Friday 9 August – Longmen Grottos
The Longmen Caves, or grottos, were started in the late 5th century after Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty moved the capital to Luoyang. They stretch for 1km along the west bank of the Yi River.
The work continued for 500 years and there are 1,350 caves, 750 niches and 40 pagodas which, together, contain some 110,000 sculptures.
Over the centuries the caves have suffered from significant vandalism and looting. This started with the anti-Buddhist movement of the 9th century and latterly included the activities of souvenir-hunting westerners in the 19th and 20th centuries. The destruction culminated in attacks by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. In 2000 the Longmen Caves were designated a World Heritage Site.
From the west bank of the River Yi, a bridge leads to the east bank for a fine view of the caves. Up the hill is the tomb of Bai Juyi, the famous Tang poet, who spent his last years in Luoyang as the Retired Scholar of the Fragrant Hill.
In the afternoon we caught the bullet train to Xian, our next destination.