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Three Grottoes on Flying Peak

Qinglin Grotto

Qinglin Grotto is also called Tiger Grotto since the mouth of the grotto looks like the mouth of a tiger. The three big statues of Buddha above the mouth of Qinglin Grotto are the Three Worthies of Huayan – Mahavairocana Buddha in the middle, Manjusri Bodhisattva on the left and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva on the right. This shrine was carved in 1282 AD, one of the earliest of the Yuan Dynasty works. Next to the Three Worthies of Huayan are three small statues of Buddha called the “Three Saints of the West”, carved in 951 AD, which is the earliest carving on Flying Peak. The statue of Buddha in the middle is Amitabha Buddha, also called “The Buddha of Infinite Life”, who is the principal Buddha in the Western Pure Land. The two Bodhisattvas on his two sides are Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva on the left and Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva on the right. These works were carefully and neatly produced, showing the delicate art style of the Five Dynasties Period although they have been weathered. On the cliff of the right side of the grotto mouth, there is a Buddhist carving about the story of “Vairocana Buddha”, which is the most delicate carving on Flying Peak. Sitting on a lotus blossom in the center of the stone shrine, Vairocana Buddha, wearing a crown and a cassock, with his arms up-lifted, seems to be in a gesture of explaining Dharma. On both sides of Vairocana Buddha are Manjusri Bodhisattva riding on a lion and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva riding on an elephant respectively. In addition, there are statues of Four Heavenly Kings and Four Bodhisattvas as well as statues of supporters, 15 statues in total. The techniques of producting the statues are refined, ingenious and meticulous with decorative interest. Apart from the ancient Buddhist carvings, vestiges of the legendary Monk Daoji can be found too, one of which is a bed-like rock, known as the “Bed of Daoji”, and it is said that Monk Daoji once slept on it.


Longhong Grotto


On the right side of the mouth of Longhong Grotto, there are three sets of Buddhist carvings detailing the Buddhist history, which are complete in structure with vivid images. The carvings are about 6.6 meters long and 1 meter high, describing the stories of “The White Horse Carrying Sutras on Its Back”, “Monk Xuanzang in the Tang Dynasty Going to India on a Pilgrimage for Buddhist Sutras” and “Zhu Shixing on a Pilgrimage for Buddhist Sutras”. The first set of carvings is about Monk Xuanzang, who is stepping forward slowly with palms together. This is a story which happened during the reign of Zhenguan in Tang Dynasty, when the Buddhist monk Xuanzang went through an arduous trip over lands and waters and finally arrived in Magadha in North India to pay a formal visit to the Master Jiexian. The second set of carvings is about the story of Monk Zhu Shixing of Caowei Kingdom, who went on a pilgrimage for Buddhist sutras with a stick in his left hand while leading a horse, making big steps on his way of fetching sutras. The third set of carvings is about the story of “The White Horse Carrying Sutras on Its Back”, which happened during the Yongping years of East Han Dynasty. The Emperor Ming of Han Dynasty sent Cai An and his fellows to the Western Regions to bring back sutras. They encountered two Indian Buddhist monks in the country of Yuezhi, Kasyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna, and persuaded them to join them and return to China for the introduction of Buddhism. These carvings have perfect structures in a realist style, vividly describing the mutual religious activities between Chinese and international monks in the history.


Additionally, inside the Longhong Grotto there are inscriptions by people, such as Jia Sidao in Southern Song Dynasty. In 1267, the Yuan troops invaded the city of Xiangyang. Because of this, Jia Sidao went to Lingzhu to pray for protection twice and inscribed inside the Honglong Grotto.


Yuru Grotto


Inside Yuru Grotto are the statues of the Six Patriarchs of Zen Buddhism and two supporters, which is rare to see. Built in 1026, these statues are relatively large in size, including statues of the first patriarch Bodhidharma, the second patriarch Huike, the third patriarch Sengcan, the fourth patriarch Daoxin, the fifth patriarch Hongren and the sixth patriarch Huineng, who are called the “Six Patriarchs of Zen Buddhism”. These carvings show the popularity of Zen Buddhism in Song Dynasty.


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