The limestone caves or Longmen grottoes are about 12 km to the south of Luoyang. They are the finest examples of Buddha statues carved in the soft rock and formerly painted. At times steep steps lead up to the statues, other are farther down, sometimes an entire rock face has been transformed into miniature and large niches for different sized statues. The Yi river flows through this area, the Yique or “gate of the river Yi”.
About 1/3 of the caves are from the Northern Wei and about 2/3 from the Tang dynasty, with some caves from other periods of time. The grottoes have been included in the World Heritage list as ‘outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity’ by the UNESCO in 2000 showing such an amount of Tang art. The surrounding area is home to almost 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, as well as 60 Buddhist pagodas.