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The Yungang Cave

The Yungang Cave 20, that is 14m tall, is one of the most prominent images in the Chinese arts. The cave can only be compared to the Longmen and the Dunhuang’s colossal exposed Buddha’s. A pair of smaller standing Buddha basically flanked the cave, that today comprises only of the Eastern figures. The square holes that the painter arranged in the back of the art’s walls socketed the wooden protective facade’s beams. A close view of the art work also illustrates that the lower parts of the cave have spalled away. The spalling away from objects is a clear indication of fates that are portrayed by vast of sculptures at Yungang. The soft sandstone rock where the cave has been shaped was perfect for the fine carving. The shape obtained in the cave is evident in the detailing of the mandorla and the Buddha’s robe. However, it would also be imperative to add to the account that the rate of the cave’s susceptibility to the alternations of weather, wind, and temperature. In as much as the faces in the art are restored partially, they have retained the physiognomy of the non-Chinese, which were taken after their predecessors at the Dunhuang. Similarly, their robes’ drapery is the Central Asian instead of the Chinese.

Regarding the artistic perspective, the Yungang Cave 20 is among the earliest at the Yungang. Moreover, the cave has an uncertain iconography since the common scheme of the caves might have changed in the course of the development of the three caves. Culturally, the Yungang Caves are termed as the “Tanyao Five,” which is a Buddhist belief that after Tanyao, a powerful monk in the Chinese culture, oversaw the constitution of the state in his capacity and supervised the clergymen. The largest image at Yungang Cave 20 is a clear illustration of the archaic style. The fabrication of the cave out of the living rock of the hillside is apparently a definite importation along with its subjects from India through the central Asia. The sharp and linear detail of the cave also looks like the outcome of the Gadharan style moving through miniature and drawing figures. In as much as it is evident that the Buddhists were in China earlier, it ought to be realized that this was the introduction of the monumental sized imagery.

Whereas the older groups of the Indian Buddhists casually erected their sculptures in the eastern part of the Xinjiang, the Yungang Caves differed in its magnificent royal family style. The craftsmen who constructed the Buddhist temples had vast skills and experience. Moreover, they also took their time to have a strong structure. Conversely, the experts at the Yungang Cave 20 took advantage of the content that they had and the magnificent sculpture. Besides, their work also became easier through the new technological innovations that they adopted. It is also worth noting that the Indian Buddhist’s art and culture involved music, architecture, and history. Similarly, history shows that the Yungang Caves also played a significant role both in the artistic history of China and in the world. The Buddhist art, which is reflected in the Yungang Caves, has various parts. The artworks can be classified into early, middle, and the late periods in the shape/ cave perspective or the statue pattern evolution.

Bibliography

Denise Patry Leidy, Donna K. Strahan, and Lawrence Becker. “Wisdom embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010.

October 07, 2021

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