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Bingling Temple

 
Binglingsi Grottoes
 
Bingling Temple Grottoes,west of the Yongjing County, are carved on Jishi Hill, 75 km from Lanzhou by bus, or 54 km by yacht on Liujiaxia Reservoir.
 
Bingling Temple Grottoes, famous for stone sculptures of Budda, Buddhist pagodas in relief and murals of Esoteric Buddhism, are among major historical and cultural sites under state protection in China.
 
Bingling is a transliteration of Tibetan, which means Ten Thousand Buddha. They were initially made in 420 AD by daring Buddhists who descended from the cliff on ropes to carve their masterpieces, and expanded several times through the ages. Nowadays, there still exist 183 niches, 694 stone statues, 82 clay sculptures, and 900 square meters of murals. All the statues, sculptures and murals exhibit superb craftsmanship, and have great artistic appeal. These caves, which stretch for 200 meters, include the caves of Western Qin, North Wei, Sui, Tang, and Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing dynasties. Within and on the cliff are a series of winding walkways and stairs that will lead you around the site.
 
The most imposing is the statue of Maitreya (the Buddha of the Future), which is 27 meters high, and stands out as the first sight of the caves from the river. Its cover has fallen off, possibly because the Buddha was made of straw and stucco over an inner wooden frame.
 
Cave No.169 is the oldest cave from the Eastern Jin period (a disturbed period in China's history when China was split into several states). The cave has 24 niches, which contain nineteen stone Buddha and 39 clay figures. Murals on the wall are dedicated to Buddha, Bodhisattva, Apsara, etc. This cave also holds the earliest epigraph of any of China's caves to tell that the niche was built in 420AD.
 
Besides the temple, the journey itself is impressive, especially within close proximity to the caves.  The cliff face, 60 meters high, is part of the northern side of a gorge formed by the Yellow River.  Below the caves themselves is the Liujiaxia Reservoir, that will take a good three hours to cross, allowing you to enjoy at your leisure the stunning scenes before you!
 
 
 
The Great Maitreya BuddhaThe Bingling Temple is a series of grottoes filled with Buddhist sculpture carved into natural caves and caverns in a canyon along the Yellow River. It lies just north of where the Yellow River empties into the Liujiaxia Reservoir created by the dam at Yongjing.

The caves were a work in progress for more than a millennium. The first grotto was begun around 420 AD at the end of the Western Jin Dynasty. Work continued and more grottoes were added during the Wei, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The style of each grottoe can easily be connected to the typical artwork from its corresponding dynasty. The Bingling Temple is both stylisticaly and geographically a midpoint between the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan and the Buddhist Grottoes of central China, Yungang Grottoes near Datong and Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang.

Over the centuries, earthquakes, erosion, and looters have damaged or destroyed many of the caves and the artistic treasures within. Altogether there are 183 caves, 694 stone statues, and 82 clay sculptures that remain. The relief sculpture and caves filled with buddhas and frescoes line the northern side of the canyon for about 200 meters. Each cave is like a miniature temple filled with Buddhist imagery. These caves culminate at a large natural cavern where wooden walkways precariously wind up the rock face to hidden cliff-side caves and the giant Maitreya Buddha that stands more than 27 meters, or almost 100 feet, tall.

The sculptures, carvings, and frescoes that remain are outstanding examples of Buddhist artwork and draw visitors from around the world. The site is extremely remote and can only be reached by boat from Yongjing during summer and fall. The rest of the year, the site is inaccessible, as there are no roads in the area.

 
 

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