoulders depicting the ethnic culture of the time. Yungang Grottoes graphically tell the story of past glory.

Yungang Grottoes Datong

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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