The Maijishan Grottoes. China
The hill of Majishan is located in the southern part of Gansu Province, 45 kilometers from the city district of Tianshui in northwest China. It could have remained an unremarkable mountain, but there is one curious circumstance. Famous Maijishan Grottoes were carved in the steep wall of this hill. This is a whole system of 194 caves, which contains more than 7200 Buddhist sculptures and more than 1000 square meters of frescoes. The caves are divided into two groups: the western, which has 54 caves and eastern – 140 caves. The grottoes are interconnected by wooden walkways, built into the steep rock. It is one of the largest and most impressive Buddhist rock temple complexes in China.
Maijishan is a combination of three Chinese words and can be literally translated as “Wheat Stack Mountain”. More verbatim – Mai means “grain”, Ji means “stack” or “mound”, Shan means “mountain”. The hill is formed of purplish red sandstone.
The mountain with a group of cave monasteries, the southern side of which is a vertical rock cliff, resembles an anthill and has a height of 142 meters. The hill of Majishan is located in a very picturesque place, which is now a sort of historic and natural national park. There are also three scenic spots loved by tourists, which include historical and landscape attractions. All this is connected to each other with beautiful roads, trails for trekking and has an appropriate infrastructure.
These grottoes have been studied only in the middle of 50-ies of the XX century by a group of Chinese archaeologists from Peking. Thus, the researchers claim that the construction of the monastery was begun in IV-V centuries AD. Grottos were carved on the southern slope of the mountain at an altitude of 80 meters from the foot. Due to the frescoes and sculptures of Maijishan which were painted during the period from IV to XIX century, scientists were able to trace the stages of development of sculptural art in China. You can clearly see the influence of Indian culture in the caves, as the mountain is situated at the intersection of two routes, one of which was held since ancient times to the south, up to India. The walls are decorated with Maijishan clay sculptures, some were made of sandstone. The highest statue reaches the height of 16 meters. This fact makes a mystery the way of how they were taken on a cliff at a height of 80 meters.
In addition, you will find here more than 2000 items of ceramics, bronze, iron and jasper, ancient books, documents, paintings and works of calligraphy. The complex works as a museum, but many of the caves are closed to the public.