Jingshan Temple Cave in Longmen Grottoes

Jingshan Temple Cave in Longmen Grottoes

Jingshan Temple Cave (敬善寺洞), one of the significant caves directly commissioned by the Tang Dynasty imperial family, holds a prominent position within the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang. Carved during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang, between the years 656 to 663 AD, this cave bears a profound royal background, with its main benefactor being Wei, one of Emperor Taizong‘s consorts. It derives its name from the inscription of “Jingshan Temple Stone Statue Inscription” authored by Li Xiaolun, a captain of the guard, carved within its walls.

Structurally, the Jingshan Temple Cave comprises front and rear chambers. The entrance of the front chamber is adorned with two guardian deities and two bodhisattvas, each displaying distinctive personalities and masterful craftsmanship. The rear chamber, serving as the main hall, features a central statue of Amitabha Buddha seated in the lotus position, towering at approximately two meters. The serene countenance of the Buddha radiates tranquility and dignity, showcasing the exceptional skill and profound cultural heritage of ancient artisans.

The cave is adorned with a remarkable array of sculptures, with the main chamber housing 53 seated bodhisattvas, each seated on a lotus pedestal interconnected by stems, forming a unique “One Buddha Fifty Bodhisattvas” composition. This exquisite artwork exemplifies the rich imagination and outstanding carving techniques of ancient artists. Additionally, the Jingshan Temple Cave preserves a plethora of carvings depicting Buddhist stories and imperial worship scenes, providing invaluable material for understanding ancient Buddhist culture and courtly life.

Interestingly, the head of the Amitabha Buddha statue in the Jingshan Temple Cave appears darker in color compared to the rest of the body. Experts reveal that the current head of the Buddha statue was not originally carved during the Tang Dynasty but was instead reconstructed using cement by experts from the Longmen Grottoes Research Institute in 1958. The authentic head of the Buddha statue, measuring 39 centimeters in height, was stolen and lost overseas in the first half of the 20th century and is currently housed in the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts in Japan.

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