There is nothing quite like Maijishan 麦积山 in China. The bizarre, haystack shaped mountain rises majestically up over a subtropical zone of greenery and rivers. Other Buddhist sites might have enormous statues or high ceiling-ed painted caves, but the views they offer are often more restrictive and it may be difficult to get up close, due to barriers or hordes of visitors.
At Maijishan 麦积山, the cave art and statues are right in your face and you can almost touch them, though you mustn’t, of course! And, in addition, there is the mountain itself: a honeycomb of caves and statues reached by climbing up a snakes and ladder board of incredible staircases that cling precariously to the side of the mountain.
In 2002 we made a route that we called the Lanzhou 兰州 – Pingliang平凉 – Tianshui天水 Triangle (Click here). This August (2009), we returned to Tianshui and Lanzhou to add a few more interesting sites to the route. Namely, the Water Curtain Caves 水帘洞 and Lashao Si 拉稍寺 near Luomen 洛门 and Daxiang Shan大像山 near Gangu甘谷. We also took the opportunity to revisit Maiji Shan 麦积山 and explore the historic part of Tianshui; Qincheng.
With good restaurants, reasonably cheap accommodation, a few sites and some remaining old traditional architecture, Tianshui makes a decent base for a number of excursions.
Tianshui is actually made up of two towns, Beidao 北道 and Qincheng 秦城. The towns are separated by Continue reading “Tianshui 天水 – Beidao 北道- Qincheng秦城”
I lay on the bed unable to sleep but hoping beyond hope that the train would arrive late. However, my hopes were dashed when the conductor shook my shoulder and warned that “We are arriving in 5 minutes”. The train pulled into to Tianshui Station at 3.57am exactly on time and we alighted bleary eyed.
Crossing the square in front of the station we looked for a hotel. Unfortunately, all insisted we would have to pay the full rate for the 2 hours to 6 o’clock. One receptionist suggested that we leave the luggage at the hotel and either sit in the lobby or go out until 6.00 am. My stingier side got the better of me despite Margie’s protests. So we dumped the luggage behind the reception desk and headed out to the square where a number of food stalls and small stores remained open. We grabbed a few beers Continue reading “Tianshui 天水: An Early Arrival”
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. 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 Continue reading “The Water Curtain Caves 水帘洞 and Lashao Si 拉稍寺 (August 2009)”
The main reason for going to Tianshui is to visit the fantastic grottoes known as Maiji Shan Shiku, or Haystack Mountain. Maiji Shan is a flat-topped rock formation, set in the midst of dense green forests. There are two groups of three large statues each, the highlight of which is a 16-metre Buddha, carved on the rock face. Then there is a whole series of caves, connected by amazing walkways that provide good views of the statues, as well as the opportunity to look into every nook and cranny of Haystack Mountain.
With statues ranging from the Northern Wei, through to the Qing dynasty, there is a real sense of……..