Tiantishan Caves

Last updated
Buddha Triad of the Tang dynasty from Tiantishan at Gansu Provincial Museum Gansu Museum 2007 236.jpg
Buddha Triad of the Tang dynasty from Tiantishan at Gansu Provincial Museum

The Tiantishan Caves (Chinese :天梯山石窟; pinyin :Tiāntīshān shíkū) are a series of rock cut Buddhist cave temples in the Liangzhou District of Wuwei, Gansu, northwest China. Excavated from the eastern cliffs of the Huangyang River (黃羊河) in the Qilian Mountains from the time of the Northern Liang, carving, decoration and subsequent modification of the caves continued through the Northern Wei and Tang to the Qing dynasty. [1] The complex is identified with the Liangzhou Caves opened during the time of Juqu Mengxun "one hundred li to the south of Liangzhou", as recorded in the Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms and Fayuan Zhulin . [1] [2] The name Tiantishan consists of three Chinese characters ( ) that literally translate as "Ladder to Heaven Mountain". [3]

Contents

Caves

The Tang monk Daoxuan in his Ji shenzhou sanbao gantong lu ascribes the opening of Tiantishan to the Xiongnu king of Northern Liang Juqu Mengxun's devotion to "meritorious deeds" alongside his desire to avoid the impermanence of the city by fashioning caves from the mountains. [4] Contrary to the account in the Wei Shu of monks and Buddhist teachers relocating to the east after the conquest of the Northern Liang by the Northern Wei and subsequent persecution, structural, iconographic, and stylistic analysis shows that activity at the site continued. [2] [4] A total of nineteen caves in three tiers have been identified: [2]

CaveConstructionModificationsType
Cave 1 Northern Liang Northern Wei, Tang (beginning, early, mid, and late), Western Xia, Yuan, Ming, Qing central pillar
Cave 2beginning of the Tang early Tang, Western Xia, Ming square
Cave 3beginning of the Tang Western Xia, Ming square
Cave 4 Northern Liang Northern Wei, Tang (early and mid), Western Xia, Yuan, Ming, Qing central pillar
Cave 5uncertainuncertain
Cave 6uncertain Tang, Ming, Qing square
Cave 7 Northern Wei Northern Zhou, Western Xia, Yuan, Ming square
Cave 8 Northern Wei Northern Zhou, Sui, Tang (early and mid), Song, Ming square
Cave 9 Tang Ming square
Cave 10uncertainuncertain
Cave 11uncertainuncertain
Cave 12uncertainuncertain
Cave 13 Tang Western Xia, Yuan, Ming, Qing
Cave 14 Tang Western Xia, Yuan, Ming
Cave 15 Northern Liang to Northern Wei Western Xia, Yuan, Ming
Cave 16 Northern Wei Western Xia, Yuan
Cave 17 Northern Liang to Northern Wei Sui, Tang (mid), Western Xia, Yuan, Ming
Cave 18 Northern Liang Northern Wei, Tang (late), Western Xia, Yuan, Ming, Qing central pillar
Cave 19uncertainuncertainsquare

Later history

A giant Sakyamuni Buddha and attendant figures from the Tiantishan Grottoes Tiantishan Grotto Budda.jpg
A giant Sakyamuni Buddha and attendant figures from the Tiantishan Grottoes

Tiantishan disappeared from the historical record after the Tang dynasty. [2] While decoration and modification of the caves continued into the Qing dynasty, five suffered from collapse over the centuries, exacerbated by an earthquake in 1927. [2] Despite initial survey in the early 1950s demonstrating the importance of the site, in April 1959 the Gansu provincial government approved the construction of a reservoir that would flood two of the three tiers of caves when commissioned in May the following year. [2] In the interval, a research team from the Dunhuang Academy and Gansu Provincial Museum documented the site and excavated the collapsed caves, although all the written records and colour photographs and most of the black-and-white photographs have since been lost, along with most of the copies of the wall paintings. [2] Some 50 square metres (540 sq ft) of the paintings were detached, although the colours have since "faded after 40 years of natural weathering", and other than for the largest, most of the sculptures were taken down and removed to the Museum. [2] In 2001, in recognition of their significance as one of the earliest Buddhist grotto sites in the country, the Tiantishan Caves were designated a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level by SACH. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dunhuang</span> County-level city in Gansu, China

Dunhuang is a county-level city in northwestern Gansu Province, Western China. According to the 2010 Chinese census, the city has a population of 186,027, though 2019 estimates put the city's population at about 191,800. Sachu (Dunhuang) was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road and is best known for the nearby Mogao Caves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mogao Caves</span> Caves near Dunhuang City, Gansu, China

The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes or Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, form a system of 500 temples 25 km (16 mi) southeast of the center of Dunhuang, an oasis located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, in Gansu province, China. The caves may also be known as the Dunhuang Caves; however, this term is also used as a collective term to include other Buddhist cave sites in and around the Dunhuang area, such as the Western Thousand Buddha Caves, Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves, Yulin Caves, and Five Temple Caves. The caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning a period of 2,000 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western Liang (Sixteen Kingdoms)</span>

Liang, known in historiography as the Western Liang, was a dynastic state of China listed as one of the Sixteen Kingdoms. The Western Liang was founded by the Li family of Han descent. The founder of the Tang dynasty, Li Yuan, traced his patrilineal ancestry to the Western Liang rulers and traced the ancestry of the Western Liang rulers to Li Guang and Laozi in the paternal line. The ruling Li clan of the Western Liang was known as the Longxi Li lineage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Northern Liang</span> Chinese Sixteen Kingdoms state (397–439)

The Northern Liang was a dynastic state of China and one of the Sixteen Kingdoms in Chinese history. It was ruled by the Juqu (沮渠) family of Lushuihu (盧水胡) origin, a branch of the Xiongnu. Although Duan Ye of Han ethnicity was initially enthroned as the Northern Liang ruler with support from the Juqu clan, Duan was subsequently overthrown in 401 and Juqu Mengxun was proclaimed monarch.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wuwei, Gansu</span> Prefecture-level city in Gansu, Peoples Republic of China

Wuwei is a prefecture-level city in northwest central Gansu province. In the north it borders Inner Mongolia, in the southwest, Qinghai. Its central location between three western capitals, Lanzhou, Xining, and Yinchuan makes it an important business and transportation hub for the area. Because of its position along the Hexi Corridor, historically the only route from central China to western China and the rest of Central Asia, many major railroads and national highways pass through Wuwei.

Duan Ye was the founding prince of China's Northern Liang dynasty. He was of Han ethnicity, and was originally a commandery governor of the Later Liang dynasty, but after Xiongnu generals Juqu Mengxun and Juqu Nancheng (沮渠男成) rebelled against the Later Liang, Juqu Nancheng persuaded Duan Ye to accept the leadership role of the rebellion. During his reign, the Juqus were powerful, and eventually, in 401, after Duan Ye was tricked by Juqu Mengxun into executing Juqu Nancheng, Juqu Mengxun used this as the excuse to start a coup against Duan Ye, killing him and replacing him as king. Duan Ye was described as a kind but weak ruler who was unable to keep his subjects in check, and who overly trusted witchcraft and magic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Li Gao</span> Duke of Liang

Li Gao or Li Hao, courtesy name Xuansheng (玄盛), nickname Changsheng (長生), formally Prince Wuzhao of (Western) Liang ( 涼武昭王), was the founding duke of the Chinese Western Liang dynasty during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. While he claimed only the title of duke during his reign, he was posthumously honored with the princely title. He was initially a Northern Liang official, but in 400, he seceded from Northern Liang's prince Duan Ye's rule and established his own independent state. His state only lasted for 21 years, but his descendants would remain key officials and nobles throughout Northern Wei, Western Wei, Northern Zhou, and Sui dynasty, and one of them, Li Yuan, would found the Tang dynasty in 618. After the founding of the Tang dynasty, he was posthumously honored as Emperor Xingsheng (興聖皇帝).

Princess Dowager Yin was a princess dowager of the Chinese state Western Liáng. She was the mother of its second duke, Li Xin and the second wife of its founder Li Gao, who was posthumously honored by Li Xin as a prince, and therefore Lady Yin was honored as a princess dowager even though her husband never carried the princely title while alive.

Juqu Mengxun, also known by his posthumous name as the Prince Wuxuan of Northern Liang (北涼武宣王), was the second prince of the Xiongnu-led Chinese Northern Liang dynasty, and the first from the Juqu clan. His cousin Juqu Nancheng (沮渠男成) and he initially supported Duan Ye as prince of Northern Liang in 397 after rebelling against the Later Liang dynasty, but in 401, Juqu Mengxun tricked Duan Ye into wrongly executing Juqu Nancheng, and then used that as an excuse to attack and kill Duan Ye, taking over the throne himself. While he maintained his own state, he also nominally served as a vassal of the Later Qin, Eastern Jin, and Northern Wei dynasties. He was considered a capable ruler when he was young, but in his old age was considered cruel and arbitrary.

Li Xun, courtesy name Shiru (士如), was the final ruler of China's Western Liang dynasty during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Li Xun tried to hold out against the conquering Northern Liang armies under its prince Juqu Mengxun, after his brother Li Xin's death in 420. He was only able to hold the city of Dunhuang for several months, before Juqu Mengxun successfully sieged the city, and Li Xun committed suicide.

Juqu Mujian, named Juqu Maoqian (沮渠茂虔) in some sources, also known by his posthumous name as the Prince Ai of Northern Liang (北涼哀王), was a prince of the Xiongnu-led Northern Liang dynasty of China. By the time that Juqu Mujian succeeded his father Juqu Mengxun in 433, the Northern Liang appeared to be stronger than ever, yet was under the shadow of the much stronger Northern Wei dynasty, to which the Northern Liang was nominally a vassal. In 439, the Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei launched a major campaign against the Northern Liang and captured both his capital Guzang and Juqu Mujian himself. Juqu Mujian remained an honored Northern Wei subject as Emperor Taiwu's brother-in-law until 447, when Emperor Taiwu, believing him to be trying to rebel, forced him to commit suicide. His brother Juqu Wuhui later re-established the Northern Liang dynasty at Gaochang.

Li Jingshou was a princess of the Xiongnu-led Northern Liang dynasty of China. Her husband was Juqu Mujian.

Juqu Wuhui is viewed by some historians as a prince of the Xiongnu-led Northern Liang dynasty of China, as after the state's territory was largely seized by the Northern Wei in 439, and his older brother Juqu Mujian was captured by Northern Wei, Juqu Wuhui tried to hold out against Northern Wei, initially on Northern Liang's old territory, and later, after that attempt failed, at Gaochang. He continued to use the title of Prince of Hexi, a title used by his brother and previously by his father Juqu Mengxun. Chinese historians dispute over whether Juqu Wuhui and his successor and brother Juqu Anzhou should be considered Northern Liang rulers or not, and most consider Juqu Mujian the final prince of Northern Liang.

Juqu Anzhou is viewed by some historians as a ruler of the Xiongnu-led Chinese Northern Liang dynasty. After the state's territory was largely seized by the Northern Wei in 439, and his older brother Juqu Mujian was captured by Northern Wei, Juqu Anzhou's brother Juqu Wuhui tried to hold out against Northern Wei, initially on Northern Liang's old territory, and later, after that attempt failed, at Gaochang. Juqu Anzhou succeeded Juqu Wuhui after Juqu Wuhui's death in 444, and he continued to use the title of Prince of Hexi, a title used by his brothers and previously by his father Juqu Mengxun. Chinese historians dispute over whether Juqu Wuhui and Juqu Anzhou should be considered Northern Liang rulers or not, and most consider Juqu Mujian the final prince of Northern Liang.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maijishan Grottoes</span>

The Maijishan Grottoes, formerly romanized as Maichishan, are a series of 194 caves cut in the side of the hill of Maijishan in Tianshui, Gansu Province, northwest China.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tianlongshan Grottoes</span>

The Tianlongshan Grottoes are caves located in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China, that are notable for the Buddhist temples located within them. The temple complex spans two mountains: there are eight grottoes on the eastern mountain and 13 on the western mountain. The complex was constructed over a number of centuries, from the northern Qi dynasty until the Tang dynasty, and contains Buddhist art of high historic importance. The majority of the caves date to the Tang dynasty. The caves have been designated by the government as a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level.

The Five Temple Caves is a series of rock cut Buddhist caves in Subei Mongol Autonomous County, Gansu, northwest China. The complex once numbered twenty-two caves but over the centuries the number was reduced to five, of which four remain today, in a gorge on the left bank of the Danghe River. On the basis of their structure and iconography, one of the caves is dated to the Northern Wei, the other three to the Five Dynasties and Song. The complex lies some 80 kilometres (50 mi) to the south of the Mogao Caves, and together with these, the Western Thousand Buddha Caves, Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves, and Yulin Caves, is one of the five grotto sites in the vicinity of Dunhuang managed by the Dunhuang Academy. In 2013, in recognition of their significance to China, the Five Temple Caves were designated by SACH a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level.

The Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves is a series of rock cut Buddhist caves in Guazhou County, Gansu, northwest China. Of the twenty-three caves excavated from the conglomerate rock, eight have murals and sculptures dating from the Western Xia and Yuan dynasty; many of the statues were reworked during the Qing dynasty. The caves extend in two tiers along the cliffs that flank both sides of a now dry river gorge, fourteen on the west bank and nine on the east. Together with the Mogao Caves, Western Thousand Buddha Caves, Yulin Caves, and Five Temple Caves, the Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves is one of the five grotto sites in the vicinity of Dunhuang managed by the Dunhuang Academy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andingsi Grottoes</span> Buddhist site in Gansu, China

The Andingsi Grottoes is the name given to a Buddhist site commissioned in 1132 AD containing hundreds of Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Buddhas carved into the walls and columns of the two chambers of this small cave.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lianhua Temple-Cave</span> Buddhist site in Gansu, China

The Lianhua Temple-Cave, also known as the LianhuasiGrottoes is located 15 kilometers from Taibai Township in Heshui County. It is the historical and cultural site protected at the providential level by Gansu government.

References

  1. 1 2 Zhou Guoxin; Zhang Jianquan; Cheng Huaiwan (1997). "Pigment Analysis of Polychrome Statuary and Wall Paintings of the Tiantishan Grottoes". In Agnew, Neville (ed.). Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings of an International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites (PDF). Getty Conservation Institute. pp. 362 ff. ISBN   978-0892364169.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Zhang Xuerong; He Jingzhen; Wu Yiru (2000). 武威天梯山石窟[The Grottoes in the Tianti Mountain, Wuwei]. Cultural Relics Publishing House. pp. 8, 292–5. ISBN   7501012202.
  3. "Tiantishan Grottoes (Wuwei)". China Daily . 2 November 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  4. 1 2 John Lagerwey; Pengzhi Lü, eds. (2010). Early Chinese Religion: The Period of Division (220–589 AD). BRILL. pp. 584 ff. ISBN   978-9004175853.
  5. 全国重点文物保护单位 [Major National Historical and Cultural Sites] (in Chinese). State Administration of Cultural Heritage. Archived from the original on 8 October 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2017.

37°33′44″N102°44′41″E / 37.562135°N 102.744635°E / 37.562135; 102.744635