A Look into the Yungang Grottoes
During the Northern Wei Dynasty 1,500 -1,600 years ago, the sandstone cliffs of the Wuzhou Mountains outside of Datong, Northern China were carved with thousands of Buddhist deities. The Yungang Grottoes were a Buddhist pilgrimage site. There are more than fifty major caves and tens of thousands of niches in which first the Imperial Court and subsequently private, wealthy patrons paid for Buddhist images to be carved into the cliff face. Some of these Buddhas are small, and some are monumental. In 1986 (when these photographs were taken), many were showing evidence of time and destruction. The Grottoes are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. When so much of world history no longer survives, these caves do, and they capture a mysterious and elegant story from that history.