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Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Longmen Grottos are located near Luoyang in Henan province, China. They are considered to contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art. They are comprised of approximately 100,000 carvings, ranging in size from less than one inch to 57 feet high. The first carvings date from 493 AD, and most were completed by 1127 AD.



As is readily apparent from the photograph above, many of the carvings completed at this site have been damaged over the years. While there is evidence that some vandalism occurred as early as the 13th century, most of the damage occurred during the 20th century, when carvings were removed for sale to museums and collectors. Some sources also indicate removal of carvings by Japanese occupiers.

I am not a scholar of Buddhist art, and had never heard of this site until the day I visited there. I was traveling in China as part of a group of photographers invited to help celebrate the opening of a new trail in a nearby park, though the exact reason for the invitation was never quite clear to me. Some others in the group knew of the site, and suggested that we use a free day in our schedule to go to Longmen Grottos. The drive to the site was supposed to take two hours from Zhengzhou, but took more than four, as our bus driver kept getting lost. Our time at the site was limited: according to the metadata on my digital photographs, I spent slightly less than an hour on there.

I’m not quite sure what to make of these pictures, with so many damaged figures—missing faces and heads, missing arms. But worth noting is that the newest of these carvings are nearly 900 years old—the oldest more than 1500. Despite the damage done to them, I am still astonished by what remains—outlines, shadows, and mostly empty niches carved into the limestone. Ghost images from the past.

Click the link below for a PDF of a collection of these photographs

Longmen Grotto small


I received a text message this evening about a fire on the “Enola Low Grade Line Trestle”, along with the above image.  I put the title in quotes, because to me, it was always just “the railroad bridge at Martic Forge”.  I grew up about a mile from the bridge, on the Martic Township side, and recall hearing trains pass over it when I was a child.  I must have passed under the bridge thousands of times–on the way to church, or going to visit my grandparents on my mother’s side, and I passed under it every day while commuting to Millersville College.  It was visible from my school bus route every day (twice) for my entire grade school career,    A few times I floated in an inner tube under the bridge on hot summer afternoons.  And a handful of times (at least twice) I walked over the rail bed and looked down at the creek, far below.

As a child, I always believed that steel didn’t burn, but as an engineer, I learned that steel does soften and burn in structural fires.   It seems likely that the fire will make the bridge impassable and most likely damaged beyond repair.  (Although the pictures of the bridge from April 13 don’t look as bad as I feared–there is still enough of the structure left, perhaps it can be repaired–but I’m sure the steel will need reinforcing.)

Over the years, I photographed the bridge several times, most frequently while driving under it, a way of remembering how I most often saw it.

As Joni Mitchel sang, “Don’t it always seem to go/ you don’t know what you got till it’s gone / they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot”–and then she laughs.




Martic Forge Bridge


Martic Forge Bridge