Tianlongshan Grottoes

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Manshan Pavilion (漫山阁) of the Tianlongshan Grottoes

The Tianlongshan Grottoes (Chinese: 天龙山石窟, pinyin: Tiānlóngshān Shíkū, English translation: Mountain of the Heavenly Dragon) are caves located in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China, that are notable for the Buddhist temples located within them. The temple complex spans two mountains: there are eight grottoes on the eastern mountain and 13 on the western mountain. The complex was constructed over a number of centuries, from the northern Qi dynasty until the Tang dynasty, and contains Buddhist art of high historic importance. The majority of the caves date to the Tang dynasty.[1] The caves have been designated by the government as a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level.


A number of works of Buddhist sculpture survived in the caves, including over 1,500 statues and 1,144 reliefs sculptures.[1] Many of the sculptures are of painted stone.[2] The subject matter includes images of Buddha and bodhisattvas. The caves' Tang sculptures are noted for their soft modeling, sensuous drapery, and naturalism.[3] A connection to the Gandhara style of Buddhist sculpture has been proposed.[2]

Removal of the sculptures[edit]

In the 1920s, a number of the sculptures were removed and sold to collectors abroad.[3] In particular, the publication by Japanese art dealer Yamanaka Sadajirō of a book on the caves' contents led to a sharp increase in collector interest.[4] For this reason, many sculptures originating from Tianlongshan are currently housed in foreign museums.[2]

Sculpture digitization[edit]

The Tianlongshan Grottoes exist today in a damaged state in Taiyuan with so many of the sculptures now missing, that visitors to the caves cannot imagine how they looked in the past. Many of the sculptures from the caves are now in museums around the world. Researchers at the University of Chicago initiated the Tianlongshan Caves Project in 2013 to pursue research and digital imaging of the caves and their sculptures. The Project seeks to record and archive the sculptures and to compile data that can identify the fragments and their places of origin. [5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tianlongshan Grottoes, Taiyuan". Your Gateway Travel to Beijing, China. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Tianlong Shan Cave Temples, Shanxi, China". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b Falco, Angela (2006). Chinese Sculpture. Yale University Press. p. 309. ISBN 0300100655.
  4. ^ Rösch, Petra (2007). Chinese Wood Sculptures of the 11th to 13th centuries: Images of Water-moon Guanyin in Northern Chinese Temples and Western Collections. New York City: Columbia University Press. p. 210. ISBN 383825662X.
  5. ^ "Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago".

Coordinates: 37°44′10″N 112°22′37″E / 37.736°N 112.377°E / 37.736; 112.377