The Maijishan Grottoes and Their Amazing Buddhist Sculptures

The Maijishan Grottoes, formerly romanized as Maichishan, are a series of 194 caves cut in the side of the hill of Majishan in Tianshui, Gansu Province, northwest China. (Image:  MarsmanRom  via  wikimedia  CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Maijishan Grottoes, formerly romanized as Maichishan, are a series of 194 caves cut in the side of the hill of Majishan in Tianshui, Gansu Province, northwest China. (Image: MarsmanRom via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Maijishan Grottoes, formerly romanized as Maichishan, are a series of 194 caves cut in the side of the hill of Majishan in Tianshui, Gansu Province, northwest China. These caves were included on the World Heritage Site List on June 22, 2014.

This example of rock cut architecture contains over 7,200 Buddhist sculptures and over 1,000 square meters of murals. Work on the Maiji caves began in the late Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.), progressing through to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).

They were first properly explored in 1952–53 by a team of Chinese archeologists from Beijing, who devised the numbering system still in use today. Caves #1–50 are on the western cliff face; caves #51–191 on the eastern cliff face.

This example of rock cut architecture contains over 7,200 Buddhist sculptures and over 1,000 square meters of murals. (Image:  MarsmanRom  via  wikimedia  CC BY-SA 3.0)

This example of rock cut architecture contains over 7,200 Buddhist sculptures and over 1,000 square meters of murals. (Image: MarsmanRom via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Inside the caves are clay statues, whose heights vary from 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) to 15 meters (over 49 feet). Besides 194 Buddhist caves and niches, containing more than 7, 200 clay statues, there are also murals of over 1,300 square meters (about 1,555 square yards) in the Maiji Caves as well. These statues are works of art that reflect ancient craftsmanship and dedication to the Buddhist ideal.

They are just one of the string of Buddhist grottoes that can be found in this area of northwest China, lying more or less on the main routes connecting China and Central Asia. The other top three caves sites in China worth seeing are the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, the Yungang Caves in Datong, Shanxi Province, and the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Henan Province.

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