The Yungang Grottoes are located on the slopes of Wuzhou Mountains sixteen kilometers west of Datong City, Shanxi Province. Cut into mountain cliffs sketching for one kilometer from east to west, the fifty-three main grottoes contain fifty-one thousand Buddhist sculptures. Many are of pagodas, including both relief carvings and three-dimensional sculptures.
The overwhelming majority of the grottoes were cut between 453 and 495 during the Northern Wei Dynasty. Cave No 1, cut around 480, has a pillar in the form of a double-storeyed pagoda. The double-storeyed pillar is on a stone platform with a balcony but halfway around the body and columns standing at the four corners of the balcony, imitating a wooden structure. From the number of storeys and the height of the pillar pagoda, it must have been made in the style of low multistoreyed buildings. It is a rare example among early pagodas of its kind.
Cave No 21 was dug at a later time, at the beginning of the sixth century, after the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty was moved from Datong to Luoyang. Its pagoda pillar is more complicated than the one in Cave No 1. It is a square structure of five levels. Each side of every level is divided into five parts by columns that support the horizontal beams, brackets and pent eaves. It looks exactly like a wooden pagoda.
Caves No 5 and 6 are the grandest and most gorgeous among the Yungang Grottoes, particularly No 6, which has a rich variety of sculptures depicting many interesting Buddhist legends. The central pillar is divided into two parts; the upper level has a sculptured pagoda pillar at each of its four corners. The pillars are miniature square pagodas of nine storeys. Each side has three niches and each storey is supported by columns at the four corners. The deep eaves of these pagodas are modelled after wooden structures. This cave was dug around 470.
In Cave No 1 there is a small relief sculptures of a pavilion-style pagoda on the east wall, made approximately in 470 during the early Northern Wei Dynasty. In the Yungang Grottoes the steeples on many relief sculptures of multistoreyed pagodas look like Indian stupas.