Maiji Mountain Grottoes

Maiji Mountain Grottoes is in the Maiji Mountain Scenic Spot, 45 km from the southeast Tianshui. The Maiji Mountain Grottoes is the most famous scenery in the Maiji Mountain Scenic Spot. It is one of the four biggest grottoes in China, and the famous scenic spot on the Silk Road known by all o. Er the world. The grand scenery, named "Maiji's Misty Rain', is listed as one of the Eight Famous Scenery in Qinzhou. The Maiji Mountain, namely Maiji Cliff, is named because it looks like a huge wheat straw pile from afar. It is a single, distinct peak. Because it is green and luxuriant, it is reputed as "the first mountain in Qinzhou".

The construction of grottoes and temples here began in the Qin Dynasty in 384, and took their present scale through the Northern Wei, Western Wei, Northern Zhou, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. During this period, they have been newly built and rebuilt in succession. In 1961, the Maiji Mountain Grottoes was on the list of the first batch of national major historical and cultural relics sites by the State Council. In order to protect these great artist grottoes better, the state government appropriated money for the eight-year repairing and reinforcing the main mountain. Now the Maiji Mountain presents a totally new appearance, and attracts more and more tourists from home and aboard.

The Maiji Mountain Grottoes were cut in rows 20 to 30m and 70 to 80 m above the foot of the mountain to have the appearance of a huge honeycomb. They are all connected by the wooden brackets fixed into the cliff. The biggest grotto is 30 m, while the smallest grotto is about 1 m in width. Because of its superb skill, it's said that these grottoes seemed built by immortals. In 734, the 22nd years of the Kaiyuan Period in the Tang Dynasty because of the violent earthquake, the middle part of the Maiji Mountain was subsided and became two parts the east part and the west part. Until 19721 the two parts were connected by newly-built wooden brackets. There are 194 grottoes (54 on the eastern cliff and 140 on the western cliff), more than 7, 200 statues and stone carvings, and 1, 300 square meters of murals. They all have a history of more than 1, 500 years. In view of the artist shapes and features, the statues are vivid and graceful, the stone carvings are highly skilled, and the murals are unsophisticated and refined.

No matter of the Northern Dynasty's "thin and pretty" or the Sui and Tang Dynasties' "chubby and filled-out", the paintings are all extremely lifelike. These traditional skills display the unique style of the Chinese ancient statues and painting's artistry completely, and provide the vivid and systemic material objects for studying the relevant history of Chinese ancient statues, stone carvings, murals, architecture, religion and so on.

The Most attractive things are the three big Buddha and bodhisattva statues which were built in the Kaihuang and Renshou Period of Sui Dynasty. They are 15 m in height with the dignified carriages and kindly faces.

In the eastern part, the Buddhism Nirvana Grotto, Thousand-Buddha Corridor, Seven-Buddha Pavilion and Niu'er Hall are the remarkable representatives. Today, the stone ridge, roof and four pillars of the Buddhism Nirvana Grotto still have been preserved perfectly. The top of the pillars has stoner carved lotus design. The relief sculpture named "flashing treasures" is ingeniously conceived. It has important significance for studying the history of Chinese grottoes' architecture and the mergence of the Chinese and Indian artistry. So we say that they are the treasures of Chinese grottoes' architecture.

Thousand-Buddha Corridor is 32. 74 m in length. There are two rows and have 258 Buddha statues built in Wei Dynasty. They have different facial expressions respectively, and are all extremely lifelike. What a surprise is that although these clay statues located in the moist mountain and forest region with abundant rainfall, they have stood there more than thousands of years, they are still very solid and remain the artist charming of the Wei Dynasty.

Through the Thousand-Buddha Corridor, it is the famous Seven Buddha Pavilion. The Seven-Buddha Pavilion is also called the Building for Scattering Flowers. It's the most magnificent grotto in the Maiji Mountain and the precious material object for studying Chinese ancient architecture. There are more than 70 statues in the pavilion. Most of them are more than 1 m in height. Each statue has different expression. It is solemn but kind, gorgeous and refined.

The statue of Heavenly King exposing neck and shoulders stands at the west side of the corridor and is more than 3 m in height. This Heavenly King has the exaggerative expression, standing-out muscles and the brave and fierce power on the face. He looks glaring eyes under the heavy eyebrows, sticking up the chin slightly, and gnashing his teeth. We can feel that there i5 strength between his teeth. We can't easily see such manner of the Heavenly King in any other temples. The four strong men also have different postures, but they have the same artistic appeal. The murals on the corridor's ceiling are the heavenly maidens scattering flowers. Every four heavenly maidens make a group to scatter flowers. The Flying Apsaras in the Building for Scattering Flowers are the perfect models among the flying apsaras in the Maiji Mountain Grottoes. Their postures are full of varieties, beautiful and proportional, and give us a relaxed and elegant feeing. Although the murals on the caisson ceiling are destroyed, the rest of them are still very Brand. Standing at the Seven-Buddha Pavilion, you will have an illusion of walking in the Great Heaven Hall. And if you imitated the heavenly maidens to scatter pieces of paper, you would find that these pieces of paper fall down and suddenly float up to the sky. At last, there is no piece of paper on the ground. There is also a story about the strange scenery. Originally, it is the Seven-Buddha Pavilion that Sakyamuni appeared and spread scriptures.

At the first spreading time, there were full of followers seated in the valley. In order to test the piousness of these people, the 28 heavenly maidens decided to scatter flowers to these followers. The heavenly maidens believed that the flowers would fly away over the pious followers and fall down on the impious followers. So there were full of flowers in the valley, but no one flower fallen down on any people. It proofed that all the followers were pious. It's the reason why we called here the Building for Scattering Flowers. In fact, the real reason of flowers or pieces of paper flying up to the sky is that the Maiji Mountain located at the basin and there is a drought beside. The wind comes into the basin and becomes an upwards vortex, so no matter the flowers or pieces of paper both fly up to the sky.

The most special thing of the Niu'e, Hall is the powerful Heavenly King standing in the corridor. His feet stood on the dignified calf. with a prone position. It's said that it. was a magical calf. which has useless strength . If roared aloud, there would be earthshaking. According to records, from the ancient time, there had many earthquakes in Tianshui just because of the calf's roars. Fortunately, the Heavenly King upheld justice and in order to guard the safety of the human, he had noticed it in four seasons every year. One deep night, he suddenly found that the calf wanted to move and roar. At such dangerous moment, the Heavenly King quickly leaped on the calf and calmed down it. He saved the entire human in Tianshui, Such myths often move people by the creator's kind wishes and colorful imaginations.

On the western cliff, it is lofty and precipitous and has many grottoes. Among these grottoes, the Ten-Thousand Buddha Hall and Paradise Cave are the most outstanding representatives. The Ten-Thousand Buddha Hall was reputed as the "grant sight" of the Buddha's clay statues. Nowadays, there are more than 30 clay statues in it. At the door, there is a welcoming Buddha. It's 3. 5 m in height. His eyes closed slightly, his face had a kind expression and hands posed with the gesture of leading. It's the excellent work made in the Tang Dynasty and repaired in the Song Dynasty. Other statues are mainly Buddha and his disciples of all different sizes, true to life in appearance. The more precious is the 18 stone sculptures. The No. 10 Stone Sculpture was carved to narrate Sakyamuni's life story. It had similar features in artistry with The Last Supper painted by Da Vinci. And the No. 16 Stone Sculpture depicted the picture of Sakyamuni's spreading scriptures.The murals in the Maiji Mountain Grottoes are also very vivid and full of energy.

According to records, many poems once depicted the lofty and steep of the Maiji Mountain. The Paradise Cave is the highest grotto, and the stone sculptures in it are all carved in the Northern Wei. These statues are full of power and extremely lifelike. Although they are all of clay sculptures, after thousands of years, they still look like newly-carved. It completely presents our ancient artists' outstanding wisdom in carving, painting and architecture.

Although the art of the Maiji Mountain Grottoes is the Buddhism art, it reflects the whole process of the Buddhism and its ideas' beginning and development. Unlike other social art forms to depict the social life at that time directly, it reviews the people's daily life and the social, political and economic situation in different dynasties indirectly. It has abundant artistic connotation and unique artistic style. 1f we say that Dunhuang is the treasure house of murals, while Maiji Mountain is the exhibition hall of clay statues. So the Maiji Mountain Grottoes was reputed as the "Oriental Sculpture Treasure House". The different expressions are all depicted vividly and incisively. Such as happy, angry, depress, cheerful, pious\ innocent and kind expressions. The statues in the Maiji Mountain Grottoes especially reflect the deep national tradition and strong national awareness. They have the traditional skills of "presenting spirit by appearance "and" both having spirit and appearance" and completely reflect the interest of worldly life. The statues are mainly of solemn Buddha and his disciples, beautiful bodhisattvas and powerful heavenly kings. They have strong religious atmosphere. Among these statues, we can see many excellent works of sculpture art in china. They. Reflect the development and evolution of clay sculptures art in China.

In the view of the shape of grottoes, unlike other grottoes! they weren't influenced by the Indian style. These special shapes of the Maiji Mountain Grottoes are the most precious material objects for studying Chinese ancient architecture. Besides these, there are many upright stone tablets by famous persons on the Maiji Mountain.

Written by (Huang Ying)

  • Maiji Mountain Grottoes