The Moustached Buddha Daxiang Shan Gangu

The Sakyamuni statue, sculpted at the height of the Silk Road’s importance during the Tang Dynasty, is approached by climbing a temple lined trail on Daxiangshan 大像山

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Daxiang Shan Gangu 甘谷 Arriving.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Daxiang Shan 大像山 Gangu 甘谷 is Situated in Eastern Gansu 甘肃省 province. However, on arrival at Gangu 甘谷 you will quickly discover that this is not one of China’s most attractive towns: truth be told it’s pretty ugly.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

However, if you are in Tianshui 天水 visiting Maiji Shan and have a day to spare, the large 23 meter moustached statue of Sakyamuni a few kilometers outside Gangu is well worth visiting and can be easily combined with a trip to the beautiful Water Curtain Caves near Luomen.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

The Giant Moustached Buddha or Sakyamuni statue

The Sakyamuni statue, sculpted at the height of the Silk Road’s importance during the Tang Dynasty, is approached by climbing a temple lined trail on Daxiangshan 大像山.

The Sakyamuni statue, sculpted at the height of the Silk Road’s importance during the Tang Dynasty, is approached by climbing a temple lined trail on Daxiangshan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

While none of the temples are spectacular, they are quiet and peaceful. You and a handful of pilgrims will be the only people on the trail even in the middle of August. The statue itself is quite special.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

The colours are vibrant and the decorations surrounding it unique. But what stands out is the blue moustache, something almost unseen in the rest of China. There are some good views towards the rising Loess Plateau as you climb the trail.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

Getting there:


You can get to Gangu from Tianshui 天水 by train in just over an hour. The convenient K377 leaves Tianshui station in Beidao 北道 at 8.32 and costs 13 hard seat (buy your ticket the night before, there were plenty of seats available).

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
Pilgrims and monks at The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

Alternatively you can take one of the frequent buses from Tianshui’s twin town Qincheng 秦城.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
miniture staue at The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

I’d recommend combining a visit to Gangu with the Water Curtain Caves (Shuiliandong 水帘洞) near Luomen 洛门 some 60 km away.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
miniture statue at The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

Hiring a taxi for the best part of a day from  in front of Gangu  train station costs 200 Yuan after a little bargaining. However, I don’t recommend visiting The Water Curtain Caves until restoration work has finished sometime next year (read the next posting).

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

One curious feature of the statue is that when you see it close up, the face of the giant Buddha has a contented expression. However, Seen from a distance, he looks quite miserable.

The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu 甘谷; Daxiang Shan 大像山
The Giant Moustached Buddha at Ganggu; Daxiang Shan 大像山

The Water Cutain Caves nearby:

Tianshui

The Water Curtain Caves

The Water Curtain Caves 水帘洞 and Lashao Si 拉稍寺 (August 2009)

The Water Curtain Caves

There were 2 options; wade up the raging river or try and duck under the rickety looking scaffolding. We chose the latter. The last bars of the scaffolding were too high to step over and too low for me to comfortably duck under. I kept getting my day bag hooked on the rusty bars, rocks and stones fell from the over hanging cliff and the rain was incessant.  I could feel I was going to get a lumbago at any moment and  remembered how the guide book had described the Water Curtain Caves , Lahshao Si and the valley in which they were located as the embodiment of old China; serene and beautiful. At that moment it was a living hell.

The Water Curtain Caves

Another gem in Eastern Gansu, the Water Curtain Caves (Shuilian Dong) and Lashao Si 拉稍寺 take a bit of  an effort to reach, especially if you are using public transport, but reward the intrepid with a valley of Taoist temples, rock carvings and paintings, without another tourist in sight.

The Water Curtain Caves

Unfortunately, for the next year, the path up the valley is being rebuilt and building work is everywhere somewhat spoiling the valley’s isolation. The huge carved Buddha and paintings overlooking the valley are under going restoration, but at least the scaffolding is being withdrawn and they can be seen quite clearly.

Restoring the water curtain caves

However, many of the frescos are still covered. I’d recommend postponing any visit for at least a year. Some of the path up the valley is a death trap. At one point we had to clamber and crawl around some dodgy and hastily erected scaffolding that was holding up a cliff face as rocks fell all around us. Also try not to go when it’s raining as we did. The dry river bed becomes a raging torrent.

Under Scaffolding The Water Curtain Caves

The images and frescoes were carved and painted during the Northern Wei dynasty (AD 386 – 534) and the colours are still fantastic. The object of the restoration work seems to be to try and build a shelf above the images in order to protect them from erosion and the elements.

The Water Curtain Caves



In order to get the best views of the paintings, climb up the path in the direction of the Taoist temple, Shuilian Dong. The surrounding scenery is spectacular with domed sandstone mountains rising up above the valley.

Getting There:

We hired a taxi from Gangu station for the day (200 Yuan) and took in the Sakyamuni Statue on Daxiang Shan near Gangu as well ( see the previous posting for getting to Gangu). There are frequent buses between Gangu and Luomen from where you can also get private transport to the Water Curtain Caves. There are also buses from Lanzhou and Tianshui direct to Luomen.

Whatever transport you take at the moment you’ll have to walk the final 3 kilometres to the carvings and temples. It would be a stunning walk if not for the building work. Eventually the new road will go right up to Lashao Si which will be a pity as the valley’s serenity will be lost.

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Gangu 甘谷, Daxiang Shan 大像山 (August 2009)

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