Another Silk Road site of ancient sculpture | Shanghai Daily

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February 14, 2018

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Another Silk Road site of ancient sculpture

NEAR the city of Tianshui in Gansu Province, the Maijishan Grottoes offer some Buddhist art as gorgeous as that of Mogao Caves.

While the Mogao Caves are mostly known for their frescos, the grottoes of Maijishan are known for their sculptures.

Maijishan, or Mountain of Haystack, is a lone peak in the Xiaolong Mountains range. The name is taken from its shape, which looks just like a haystack rising from the rocks.

In 2014, the grottoes were listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

First dug in AD 384-417, the complex has 221 caves with more than 10,000 sculptures and vast areas of frescos. Its art creation continued for more than 1,600 years.

It is recorded that around AD 734, a massive earthquake divided the peak into two, demolishing the middle section. Both parts remaining have their highlights.

In the east part, the Nirvana Grotto is supported by four short stone pillars. On the top of the pillars, the traditional brackets are replaced by reliefs of the Buddhist artifact “flame orbs,” which is unique in cave temple construction.

Stone Buddha statues are found mostly in the western part. The statues show the worldly side of the Buddhas — all of them looking down with kind expressions.

Judging from the posture and clothing of the statues, most of them are typical ethnic Han style.

 

How to get there: Fly from Shanghai to Xi’an and then transfer to Tianshui. Buses No. 5 and 34 from downtown Tianshui will drop you at the parking lot of the grotto complex. The admission fee is 90 yuan.




 

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