The Longmen Grottoes, 12km (7 miles) south of Luoyang,
stretch for 1km (0.6 miles) on the west bank of the Yihe River.
The area is a made up of 1,350 caves, bubbling rivers and limestone
According to legend, Luoyang was originally a
large lake surrounded by hills and there are different stories about
how the mountains split and caves formed. One version is that a
young shepherd heard a mysterious voice within the moutains ask
"Shall I open?" Though perplexed, when this incident happened
again, he shouted "Yes". Supposedly, the hills split open
and the lake flowed out to the East Sea and small streams and cliffs
containing statues miraculously appeared.
Others believe that the Great Yu, controller of
floods, split the mountain to release an imprisoned dragon, hence
the name "longmen" or dragon gate.
Modern visitors will be more impressed by the unique natural environment than the legends. Added to nature’s gifts are more than 750 niches and 40 pagodas containing close to 100,000 statues carved from the sheer limestone that borders the Yihe River. The largest of these statues stands over 17 meters (56ft) tall and the smallest is a mere 2cm (0.8 inches).