Located in the Xiaolongshan Mountains, 35 kilometers southeast to the Tianshui City of Gansu Province, Mount Maiji Grottoes is both a beautiful and magnificent scenic spot with lots of ancient Buddhist sculptures and murals. It is a splendid Buddhist Grottoes and is a nice place for visitors to get a better understanding of Buddhist culture.
Mount Maiji Grottoes, Yungang Grottoes of Datong, Shanxi Province, Longmen Grottoes of Luoyang, Henan province and Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang, Gansu Province are crowned as the four leading Buddhist grottoes in China.
History of Mount Maiji Grottoes
Mount Maiji Grottoes is crowned as the “Oriental Sculpture Museum”. The mount got its name because it looks like a giant wheat stack. The mount is unique for its 142 meters high but situated more than 1,742 meters above the sea level. It enjoys a prime location where only a few miles south Silk Road.
There still remains 194 grottoes with more than 1,300 square meters of murals and over 7,200 pieces of clay figurines and stone carvings. These clay sculptures are well-preserved. Its prime location attracted artisans, artists and Buddhist monks and even ordinary people who dug out this Buddhist Grottoes, sculpted, decorated and painted it with a history of over 1,500 years.
The Buddhist Grottoes was carved on the cliffs and it is divided into two parts: Western Cliff and Eastern Cliff. There is 54 grottoes in the Eastern Cliff while 140 grottoes in the Western Cliff. There are lots of small wooden houses hidden in the grottoes, which many delicate murals and sculptures of around them.
There is a plank path with 1,300 meters long built along the cliffs where visitors can visit the Buddhist Grottoes by walking on it. Beautiful and well-preserved painted sculptures and murals can be easily found by walking along the plank path.
Mount Maiji Grottoes is an ancient Buddhist Grottoes with a history of more than 1,500 years. It was first built in Later Qin (CE 384-417) and was reconstructed during more than ten dynasties. It finally finished in Qing Dynasty. Hence, the sculptures and murals of Buddhist here are of different dynasties in China.
The grottoes shows the characteristics of Buddhist sculptures of different periods for more than 1,500 years and reflected the development and evolution process of Chinese sculpture art, especially Buddhist clay sculpture art, which makes it both a historical and cultural scenic spot for visitors to explore and enjoy the long history of Chinese sculpture arts.
Top Things to See
Sculptures and murals of bodhisattvas, Buddhists and monks at Mount Maiji Grottoes are both delicate and colorful. And the sculptural formats are various and complex. Some statues are slim while others exaggeratively heavy. Some statues are with benevolent expression while others with ferocious expression.
It is a typical pavilion of Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) architectural style, which located 15 meters above the Grand Clay Buddhist Sculpture on the steep Eastern Cliff. Although Yifo Pavilion (literally Seven-Buddhist Pavilion) was first built in the mid 6th century with a history of more than 1,300 years, but it still remain well-preserved.
It is one of the famous and charming cultural relics at Mount Maiji Grottoes that attracted thousands of people from at home and abroad come to visit each year.
No. 43 Cave
It was built in honor of the empress of Emperor Weiwen in the Western Wei Dynasty (535AD-556AD). Emperor Weiwen divorced Empress Yifo and married a princess of Rouran Kingdom (a offspring state of Turkic) in order to establish political relationship through marriages with Rouran Kingdom. Finally Empress Yifo became a nun at Mount Maiji.
There are a clay sculpture of Buddhist, two clay sculptures of bodhisattvas, two clay sculptures of disciples of Buddha and two clay sculptures of strong men in this cave. These clay sculptures are both wonderful and colorful with the various formats and rich facial expressions.
How to Get There
Visitors can take tourist bus No. 34every half an hour from Railway Station in Maiji District. It takes around 1 hour to get access to the Buddhist grottoes and the fee is about RMB 10.
Visitors are allowed to take bags and cameras while visiting the Buddhist grottoes.
It may be crowded during tourist time. It is advisable for visitors to start the visit early in the morning.
It is advisable for visitors to go visit with the introduction of local guide for the grottoes is a cultural attraction.
The path along the grottoes is very steep. It is not suitable for people with acrophobia and young kids to climb.
08:30 – 20:00 in summer and autumn; 08:30 – 18:00 in spring and winter.
Ticket Price: RMN 70.
There are some spectacular and vintage scenic spots such as Fu Xi Temple and Yuquan Taoist Temple around Mount Maiji Grottoes. Fu Xi Temple is built to in honor of Fu Xi, a legendary ruler in ancient China. Fu Xi Temple is a nice place to visit for its splendid architectural style and clay sculptures and is a nice place to pray for good luck.
Yuquan Taoist Temple is a Taoist temple with a history of more than 800 years. There is a Yuquan Temple Fair, which holds at January 9th of lunar calendar each year. It is a good chance for visitors to enjoy the traditional Taoist Fair and pray for good luck.