Listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001, Yungang Grottoes is located 16km west to Datong city in Shanxi. Built in Northern Wei Dynast (368 – 534), Yungang Grottoes is the big-scale grotto temple relics at that time. Its Buddhist culture and art involve in architecture, history, music and other sides. Yungang Grottoes represents the highest achievement in Buddhist art in 5th to 6th century, and it’s the essence of oriental sculpture art and the example of perfection combination of Chinese and Western cultures. It is one of the top three grottoes in China, along with Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang and Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang.
All caves of Yungang Grottoes are hollowed out of the mountain and extend about one kilometer from east to west. There are 45 major grottoes in total and 209 secondary caves, with about 1100 niches and 51000 statues. The biggest statue is 17 meters high and the smallest one is only 2 centimeters high. The caves can be divided into three parts: east part, middle part and west part, and the east and middle grottoes are the essence.
The whole scenic spot of Yungang Grottoes can be divided into the Caves Area and Scenic Area. Of course, the most exciting part is the Cave Area.
At present, the Cave Area of Yungang Grottoes has 45 caves open to public, and they are the main attractions in the scenic spot. The major 45 caves are numbered consecutively from east to west, and the east part has Cave No.1 ~ No.4, middle part has Cave No.5 ~ No.20 and the rest belong to the west part. Normally, the visiting route starts from Cave 1 of the east part, then go west to visit the rest caves. The biggest and most beautiful caves are located in east and middle part (from Cave 1 to Cave 20); while in the west part, there are mainly small caves and niches.
The regular route chose by most travelers are: Tan Yao Square – Lingyan Temple – Premier Zhou Enlai Memorial Hall – Grottoes (Caves Area) – Yungang Shadow Puppets Museum – Yungang Gallery – Performing Arts Center – Food & Money Street. This route will cost about half day. If you have enough time, you can taste the local food in Food & Money Street and take a short rest here.
If your visiting time is limited, like 2 hours, then it’s suggest to visit only Cave No.5 and No.6,Cave No.9 to No.13 and Cave No.16 to No.20. These caves are the most classical caves of Yungang Grottoes.
Cave No.5 and Cave No.6 are double caves excavated between 465 ~ 494. The sitting Buddha statue in the back cave of Cave No.5 is 17 meters high and it’s the largest statue of Yungang Grottoes. Cave No.6 is richly decorated and is praised as “the most spectacular one” in Yungang. In the caves, there are 33 plots carved to tell the life story of Sakyamuni, from the birth of Sakyamuni to how he became a monk and then the Buddha. The rich content and superb sculpture skill make Cave No.6 one of the representatives of Yungang Grottoes.
Cave No.9 to No.13 are commonly known as Five Resplendent Caves (Wuhua Caves: 五华洞). The only colored sculptures in the Yungang Grottoes are in here. Among the five caves, Cave No.12 may be the most striking one due to its strong artistic atmosphere. Cave No.12 is also called “Cave of Music”, and it carved the musical instruments, their playing style as well as the types of band combination of Northern Wei Dynasty, which reveal the court orchestra and social music system at that time.
Cave No.16 to No.20 is also known as Tan Yao Caves, which were constructed under the command of the famous monk Tan Yao. The five caves are the earliest caves of Yungang Grottoes, built from 460 ~ 470. It’s said that to manifest the imperial power of the royal family of Northern Wei Dynasty, every cave had sculptured one giant Tathagata statue to represent five emperors of Northern Wei Dynasty. The five caves are the representative works of Yungang Grottoes, among them, Cave No.20 is the highlight. Cave No.20 has no roof for its front wall and ceiling were collapsed long time ago. 13.7 meters high sitting Buddha statue is a must-see among all the caves.
Yungang Grottoes is located 16 km to the west of Datong city center, while Datong Airport is 15.2km to the city center and 33km to Yungang Grottoes. The airport has flights to most popular cities, like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Haikou, etc. The most convenient way is taking a taxi and it will take about 1 hour to transfer.
Datong Railway Station is very close to Yungang Grottoes, normally, it will take about half hour drive to transfer. Travelers can take the tourism lines from the railway station to Yungang Grottoes, and the departure time of the travel bus is from 06:00 to 18:40.
Distance to other attractions:
70km to Hanging Temple
60km to Yingxian Wooden Pagoda
The average temperature of Shanxi is lower than its neighbor province due to its high elevation. Annual precipitation is little and there is a large temperature difference between day and night; in spring, it’s very windy and dusty here. So the best travel time is from May to October.
Tour Guide Service: traveler can find tour guide in Chinese, English and Japanese in the south hall of Tourist Service Center. There are about 70 tour guides in total. Traveler can also use wireless guiding microphone service, which will introduce the attraction automatically according to your position.
Guide fee: RMB 150/group for all the scenic area, including the Exhibition Center.
Microphone rental: deposit: RMB 300 every 10 persons; MIC rental fee: RMB 20 ever 10 persons.
Automatic guide: deposit: RMB 100/person; rent: RMB 10/person for Chinese, RMB 40/person for English.
Bag Depository: traveler can deposit bags at the north hall of Tourist Service Center by presenting the ticket of Yungang Grottoes and valid ID (passport). The deposit is free, and dangerous articles are prohibited to deposit while valuables are not suggested to deposit. All deposits shall be picked on the same day they are stored. Time: 8:30 ~ 16:30.
Broadcasting Service: in the Tourist Service Center, there is a broadcasting studio which is responsible to play music, weather forecast and sightseeing instructions. The studio can supply free announcement services for lost and found.
Medical Service: the medical clinic is located in the northwest corner of the Tourist Service Center, and it will provide common used medicines and other medical services. When the scenic area is open to the public, there is one professional doctor and nurse on duty.
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