Longmen means the "Dragon's Gate Grottoes" and is the name of an archaeological site located

on both sides of the Yi River to the south of the ancient capital of Luoyang, Henan province.

In 2000 the site was inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding manifestation

of human artistic creativity,” for its perfection of an art form, and for its encapsulation of the

cultural sophistication of the artistic expression of the Tang Dinasty.

Numbers are impressive: the Longmen Grottoes comprise more than 2,345 caves and niches carved into the steep limestone cliffs

and they contain almost 110,000 Buddhist stone statues, once polychrome, more than

60 Buddhist pagodas and 2,800 inscriptions carved on steles.

Luoyang was the capital during the late Northern Wei Dynasty and early Tang Dynasty, and the

most intensive period of carving dates from the end of the 5th century to the mid-8th century.

The “twin” grottoes - Shang Yao Dong - have been restored in 3,5 months by a team of 17 students coming from all over China,

within the Sino-Italian Cooperation Training Program on Restoration of Cultural Relics organized by the ISIAO

- Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient -, the Tuscia University, and the

CNICP -  China National Institute of Cultural Property.

The grottoes are not "twins" at all: they owe this epithet to

the fact they were carved within the same project.

Floods, water leaking, previous "renovations", the use as a shelter

during the conflicts, vandalism and art thefts are

the reasons of the severe

conditions of

decay. 

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