Leigutai Grottoes in Longmen Caves

Leigutai Grottoes in Longmen Caves

The Leigutai Grottoes (擂鼓台石窟), also known as Drum Beating Platform Grottoes, situated within the Eastern Hill of the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, consist of three caves: the Dawanwu Buddha Cave (central cave), the South Cave, and the North Cave. Each cave boasts its unique style and historical significance. Legend has it that there was once a platform above a huge rock at the foot of the Eastern Hill. During the completion ceremony of the Fengxian Temple, Empress Wu Zetian personally led hundreds of officials to Longmen, presiding over a grand consecration ceremony. A large orchestra played drums on this platform, hence it was named Leigutai, and the adjacent caves became known as the Leigutai Grottoes.

The North Cave of Leigutai is one of the earliest and largest tantric carving caves in the Longmen Caves. It houses three large seated Buddhas, each meticulously carved and of immense artistic value. The main Buddha on the central wall wears a precious crown, armlets, a necklace, and draped robes, sitting in a meditative pose on a high pedestal, with a height of 2.45 meters, placed on a 0.9-meter-high lotus pedestal. Additionally, on the south side of the front wall of the North Cave, there is a statue of the Eight-Armed Avalokitesvara, sitting on a circular pedestal, and on the north side, a statue of the Eleven-Headed Avalokitesvara, standing on a circular pedestal.

In the Leigutai Grottoes of the Longmen Caves, the South Cave features a central rectangular pedestal, approximately 3.3 meters in length, adorned with a tantric sculpture of the Mahavairocana Buddha. This Buddha statue, standing around 2.2 meters tall, sits in a meditative posture on a square, tiered pedestal, wearing a cylindrical high crown intricately decorated with exquisite motifs. The Buddha’s serene facial expression, full and rounded features, and downward gaze convey a sense of deep contemplation.

The most captivating aspect of the South Cave lies in its walls adorned with thousands of Buddha statues. These statues, standing at about 0.35 meters in height, are all depicted in seated positions on lotus pedestals, with various hand gestures and adorned with crowns. Each statue exhibits unique expressions and postures, symbolizing different aspects of Buddhist teachings. The exquisite craftsmanship of these Buddha statues is evident in their smooth lines, intricate details, and lifelike representations, showcasing a high level of artistic mastery.

Moving to the Central Cave of Leigutai, also known as the Dawanwu Buddha Cave, it gained its name from the niche inscription of the Dawanwu Buddha images on its lintel. This cave was completed during the Wu Zhou period of the Tang Dynasty (690-704 AD). The main Buddha statue on the central wall of the cave is a seated Maitreya Buddha, depicted with a compassionate expression and dignified demeanor. The cave is adorned with over ten thousand Buddha statues throughout its walls, ceiling, and passageways, portraying various poses and expressions that bring them to life.

Additionally, the Central Cave contains numerous Buddhist scriptures and stories carved into its walls, providing insights into Buddhist teachings and narratives. The cave’s walls are adorned with twenty-five high-relief sculptures of Arhats, with each Arhat accompanied by inscriptions detailing their names and teachings according to the sutras. This rich array of sculptures and inscriptions not only showcases the artistic and religious significance of the Leigutai Grottoes but also offers a glimpse into the spiritual world of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty.

Other Attractions in Longmen Grottoes

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