The UNESCO certified Longmen Grottoes is the incredible collection of tens of thousands of Buddhas carved in to the limestone cliffs over the Li River. The carvings, differing in size from 2.5cm to a staggering 17 metres (57ft), were all carried out between 493AD to 1127 AD under the auspices of the different dynasties who ruled China from Luoyang.
The ticket office is rather inconveniently located 2km from the entrance and after purchasing your ticket you must walk (it’s a pleasant enough stroll along the river) or take one of the battery operated tourist buggies that go back and forth (10RMB).
It’s also possible to take a river cruise in the summer months and admire the site from a different perspective.
The site runs from north to south with the Longmen Grottoes predominantly located on the west bank of the river and a few over the bridge on the east side. The length of the site is 1km and the round trip is about 5km if you walk the whole thing (2km if you take the buggies).
After getting to the main entrance, the walk takes you along the West side of the river, where wooden steps and elevated walkways enable a closer look at the carved statues.
The Guyang Cave (Guyangdong or ‘Old Sun Cave’) is the largest and oldest of the Longmen Grottoes, with the first carvings being dated to 478AD. The central Buddha figure is 17 metres (57 feet) tall. To give you a sense of scale, the ears alone are over two metres tall!
As you make your way through the grottoes you will notice that many of the heads are missing or have been vandalized. Unfortunately during the “cultural” revolution these were destroyed by over-zealous communists with no sense of history, much like ISIS desecrating antiquities in Iraq and Syria today.
Tours to Longmen Grottoes
Take the hassle out of visiting the Longmen Grottoes with a tour. Our partners at Get Your Guide can offer tours starting from from Luoyang or Xi’an. Click on the below links for details and price.
Practicalities at Longmen Grottoes
Tickets: The Longmen Grottoes make an excellent day out and the 100RMB entrance ticket includes access to the beautiful hidden gardens as well as the multitude of caves and a small museum.
Facilities: There are toilets, gift shops and refreshment outlets scattered throughout the site.
How to get to Longmen Grottoes
Getting to Luoyang:
Luoyang benefits from a great location in central China meaning nothing is off limits. There is a small airport a few km north of the city with daily flights to Beijing and a few other Chinese destinations, but Luoyang is best served by its two train stations (central and Longmen).
You can reach Beijing in under four hours by fast rain, Shanghai in five hours and even Hong Kong in eight hours (well, Shenzhen and you will cross the border by bus). Tickets are cheap (an example fare from Beijing to Luoyang is 300RMB for a 2nd class seat) and the trains are modern and comfortable. If you want to save money on accommodation, simply book the overnight trains and travel in comfort, waking up at your destination.
For more information on train travel, see my in depth article covering all you need to know about taking the train in China.
Getting to the grottoes:
To get to Longmen you can take bus number 60 from Mudan Square or anywhere on Nanchang Road (60 minutes – 1RMB) or take a taxi (30 minutes – don’t pay more than 50RMB).
Other Luoyang Attractions:
See the stunning White Horse Temple with it’s Chinese, Thai, Indian and Burmese temples scattered throughout the grounds.
Visit the tombs of Emperors and admire thousand-year-old frescoes at the Luoyang Museum of Ancient art.
Hang out with martial-arts monks at the Shaolin Monestery, the birthplace of Kung-Fu!
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