The Longmen Grottoes are located 12km south of present day Luoyang. The grottoes, which overwhelmingly depict Buddhist subjects, are densely dotted along the two mountains: Xiangshan (to the east) and Longmenshan (to the west). The Yi River flows northward between them. From north to south, the distance covered by grottoes is about 1km. There are over 2100 niches, more than 100,000 statues, some 40 pagodas and 3600 tablets and steles in the caves of Guyang, Binyang and Lianhua. Along with the Mogao Caves andYungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites in China.
Carving began in the 5th century when the Wei dynasty moved its capital from Datong (where they created the famous Yungang Groto) to Luoyang. At this time, Chinese Buddhism was reaching its first peak, and the emperor was a pious believer. Carving continued after the Wei dynasty and the Tang Dynasty witnessed the second peak of Buddhist belief.
There are two types of the cave sculptures that one third of them are in Northern Wei Dynasty style while two thirds of them are in Tang Dynasty style. Although this cave was built in the ancient time, the influence of the foreign culture can be found in the grotto art. This exotic culture helped the development of this traditional Chinese art. Differences between the Northern Wei and Tang styles are also obvious. Typical Northern Wei style Buddhist statues emphasize on the simple simple and compact depictions while the cave sculptures of the Tang Dynasty are of a vigorous, elegant and realistic style. The stone statues in Fengxian Cave, carved under the edict of Empress Wuzetian (reigned 690-705), can be considered as the most typical of the period. These are composed of a 17.14-meter-high statue of Vairocana Buddha, and a series of pairs of Bodhisattvas, heavenly kings, protectors and worshippers. The huge statue of Vairocana Buddha is today praised as being the quintessence of Buddhist sculpture in China.
After 1,500 years, Longmen Grottoes is still magnificent. Its rich content reflects from different aspects the development and changes in ancient China's politics, economy, religion and culture. It has contributed tremendously to the creation and development of Chinese grotto art.