Binglingsi is located in smaller Jishi Mountain, 35 kilometers south-west of Yongjing county in Gansu province. "Bingling" means "thousand Buddhas" or "ten-thousand Buddhas" in the Tibetan language. The Grottoes carved into the cliffs of red sand-stones at both ends of Dasigou (valley) was first constructed in the Western Qin Dynasty, and continuously went on expansion on a massive scale through the dynasties of Northern and Western Wei, Northern Zhou, Shui, Tang, Yuan, Ming, and Qing. The Grottoes consist of three parts: Shangsi, Donggou, and Xiasi. Shangsi were ruined by fire and what remained are only a few statues of Buddhas. In Xiasi, there are 34 caves and 14 niches still existing. They contain 694 stone statues, 82 clay figures, 5 stone carvings and clay pagodas and 900 square meters of murals. Binglingsi is one of the ten largest Chinese grottoes.
Cave No.171 houses the largest Buddhist statue, 27 meters high, with its upper body carved into the cliff and lower body made of clay. The statue seated cross-legged in meditation on a pedestal with the right hand resting on the lap and the left hand on the abdomen was sculptured in the 19th year of Dezong Reign of the Tang Dynasty (803). Grotto No.169 is the tallest one carved within a natural cave 8 meters deep, 26 meters wide and 18 meters high, the shape of which is similar to that of the opposite mountain rang across the river. The walls of the grotto are covered with niches, only 24 of which still exist, enshrining 19 stone statues and 39 clay figures. The grotto also houses the largest mural in Binglingsi, which is still bright and beautiful in color.
A sleeping Buddha
Buddhas in a small niche, Binglingsi.
The stone sculptures in Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves represent the social situations and customs during ancient times. In the vicinity of the caves are green hills, crystal water, grotesque stones and precipitous cliffs, which adds more beauty to this artistic site.
After the founding of People's Republic of China, the State Council designated the site as a key cultural relic, and placed it under state protection.
Tips: From Lanzhou to Yongjing County, you can go there by expressway (around one hour). Then you can get to Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves by yacht (the only way to go there and back).
Besides the temple, the journey itself is impressive, especially within close proximity to the caves. The cliff face, 60 meters high, is part of the northern side of a gorge formed by the Yellow River.Below the caves themselves is the Liujiaxia Reservoir, that will take a good three hours to cross, allowing you to enjoy at your leisure the stunning scenes before you!
Independantly, take a bus from Lanzhou's West Bus Station (or from the Victory Hotel) bound for Yongji, getting off at the Liujiaxia Port (usually depart 07:30, 80km, 2.5hrs, RMB10). Catch a boat bound for the temple from here. The boat trip costs around RMB80 (no student discounts) and takes about three hours. You can also bargain down the price for a motorboat (up to 8 people, one hour, around RMB500-600