Some of the greatest works of Buddhist statues in China are found in those famous grottoes. Among them, the three leading groups are at Dunhuang, Yungang and Longmen.
The Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes are located on Mount Sanwei, 25 km southeast of Dunhuang City in Gansu Province. Dunhuang is mostly well known for the murals. But there are also more than 3,000 colored sculptures, ranging from over 30 m high to only 10 cm high statues. Some of them were produced during the Northern Wei Dynasty, but most were from Sui and Tang Dynasties.
The Yungang Grottoes are situated at the southern foot of Mount Wuzhuo, west of Datung City, capital of Shanxi Province. Stretching over one kilometre from east to west, and with more than 51,000 Buddhist statues. Yungang is the oldest, most intact and largest scale group of grottoes in China. Work on the grottoes began in the year 460, during the Northern Wei Dynasty, under the supervision of Tan Yao, an eminent monk, and took over 60 years to complete. The Yungang statues can reflect the Gandhara and Quetta artistic styles, originating in Indian Buddhism.
The Longmen Grottoes are located 12 km south of Luoyang City of Henan Province and stretch for one kilometre from north to south and house more than 100,000 statues. The work began in the Northern Wei Dynasty and continued for more than 400 years, making them a world-famous treasure house of the art of stone carving. The most well known statue is the 17.14 metre high statue of Vairocana and was produced during the Tang Dynasty. There is also the famous Ten-thousand-Buddha Cave, with Amitabha as the principal Buddha and a total of over 15,000 other small Buddha statues. The sculptures of the Longmen grottoes manifest more Chinese artistic forms than those of the Yungang, and postures of Buddha have changed from vigorous and awe-inspiring to gentle and amiable, with kindly image, benevolent smiles, showing the evolution of the combination of traditional Chinese art with foreign art.