Maijishan Grottoes is one of the four greatest grottoes in China. The other three are Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi province, Longmen Grottoes in Henan province, and Dunhuang Mogao Caves in Gansu province.
Different from the other three grottoes, Maijishan Grottoes is renowned home and abroad for its exquisite clay sculptures in a series of caves, excavated in the side of the mountain Maijishan, 35 km. (22 mi.) southeast of Tianshui city, in Gansu province.
Maijishan stands 142 meters above the ground and it's so named because the appearance of the mountain bears a strong resemblance with a wheat stack.
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The mountain is covered by green cypresses, pines, lush grass and flowers. Standing on top of it, you'll get a panoramic view of its surroundings and be fascinated by the wonderful scenery formed by green mountains rolling out among a cloud of mist and staying only partly visible.
This makes Maijishan Grottoes proud not only of its incomparable skills of creating a large number of fine clay sculptures but also in its stunning natural landscape around.
You enter those caves by climbing up the twisted flights of stair hanging on the side of mountain.
There are now 194 Buddhist caves in total which were built in several past dynasties such as the Northern and Western Wei Dynasty, Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasty, with 54 on the east side of the mountain and 140 on the west as well as some 7,200 Buddhist statues made of clay or stone and mural paintings of 1,300 sq. m. (13,993 sq. ft.).
The height of the statues in Maijishan Grottoes ranges from ten centimeters to 16 meters. The vivid facial expressions of each of the stone or clay statue make you feel that they may come to life at any moment earning it the reputation of being " the oriental sculpture museum".
Judging from the figures and costumes of the statuaries, most of them reflect the characteristics of Han nationality and although they are gods in heaven, the amiable expressions make them look more like people living in the secular world.
These are the two features that make Maijishan statues stand out from those in other grottoes.
Maijishan Grottoes open to the tourist from 8:00-17:00 and the entrance fee is 70 RMB (12 USD) per person.