buddhist cave art in the yungang grottoes

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With Le back into full-time work, time has just been slipping away. It has been over six months since we returned from our last overseas trip and we just are getting edgy to plan our next one.

At the moment, we have a few short local getaways planned but we are hoping for an overseas trip at some point for 2-3 weeks at the end of the year. We’ll see how it pans out.

In the meantime, let’s go down memory lane for a little bit. We thought we would look back on a UNESCO site that we visited back in 2012….

It was April 2012, and we were in China. We were rather unaware that it was still going to be COLD…. So very very cold!

The day we went to Yungang Grottoes it was absolutely freezing and windy. We can recall so clearly how we had the hoods of our windbreakers pulled tightly over our “beanied” heads, our scarves wrapped around our necks and up around our faces… just enough to reveal our eyes.


The cold air was slicing through us despite our multiple layers…

But walking around the grottoes in that cold air was worth it! It was worth every teeth chatter, it was worth every shiver, it was worth the sting on our cheeks from the wind.

Before arriving at the caves, we walk down a path with tall majestic carved columns, then over a bridge with the frozen lake below.


We had no idea what we were in for…


There are more than 250 caves and more than 50 000 carved statues of all shapes and sizes. Impossible to see them all in the time we had there.

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The sizes of the statues vary from tiny to massive – some are inside the caves while others are outside.

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The level of detail on the carvings was mindboggling. And to think this artwork dates back to the 5th and 6th Century, it had us in complete awe.

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The visit to these grottoes was definitely an experience to remember for many reasons. By the end of that day, our cheeks were frozen solid!


Yungang Grottoes was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2001.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list



27 thoughts on “buddhist cave art in the yungang grottoes

    Andrew said:
    May 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    imagine being a rock carver. One little mistake and you have to chisel everything back and start again, pushing Buddha deeper and deeper into the rock face!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 25, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      Yeh… we do wonder at how these carvers coped when it didn’t turn out the way they envisaged…could it be.. as you suggested – these were how some of the statues ended up in “caves” (man-mad caves maybe) 😉

    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) said:
    May 15, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Those grotto carvings are just amazing -I’m always absolutely stunned to see how talented people could be hundreds of years ago before moderm technology to be able to produce sights like this!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 18, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Yes… there are so many talented people in this world, past and present! But those from the past where they used only their minds and body to produce such amazing work that is still standing… Definitely mind-blowing!

    Curt Mekemson said:
    May 14, 2015 at 3:44 am

    Wow, 50,000 statues! It would indeed be a sight I would like to see. –Curt

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 14, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      Crazy statistic, huh?? But if you think about it… look at the little Buddha’s carved in the wall… there re easily thousands on that wall alone! Hope you have been well, Curt!

    Forestwoodfolkart said:
    May 13, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Amazingly incredible. Superhuman and mind boggling awesome. An extraordinary feat. All these words don’t fully explain my reaction to this post. The dedication and skill these craftsmen exhibit end defies belief. And Yet I have not heard of it before…..A treasure I hope is preserved for future generations.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 14, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      You used such accurate words to describe the workmanship. We are always so blown away by the talent of those that came before us… the intricacies and patience – almost hard to fathom in this fast-paced world we live in. We too hope that it can stay preserved for generations to come so that it can be appreciated by many more people. We are glad that we have shared something that you have not heard before 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend ahead!

    Gypsy Bev said:
    May 13, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Truly remarkable statues and writing! It’s remarkable for them to be in such good condition considering their age. That would really be something worth viewing.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 13, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      Yes, the way they have kept is astounding. We were simply humbled walking around and amongst these statues.

        Gypsy Bev said:
        May 14, 2015 at 11:28 am

        I can’t help but think about the people who made them. What were they like? How did they live? Oh, the questions I could ask them!

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          May 14, 2015 at 8:39 pm

          Oh, those questions and so much more that we could ask any people living in the past. Every time we visit a historical place, no matter where we are, we always wish that we could’ve been a fly on the wall just to watch the going-ons of the world back then.

    Sha said:
    May 13, 2015 at 2:19 am

    Wow, the detailed carvings are just amazing! I can totally understand why they made it to the UNESCO list, a treasure indeed! 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 13, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      The detail really was amazing 🙂 We were so pleased to have seen this with our own eyes!

    the eternal traveller said:
    May 12, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    You must have spent all day looking at this amazing place. I was just thinking yesterday we hadn’t heard from you in a while. Isn’t it a shame that we have to go to work to fund our travel habit!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 12, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Yes, work does get in the way BUT we are okay with it. We love the balance we have 🙂

      We spent a good few hours before we almost froze to the bone! Hope you are well… we will have to check out your blog to play catch up soon 🙂

    Nurul Lubis said:
    May 12, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    The super cold weather was totally worth. The cave is amazing with beautiful statues and wall paints..

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Yep, worth the experience 🙂 We were so overwhelmed by the sheer history and size of it all.

    badfish said:
    May 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Cold in April. How far north is it?

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 12, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      It is a little further North from Beijing and inland too…. Not cold BUT freezing 🙂

    Anonymous said:
    May 11, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Wow. This is fantastic!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 12, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Thanks – hope we have introduced you to somewhere new 🙂

    Mabel Kwong said:
    May 11, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Amazing place, what amazing photos. It looks very overwhelming – seeing such massive statues that have stood for so long in such harsh weather too. The two of you must have felt like tiny people! Each cave probably told a different story too…I would assume you’d need a week to go through each one of them and take in their beauty.

    I am guessing the yellow-looking-ninja is David… 😀

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      Hahah – yes! That was David … the ninja as we called him by the end of the trip 🙂

      And you are right – we were SO overwhelmed with the amount of statues as well as the extreme weather. It was certainly memorable. Hope you have been well… we will have to check out your blog to catch up as we have been MIA for a while 🙂

    CrazyChineseFamily said:
    May 11, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Love those caves. Only saw this place on a documentary few years back so it is great to see other pictures from people who have been there

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      May 12, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      They were incredible to visit – if you get a chance to visit them when you are in China … you should 🙂

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