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Home Silk Road Travel Guide Zhangye Travel Guide Zhangye Attractions Mati Temple – See Millennia-old Grotto Art and Natural Wonders

Mati Temple – See Millennia-old Grotto Art and Natural Wonders

Mati Temple is an iconic Buddhist temple located just south of the city of Zhangye in Gansu Province, China. With a history spanning over 1400 years, Mati Temple is home to many well-preserved ancient buildings, sculptures, murals, and other cultural relics that showcase the region’s Buddhist heritage. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the history and artistry of Buddhist temples in China, Mati Temple should be at the top of your list.


History of Mati Temple

Mati Temple, originally called Kaiyuan Temple, was first built in 557 AD during the Northern Zhou Dynasty. It was later renamed Mati Temple in the Qing Dynasty. The temple covers an area of more than 30,000 square meters and contains many buildings that date back to the Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Some of the most famous highlights of Mati Temple include the Beamless Hall, the Thousand Buddha Cave, the Nine-Story Pagoda, and the murals and sculptures found throughout the temple complex.

Zhangye Mati Temple
Mati Temple

Fast Facts About Mati Temple

  • Location: 5 km south of Zhangye City, Gansu Province, China
  • Opening hours: 8 am to 6 pm daily
  • Admission fee: CNY 40
  • Time Needed: 2 to 3 hours
  • Highlights: Beamless Hall, Thousand Buddha Cave, Nine-Story Pagoda, temple murals and sculptures
  • Best suited for History and culture buffs, photographers, Buddhist pilgrims


What to See and Do at Mati Temple

The Great Buddha Hall

The main hall of Mati Temple houses three giant Buddha statues, including a central statue of Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by Kasyapa Buddha and Ananda Buddha. These clay sculptures date back to the Ming Dynasty.

The Beamless Hall

One of the most unique buildings at Mati Temple is the Beamless Hall, a dome-shaped hall made entirely of bricks without any beams or pillars. Inside you’ll find a statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva. The ingenious architectural design of this hall is truly a sight to behold.

The Thousand Buddha Cave

Carved into the cliff behind Mati Temple is the Thousand Buddha Cave, containing over 700 Buddha statues of different sizes. The cave was constructed during the Tang Dynasty and offers a glimpse into the artistic skills of ancient craftsmen.

The Nine-Story Pagoda

Mati Temple is also home to a well-preserved nine-story pagoda built during the Ming Dynasty. The pagoda stands at a height of over 30 meters and features intricate carvings, paintings, and architectural details on each level. Climb to the top of the pagoda for panoramic views of the temple grounds and surrounding areas.

Temple Murals and Sculptures

The temple walls and many buildings within the complex contain murals and sculptures depicting Buddhist figures like Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, monks, and more. Many of these artworks date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties and showcase the superb artistic skills of the time. Over 100 colored murals can be found painted on the exterior temple wall alone.

Mati Temple Murals
Murals Sculptures in Mati Temple

Best Time to Visit Mati Temple

The best time to visit Mati Temple is from April to October during the spring and autumn seasons. You’ll avoid the large crowds of the summer months and the frigid winter weather. The summer rainy season from July to August is also not an ideal time to visit as some parts of the temple may be inaccessible due to the rain. If possible, visit the temple during a weekday, especially in the morning when the lighting is best for photographs and fewer crowds.


Nearby Attractions

  • Zhangye Danxia National Geologic Park – Featuring stunning multi-colored sandstone formations, about a 1.5-hour drive from Mati Temple.
  • Giant Buddha Temple: This historic temple is home to a large reclining Buddha statue that dates back to the Western Xia Dynasty (1038-1227).


Getting to Mati Temple

Mati Temple is located only 5 km south of Zhangye City in Gansu Province. Here are the options to get there:

Board Bus 2 or 13 which can drop you off at the Mati Temple stop. The bus will take around 10 minutes from Zhangye railway station.

Take a taxi or Didi (China’s version of Uber) from anywhere in Zhangye City. The taxi fare is around CNY 15 and the ride takes under 15 minutes.

If self-driving, Mati Temple is located on the southern end of Zhangye’s main city road. There is ample parking available at the temple entrance.

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