The Longmen Grottoes, a Buddhist cave complex located 13 kilometers south of Luoyang in China’s Henan province, form some of the most significant and exquisite representations of ancient Chinese stone art. Created over the course of approximately five centuries beginning in 493 CE, these grottoes, along with the statues and inscriptions carved within, provide a window into the political, cultural, and artistic circumstances of the late Northern Wei and Tang periods. The caves were carved into the steep limestone cliffs of Mount Longmen and Mount Xiang which face one another along a one kilometer stretch, forming a valley through which the Yi River flows. This site, with its appearance of a natural gate, was historically referred to as Yique or "Gate of the Yi River." After Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty built an imperial palace in Luoyang at the beginning of the 7th century CE with its southern gate aligned to the cliffs of the site, the name Longmen or "Dragon's Gate" came into use (the dragon served as an emblem of the power of the emperor).