18 kilometers away north to Kashgar, the Three-Immortal Caves are situated on a cliff of the south shore of the Bo Shi Ke Ran River. The caves were carved at the end of the Han Dynasty, about 13 meters (or 17 yards) down to the bottom of the cliff and 8 meters (or 10 yards) from the cliff top. They are the earliest caverns found so far in west China and are the only Buddhist monuments of ancient Shu Le district. They have been surprisingly well preserved.
It is said that the Three-Immortal caves were created based upon some ancient legend of China dated back thousands of years ago. Here is how the tale goes. Once upon a time there was a king and a pretty but sickish princess. One day, a fortune-teller cam to inform the King that the princess would not be able survives a serious disease if she were stung even once by bees continuously for 100 days. It was almost impossible to avoid bees that are so busy flying among flowers and fruit trees. They then decided to create a cave on the mountain for the little princess. Walls were painted and decorated as delicately as possible to make the princess feel like being in her own palace. Perhaps it’s fate that the princess was stung on the 99th day, the last day, by a bee hiding in the grapes, even though they had been checked many times. As prophesized the princess died tragically. And the carvings and paintings were left behind eternally.
Each cave has its own rectangular entrance, with the middle of 2.25-meter high and 2-meter wide, while the other two of 2-meter high and 1-meter wide. The cave is composed of a big front chamber and a small rear chamber. The front chamber is 4-meter long, 4-meter wide and 2.5-meter high. The rear chamber is half of the size of the front. When undergone a repairing during the Qing Dynasty, the middle cave had no frescos found in it, but only a seated statue of Sakyamuni. Beside except for some random carving traces on the wall, there was no other craves in the west cave making it seemed like an uncompleted work of the time. However there are about 70 pieces josses were painted in different sizes and precious frescos on the walls in the east cave and fortunately they have been preserved very well. In addition on the ceiling of the middle cave, there is a lotus flower on which a joss in cassock painted in alternating blue, green and red colors is sitting. Quite a number of seated josses with 0.5-meter high were found painted near the lotus flower.
Three Immortals Caves have attracted tourists from all round the world to appreciate and embrace the profound Buddhist culture that it brings.