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Night Tour Started at Longmen Grottoes
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With bursting firecrackers, and the night sky lit up by fireworks echoing the red gleam of the lanterns below, a tour was officially launched at the Longmen Grottoes, Henan Province, on April 9. Tourists from around the world are thus able to visit the majestic Longmen Grottoes at night and be bathed in the "glory of Buddha."

The Longmen Grottoes Management described the project of Longmen Night Tour as originating three years ago. After debate and review by experts, it was determined that the best appreciation of the Longmen sculptures would be a combination of light and shadow. Following approval by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the project officially began on March 10, 2007. The first phase of lighting has finished within a month, with a highly successful trial operation boosting morale. 

It is known that the lighting project covers Longmen Commercial Street, caverns, gateways, bridge, water surface, and delineates the profile of mountains and major ravines. The two mountains, namely, East Hill (Xiangshan) and West Hill (Longmen) seem to meld into one through careful lighting juxtaposition. Golden lights also light up the Buddha statues in 10 major caves such as Wanfo and Lianhua caves, making evident their magnificence and grandeur. Courtyard lamps are used to dot the surroundings of Xiangshan Temple located on the East Hill bathing it in a mysterious atmosphere.

The summit of the Longmen Grottoes is topped by the 30-meter tall Fengxian Temple. Lamps, the elevation of which matches that of the slope, showcase the beauty of Fengxian Temple without degrading the surroundings. The elevators emerge at night and provide a general lightening, creating a special "Buddha Enlightenment" effect.

To ensure that no damage is caused on the relics themselves and to make the design as good as possible, the designers have taken into account the geographical structure, climate change characteristics, and flora and fauna around the Longmen Grottoes. 

The Longmen Grottoes, together with the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, and the Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Shanxi Province, are hailed as China's three greatest collections of Buddhist cave art. In 2000, the Longmen Grottoes were placed on the World Cultural Heritage List by the UN Heritage Commission.

( by Wang Ruiling, April 11, 2007)

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