Buddhist Grottoes in China

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The author, who has taken photos for grottoes throughout China for a dozen years, has recorded the vast majority of grottoes discovered in China. In addition to Buddhas and Buddhist grottoes, he also recorded the world where the sentient beings live with his camera, linking the emotions and lives of human beings, as well as the fleeting time with elegant and mysterious Buddhas, and enabling the heavenly Buddhas to walk into the life of common people and become a part of their daily life in a vivid and cordial manner. “Those photos give priority to the life of people focused by Buddhas instead of Buddhas themselves while taking Buddhas as the theme.” In his photos, we can see not only the Buddhas, but also the history of Buddhist grottoes in China and the everlasting daily life of Chinese people.

About Author
Yuan Rongsun
Yuan Rongsun is the member of China Photographers Association, Vice-president of Chengdu Photography Artist Association, contracted photographer of Chinese National Geography, and Adjunct Professor of the School of Architecture and Design, Southwest Jiaotong University. Having being engaged in photography for decades, he takes Buddhist grottoes as his photographic subject. Mr. Yuan, who has taken part in photographic exhibitions and held personal exhibitions nationwide for a dozen times, has published Qianghong (A Red Stripe of Qiang People to Pray for Good Luck), Tranquil Mountains: Grottoes of Buddhist Sculptures, and Solemn Figures in Tranquil Valleys: Grottoes of Buddhist Sculptures in China Throughout History, among which the Solemn Figures in Tranquil Valleys has been granted the Excellent Photo Book Award of Pingyao International Photography Festival.
Table of Contents
Stepping into the Long History of the Grottoes for Buddhist Sculptures_10
Grotto Art, the History Carved on Rocks_001
Chapter I
Sixteen States of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420): Introduction of Buddhist Scriptures from the West
1 Subhash Buddhist Temple_ 017
2 Kizil Thousand-Buddha Grottoes_ 019
3 Grottoes on Mount Wenshu_ 020
4 Grottoes in Mati Temple_ 024
5 Grottoes in Jinta Temple_ 026
Chapter II
The Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589): Integration with Traditional Chinese Style
6 Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang _ 032
7 Bingling Temple Grottoes_ 038
8 Yungang Grottoes_ 040
9 Grottoes on Mount Yangtou_ 044
10 Dafo Temple in Xinchang_ 046
11 Wanfotang Grottoes_ 049
12 Gongxian Grottoes_ 050
13 North Grotto Temple in Qingyang _ 052
14 Grottoes in Shigong Temple_ 055
15 Grottoes in Shima Temple_ 056
16 Grottoes on Mount Tianlong_ 059
17 Grottoes in Kaihe Temple_ 060
18 Grottoes on North Mount Xiangtang_ 062
19 Grottoes on South Mount Xiangtang_ 064
20 Thousand-Buddha Cliff of Mount Qixia_ 066
21 Western Thousand-Buddha Grottoes_ 068
22 Lashao Temple and Thousand-Buddha Grottoes_ 070
23 Grottoes on Mount Xumi_ 072
24 Grottoes in Longwo Temple_ 076
Chapter III
The Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-907): the Flourishing of Buddhism
25 Maiji Mountain Grottoes _ 082
26 Grottoes on Mount Tuoshan in Qingzhou_ 085
27 Lingquan Temple Rock Carvings _ 088
28 Xikan Grottoes of Bazhong _ 091
29 Grottoes in Huangze Temple _ 092
30 Thousand-Buddha Cliff in Guangyuan_ 094
31 Grottoes on Mount Tianti _ 097
32 Thousand-Buddha Cliff in Zitong _ 098
33 Longmen Grottoes _ 100
34 Shikong Buddha Temple _ 104
35 Charalupu Grotto _ 106
36 Kunfo (Sleeping Buddha) Temple Grottoes _ 108
37 Buddha Bay in Yibin _ 112
38 Leshan Giant Buddha _ 114
39 Buddha Temple in Langzhong _ 117
40 Buddha on Mount Banyue _ 119
41 Giant Buddha Temple of Rongxian County _ 120
42 Suspended Sculpture of Reclining Buddha at Diaoyu Fortress _ 122
43 Reclining Buddha Temple in Anyue _ 124
44 Grottoes of Feixian Pavilion _ 128
45 Shengshui Temple in Neijiang _ 130
46 Donglin Temple in Neijiang _ 133
47 Rock Carvings on Jianshanzi in Dazu County _ 134
48 Grottoes on Yaoshi (Pharmacist) of Mount Feifeng _ 135
49 Grottoes on Mount Jinhua _ 137
50 Cliff Sculptures of Achi Temple _ 138
51 Grottoes of Shuining Temple _ 140
52 Grottoes on Mount Zhonglong _ 143
53 Grottoes on Mount Xianglong _ 145
54 Dujiawan Grottoes _ 146
55 Suoluobian Cliff Sculptures _ 149
56 Thousand-Buddha Cliff of Wuqiao _ 150
57 Niujiaozhai Grottoes _ 152
58 Sharencao Cliff Sculptures _ 155
59 Grottoes in Chongxiang Temple _ 156
60 Grottoes of Mount Kandeng _ 158
61 Liuzui Grottoes in Danling _ 160
62 Zhengshan Grottoes _ 164
63 Ancient Buddha Temple in Rongxian County_ 166
64 Tianluoshi Grottoes in Longquan _ 168
65 Thousand-Buddha Cliff in Jiajiang County _ 170
66 Grottoes on Mount Taipeng _ 172
67 Grottoes on Mount Shibao in Jianchuan County _ 174
68 Xishan Cliff Sculptures in Guilin _ 176
69 Cliff Sculptures of Huanzhu Cave _ 179
70 Grottoes in Niuxian Temple _ 180
71 Shaxi Grottoes _ 183
72 Yulin Grottoes in Guazhou County _ 184
73 Bodhisattva Stone in Zigong _ 187
74 Thousand-Buddha Temple in Chongkan Town _ 188
75 Tongtianyan Grottoes _ 190
Chapter IV
The Five Dynasties (907-960) and the Song Dynasty (960-1279): Final Excellence in the Most Flourishing Period
76 Grottoes of Lingyou Temple _ 197
77 Sculptures in Quanzhou _ 198
78 Grottoes of Donggar and Piyang _ 202
79 Sculpture Complex of Sleeping Buddha on the Cliff in Tangxian County _ 205
80 Cliff Sculptures at Erfo Temple _ 207
81 Grottoes on Mount Zhongshan _ 208
82 Grottoes of Muti Temple _ 211
83 Cliff Sculptures of Mingshan Temple _ 212
84 Peacock Cave Grotto _ 216
85 Grottoes on Diecai Hill _ 219
86 Ten-Thousand-Buddha Grottoes in Mizhi County _ 221
87 Grotto for Three Saints of Hua-yan in Anyue _ 222
88 Grottoes in Thousand-Buddha Stockade _ 229
89 Vairocana Cave _ 230
90 Yuanjue Cave _ 235
91 Grotto in Wan’an Temple _ 237
92 Ten-thousand-Buddha Cave Grottoes in Yan’an _ 238
93 Yanfu Temple Rock Carvings _ 240
94 Rock Carvings on Mount Beishan in Dazu County _ 242
95 Rock Carvings on Mount Baoding in Dazu County _ 246
96 Rock Carvings on Mount Shimen in Dazu County _ 248
97 Tongnan Giant Buddha _ 252
98 Cliff Sculptures on Stone Buddha Rock _ 254
Chapter V
The Yuan (1271-1368) and the Qing Dynasties (1636-1911): Decline of Buddhist Grotto Art
99 Grottoes on Feilai Peak in Lingyin Temple _ 261
100 Danzishi Grottoes _ 263
101 Thousand-Buddha Cliff in Dazu _ 264
102 Sculptures of Stone Buddha Temple _ 265
103 Cliff Sculptures at Gouwang Stockade _ 266
104 Sanxian Cave _ 269
105 Cliff Sculptures on Mount Yuchan _ 271
106 Giant Buddha Mount on Baxian _ 273
Chapter VI
The Republic of China (1912-1949) to This Day : Revival of Buddhis Grotto
107 Reclining Buddha on Mount Malong _ 279
108 Giant Buddha on Mount Lingyun _ 280
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Stepping into the Long History of the Grottoes for Buddhist Sculptures

Yuan Rongsun

In the early 1980s, I made close contact with rock carvings for the first time. I rode pillion on my uncle’s Yamaha 125 motorbike, which was rarely seen in Chengdu at that time, to visit Dazu Rock Carvings. In those days, Chongqing was not yet separated from Sichuan. It took us a day to get Mount Baoding in Dazu Town (the current Dazu District) through the winding Chengdu-Chongqing Highway. As an energetic young man, I was not brought down the fatigue of travel, and I took up my Seagull Camera 4B to take photos right after our arrival. My shooting at that time was on a whim, and I even didn’t know what the object I shot was. I used out 2 rolls of 120 black-and-white films just for recording our visit there. I’ve never expected that this would foreshadow my systematical shooting on the grotto sculptures 20 years later. I was deeply impressed by the exquisite sculptures and the dignified but benignant Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Afterwards, photography came into my life. I was addicted to recording landscapes, local customs, ancient towns or folk-customs, even rock carvings with my camera. I was suddenly enlightened by a tour to an ancient country road in 2005. An ancient sculpture, which was covered by moss in the grass on a desolate mountain, attracted me. Although it was weathered and damaged, its benign smile was discernible. The waterlogged track of horse on the flagging revealed the long story of the Buddha and all sentient beings. Instantly, I felt nothing but the voice of the Buddha, and it was just like the blowing of breeze. Thus, the idea of taking photos for grottoes popped into my head. I was infatuated with the carvings, which suffered from thousand years of wind erosion, on sculptures, the charm of such mineral pigment as vermilion, azurite and malachite remained on cliff inscriptions as well as ancient trees and benevolent Bodhisattva sculptures in the wilds, particularly the elegant, solemn and quiet expressions of those have seen which have been the rise and fall in history. I began to systematically study and take photos for the grottoes in Bashu Area (current Sichuan and Chongqing). How time flies! More than ten years has passed since I tramped over hills and valleys to visit grotto sculptures spread across Southwest China, and travelled to a lot of places to track down the trace for the spreading of the grottoes of Buddhist sculptures.
During the long course of history, the statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have experienced the vicissitude of life. Ten years is only an instant in a thousand-year history for those grottoes. Ten years of shooting is an epitome of the development and evolution of contemporary society, which is intimate but unfamiliar to us. Pilgrims, who came and went in an endless stream in the past, are decreased in number gradually in the mountains, fields. Rural customs are going to disappear, leaving behind only Buddha sculptures as time goes by. The unique features of a local environment always give special characteristics to its inhabitants. The Buddha and all living creatures have been in endless succession since ancient times. The Buddha blesses all living creatures and fixes eyes on their pains and gains, joy and sorrows. People living with those Buddhist grottoes for generations enshrine and worship the Buddha devotionally to achieve spiritual consolation; nevertheless, the Buddhist grottoes, which bear the belief of all worshippers, are walled in compounds, parks or plazas. Now they are only visited by rushed tourists and passersby.
The art of grotto sculpture is a history book on rocks, which integrates religion, architecture, costumes, sculpture art and cultural history. Taking photos for Buddhist grottoes records not only Buddha sculptures but also the history about those sculptures and the long-lasting stories between the Buddha and all the worshippers. It is my long-cherished wish to taking photos for the culture of grottoes in the continuously changing society, to record the humanistic environment and vivid history for the art of grotto and to collect significant and reliable photos in the Internet era and in the context of globalization. Spiritual veneration is not only religious worship, but the devotion to human culture and civilization. During the evolutionary process of human civilization, beliefs and religions concern not only the origin of human civilization, but also the important driving force for the development of social civilization.
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