Maiji Mountain is 150 meters tall, and it was named for its shape -- like that of a pile of wheat. According to historical records, the Maiji Grottoes were excavated during the Hou Qin Dynasty of the Sixteen Kingdom Period. The Maiji Mountain Grottoes have a long history. Excavation and rock carving continued for more than a thousand years. During the Beizhou Dynasty, Liyunxin built the Seven-Buddha Pavilion in memory of his deceased father. Emperor Wen Di of the Sui Dynasty ordered the construction of a Buddhist nun site. The present dagoba on the top of the mountain was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. A lot of the original temples have been destroyed, but a lot remain. There are very old frescoes dating from before the Sui Dynasty.
In the area are preserved 194 grottoes of dynasties such as the Beiwei, Xiwei, Beizhou, Sui, and Tang, the Five Dynasties, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing. There are 7000 clay sculptures and carved stone statues. This grotto group, unlike the column-centered caves in the famous Mogao Grottoes, was built fully according to ancient Chinese tradition. Many fine statues, carved before the Sui Dynasty, are much more valuable than the statues in the Mogao Grottoes that were modified afterwards during several dynasties.
The artistic style in these grottoes show the influence of Central Asian cultures. The Maijishan Grottoes display the features of the culture of the Central Plains because its geographical position is near the Central Plains. The Yungang Grottoes, Sichuan Dazu Rock Carvings, Huangze Temple Caves and the Maijishan Grottoes impacted each other in style.
In the Maijishan Grottoes, the tallest statue is 16 meters tall and the smallest is only 10 cm tall. The statue in Grotto No. 44 is called "The Venus of the East."On the frocks of the statues in Grotto No. 78 and Grotto No. 128, patterns were curved with vivid detail. In Seven-Buddha Pavilion that is over 70 meters in height, the statue is of delicate beauty, and on the top of the aisle the frescoes are exquisite. At the western end of the aisle, are carved carriages and pedestrians which are heading different directions which can be viewed from different angles. It can be rated as the masterpiece of Chinese fresco composition. See ancient grottoes in China.
The Maijishan Grottoes are part of the Maijishan Mountain scenic reserve area with forests and a large variety of plants and animals. It is a beautiful scenic spot in the area and has interesting geology. The mountain peak is about 1,700 meters above sea level.
It is one of China’s four greatest Buddhist grottoes.
Address: 45 kilometers from Tianshui.
How to get there: There is the No. 34 tourist bus that goes from Maijishan railway station to Maijishan Mountain. The travel requires about an hour, and buses leave about every 7 minutes. The tourist buses to the temple site itself cost 10 RMB to ride when you get the admission ticket, and it takes you to a place close to the grottoes. From there, there is a 30 minute walk