The Maijishan Grottoes, located in Tianshui, Gansu Province, northwest China, is a remarkable collection of 194 caves intricately carved into the side of Maijishan hill. Renowned as one of China’s Four Greatest Grottoes, alongside the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes, and the Yungang Grottoes, they boast an astonishing assemblage of over 7,200 Buddhist sculptures and more than 1,000 square meters of captivating murals. These artistic treasures span from the 4th to the 14th century, showcasing the evolution of artistic expression over time. Notably, the Maijishan Grottoes are acclaimed for their exquisite clay sculptures, which exhibit unparalleled craftsmanship. Situated on the precipitous cliff of the mountain, their location adds to their allure and magnificence. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Maijishan Grottoes hold significant cultural and historical value, forming part of the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor.
- Location: Maiji District, Tianshui City, Gansu Province, northwest China
- Opening time: 8:30 – 17:30 (May 1 – October 31); 9:00 – 17:00 (November 1 – April 30)
- Ticket price: 80 yuan RMB per person
- Time Needed: about half a day
- Best time to visit: spring and autumn
- Suited to: history and culture lovers, art and sculpture lovers, nature and scenery lovers
The Origin and Significance of the Maijishan Grottoes
The Maijishan Grottoes have a history that dates back over 1,600 years. The construction of the grottoes began during the Later Qin dynasty (384-417 CE) and continued through subsequent dynasties such as the Northern Wei, Western Wei, Northern Zhou, Sui, Tang, and Song. Initially, the grottoes were created as a sacred space for Buddhist monks to meditate and seek enlightenment.
What to See and Do in Maijishan Grottoes
1. Marvel at the Intricate Buddhist Sculptures:
The Maijishan Grottoes are renowned for their impressive collection of Buddhist sculptures. Take your time to appreciate the exquisite details and craftsmanship of these ancient artworks. Each sculpture tells a unique story and reflects the deep spiritual devotion of the artists.
2. Admire the Captivating Murals:
The grottoes feature a vast array of murals that depict Buddhist legends, celestial beings, and scenes from daily life. The vibrant colors and intricate brushwork bring these ancient artworks to life, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.
3. Explore the Cave Complex:
With 194 caves to discover, there is much to explore in the Maijishan Grottoes. Wander through the labyrinthine corridors and chambers, immersing yourself in the serenity and history that permeates the site. Each cave offers a unique perspective and reveals different artistic treasures.
4. Climb the Steep Cliff:
Ascend the steep cliffside to gain a panoramic view of the surrounding natural beauty. The challenging climb rewards you with breathtaking vistas of the mountain landscape, providing a sense of awe and wonder.
5. Experience the Spiritual Atmosphere:
The Maijishan Grottoes has long been a place of pilgrimage and spiritual reflection. Take a moment to soak in the tranquil ambiance, meditate, or simply appreciate the profound sense of peace that permeates the grottoes.
Best Time to Visit Maijishan Grottoes
The optimal time to explore the Maijishan Grottoes varies depending on individual preferences and schedules. However, several factors can guide your decision:
Weather Considerations: While the Maijishan Grottoes welcome visitors throughout the year, the most favorable seasons are spring and autumn. During these times, the weather is typically pleasant, with mild temperatures and comfortable conditions. Spring showcases blooming flowers and trees, while autumn treats visitors to a mesmerizing display of colorful foliage. Choosing these seasons allows you to avoid the sweltering summer heat, chilly winter temperatures, and the rainy season that typically spans from June to September.
Festival Opportunities: To enhance your cultural experience and infuse your trip with added excitement, consider planning your visit around local festivals. One notable event is the Maijishan Grottoes Art Festival, an annual celebration held in September. The festival offers a diverse range of activities, including captivating folk performances, art exhibitions, photography contests, and more. Attending such festivals allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture and engage with the vibrant traditions of the region.
How to Get to Maijishan Grottoes
High-Speed Train: Depart from Lanzhou West Railway Station and board a bullet train bound for Tianshui South Railway Station. The journey typically takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. Upon arrival, you can conveniently take bus 60, which will transport you to the parking lot of Maijishan Grottoes.
Conventional Train: For those who appreciate a leisurely travel experience, choosing a conventional train is an option when traveling from Lanzhou Railway Station to Tianshui Railway Station. This particular route spans a duration of around 4 to 5 hours, allowing passengers to savor the journey at a more relaxed pace. Upon arriving at Tianshui Railway Station, you can easily access bus 34, which will conveniently transport you to the Maijishan Tingchechang, the parking lot of the magnificent Maijishan Grottoes.
Road Transport: If you are already in Tianshui City, which is approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles) away from the grottoes, you can choose various road transportation options. Consider taking a tourism bus, hiring a taxi, or arranging private transport. These options can transport you to the Maijishan Grottoes in under an hour, offering convenience and comfort.
Air Travel: For those traveling from Beijing, you can take a flight to Tianshui Airport, which typically takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. After arriving at Tianshui Airport, you can hire a taxi or arrange private transport to reach the Maijishan Grottoes, with an estimated travel time of approximately 1 hour.
Attractions nearby Maijishan Grottoes
- Cuihu Park: A ribbon of the park alongside the river with neon lights and a bridge. It is 15.51 miles from Maijishan Grottoes.
- Confucian Temple: A lovely temple that shows the grandeur of old Qinzhou. It is 22.73 miles from Maijishan Grottoes.
- Yuquan Temple: A temple with a history of more than 1,000 years. It is 23.3 miles from Maijishan Grottoes.
- Fuxi Temple: A temple dedicated to Fuxi, a legendary ancestor of the Chinese people. It is also 23.3 miles from Maijishan Grottoes.