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Binglingsi Grottoes

Binglingsi Grottoes at the Linxia Hui Autonomous County looks like Mogao Grottoes to some extent. The grottoes were made in the west cliff of Jishi Mountain. It is about 80km from Lanzhou and one way riding will cost about 1.5 hours from Lanzhou.

There are 183 caves which house altogether 790 Buddhist figures survived. And the murals within in these caves amount to 900 square meters. The body of the grottoes consists of the “Buddhist figure made by the nature ” (also known as the No. 169 cave) and many smaller caves spread along the cliff face.

The grottoes could be divided into four layers. The earliest recorded opening time of the Binglinsi Grottoes is 420 AD, and in the Tang Dynasty the grottoes was called “Tangshuku” which means “caves of spirit” in local language. Since the early years of its opening, the grottoes played an important role in the spreading and promoting of Buddhist culture in China because it is an important point along ancient Silk Road. The international business men largely enhanced the spread and exchange of Buddhist culture.

The Buddhist figures carved in different dynasties present the various styles. The ones made in the West Qin Period look valiant and strong and the ones made in the North Wei Period look bony. The figures made in North Zhou period look plummy and the figures in the Sui and the Tang Dynasty are exaggerated. And the figures made in the following Song Dynasty look more true-life. The looks and decorations of those grottoes are endowed with both thick religious mood and the features of real life.

Binglinsi Grottoes are not rich in figure number, but the survived figures reflect the the society custom, musical and dance art, and also the decoration art in the northwestern part of ancient China during the Sixteen Kingdoms Period. With the fading of ancient Silk Road tour after the Yuan Dynasty, Binglinsi Grottoes was also gradually forgot by public, only the Buddhist followers went there for prayers. Recently years, with the development of tourism, Binglinsi Grottoes come to public’s eye again as an important stop in one’s Silk Road tour.

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