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China’s finest royal cave temple opens to the public

Giant sculptures from Tang dynasty accessible at Unesco World Heritage Site

by Lisa Movius  |  18 March 2016
China’s finest royal cave temple opens to the public
Longmen Grottoes feature China's finest examples of ancient Buddhist art  
The Longmen Grottoes, a Unesco World Heritage Site of ancient Buddhist art in China’s Henan Province, opened its Kanjing Temple to the general public for the first time in almost 63 years at the beginning of March. Previously, only the royal temple cave's exterior was accessible to tourists. The largest of more than 2,300 caves carved into limestone cliffs, Kanjing can accommodate the most visitors.

The Longmen Grottoes Institute told the online publication Thepaper.cn that it chose to open Kanjing ahead of other caves because of its size and the elaborate carvings inside represent the best at the site. They include 29 six-foot high statues from the Tang dynasty (618-907).

Kanjing is believed to have been originally carved as an imperial shrine to Wu Zetian, China’s sole empress. It enjoys a place in legend as a place where Xuanzang, a famous monk, dried out sacred texts that had been damaged by water. Xuanzang's exploits are fictionalised in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West, as the monk that first brought Buddhism to China from India.

The institute announced that Kanjing would be get additional protection, including glass around the sculptures. Environmental monitoring equipment would be upgraded.

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