The Yungang Shiku (Cloud Ridge Caves) were carved in sandstone from about AD 460 to 470. They are a product of the Northern Wei Dynasty. The caves consist of over 53 grottoes and 50,000 statues that include Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and flying Apsara. They are cut into the sandstone cliffs of Wuzhou Shan, and stretch for 1km east to west. The grottoes are found 16 km west of the city of Datong, and located next to the pass leading to inner Mongolia. This is the northern most outpost of the Silk Road. Wei rulers came to this site, which is basically desert, to pray for rain. The Yungang Shiku contain some of the oldest stone sculptures in China. The earliest grottoes to be carved are 16,17,18,19, and 20. They were carved by 40,000 workmen over a hundred-year period. The carvers came from many from places outside of China, such as India and Central Asia. The foreign influence can be seen in the carvings, which depict Persian lions, Byzantine weapons, Greek tridents, Greek acanthus leaves, men with large beards, and the Indian Hindu Gods Vishnu and Shiva. These caves were carved around 460 AD and the Buddhas have the faces of the Northern Wei Dynasty Emperors. The most spectacular of this group is cave 20. It contains a 45 foot seated Buddha with a large standing Bodhisatvas. The face of the Buddha is that of the Wei Emperor Wencheng. The caves are reached by stairs and scaffolding. Beside the caves, and on top of the ridge, is a huge 17th century mud and brick Qing Dynasty fortress and "hanging" Buddhist Monastery. Beyond the ridge, remnants of the Northern Great Wall, which encompassed the original settlement, can be seen.
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