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Found in the Henan Province in China, the most rural part of the country, the Longmen Grottoes are declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of China’s 38.  The largest sculpture carved out of the stone sits at 56.23 feet tall, and is a statue of the Vairocana Buddha, considered to be the highest and most trancendental buddha in the Kegon school.

Overall, the Longmen Grottoes contain more than 100,000 statues situated among 2100 “niches”, or small caves.  These caves were originally carved during the reign of the Northern Wei Dynasty, beginning in AD 493, when Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to the nearby city of Luoyang.  They were built by monks and craftsmen as part of a tradition the Northern Wei Dynasty had for building stone temples (as seen at the Yungang Grottoes, constructed earlier), as a way to pay tribute to various emperors and Buddhist deities.

Each cave appears to tell a separate story.  The Middle Binyang Cave, one of a series of three caves whose construction lasted 24 years, contains statues which the Emperor Xuanwu built to release the souls of his parents from purgatory.  The Yaofang Cave, built beginning in AD 520 during the late years of the reign of Emperor Xiaoming, contains 30 statues and was not completed until the reign of Emperor Wenxuan of the Northern Qi Dynasty, 500 years later.  The Wanfo Cave, built during the Tang Dynasty, contains 15,000 sitting statues of bodhisattva Maitreya, and was built because the Empress Wu Zetian believed she was Maitreya reincarnated from heaven.

The tradition continued into the Tang Dynasty, not halting until 705 AD.

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The funiculars (inclines) of Cincinnati may be gone by now, but their legend lives on in many ways.  For those who don’t know (or are curious at all), the city of Cincinnati consists of 5 hills.   In the late 1800’s, as a way to expand the city, a series of inclines were constructed that allowed streetcars and pedestrians to be transported to the tops of these hills.  These hills are now known as Mt. Adams, Price Hill, Mt. Auburn, Bellevue, and Fairview.

How does the legend live one?  Well, for starters, you could go look at ruins of the piers that the tracks once stood on.  But, you could also go up Hill Street in Mt. Adams, where one of the properties has a miniature funicular of its own!  The property is called “The Rookery”, and as its street name suggests, the property sits atop a big hill.  There are steps that lead up to the entrance of the property, but they are very long and could become quite tedious when carrying groceries and things like that.

As a result, the owner installed what is titled “The Hillavator”.   Installed in 1962, the owner Neil Bortz discovered while in San Francisco what looked like a “phone booth on tracks”.  He found the name of the company that manufactured these unique systems and had one of his own installed.

As far as I know, there are only a few other Hillavators  like this in the world.  The Shadowbrook Restaurant in Santa Cruz County is another place with a Hill-a-Vator, and they had theirs built in 1958.  This leads me to believe that the same company built both of these, and that they when they went out of business, there were no more to be made.

However, some people still make their own!  Here is a link showing off one of these gems:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jNwK68F8ps

Here are some links showing the Hill-a-Vator at the Shadowbrook:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pamtxXT2u0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JnBWKCSw9w

Here are some pictures showing off the Hill-A-Vator in Mt. Adams:

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