Why is Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves special?
Situated about 35 kilometers west of Yongjing County in Lanzhou city, Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves, also called Bingling Grottoes, is a famous religious attraction ranking the second after the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang in respect of artistic value. Bingling means "ten thousand Buddha" in the Tibetan language, thus the grottoes is well renowned for the Buddhist arts.
Dating from about 420 AD to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves with Buddha statuaries and frescoes had been excavated in various dynastic eras, showing the different cultures, clothing and physical features of the worshipped gods. Buddhist culture coming from Central Asia along the Silk Road influenced the statues of Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves. As a result, the earliest statues are at the highest elevation with characteristic Indian-style features and artistic style. Carved in natural caves or hewn grottoes in a canyon along the Yellow River, Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves is the gem of Buddhist culture combined with Chinese civilization and wisdom.
Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves Highlights
With 196 niches, 694 stone statues, 82 clay sculptures and some 900 square meters' murals, Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves is of great historical and cultural value. Among the stone sculptures, the main characters are Sakyamuni, Kwan-yin, Amitayus Buddha, Maitreya Buddha. With elegant postures, solemn but peaceful facial expressions, the statues are vivid and magnificent.
The earliest carvings at Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves were built about the year 420 AD in the Northern Wei Dynasties (368-534) in natural caves at the top of the grottoes site. The big Maitreya Buddha at the bottom near the water level of Yellow River was made during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) when Buddhism and monasteries became really influential in China. Among the caves, Cave No.169 is the representative. Made in the Northern Dynasties (386-581), Cave No.169 is the most imposing and delicate one which holds the clay sculptures of Kwan-yin, Dali Buddha (Dali means powerful strength in Chinese), etc. Kwan-yin has a peaceful expression showing the mercy to all, and Dali Buddha has a solemn expression, sitting with legs crossed. On its two sides stands Bodhisattvas with their hair bound, waving bare arms.