Archive for the ‘Xian Travel’ Category

How to Visit Maijishan Grottoes from Xian by Train

Friday, September 4th, 2020
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Dear Travelers

We’d like to have the following travel guide to be always updated for the benefit of new visitors coming to Tianshui from Xian. If anybody having used the piece finds necessary updates, please leave a message or feedback. Thanks!
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If  you are in the process of planning your Xian tour, you may consider making a day trip to Maijishan Grottoes in Tianshui, oft-lauded as one of the four most famous ancient Buddhist grottoes in China. The other three grottoes are Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Yungang Caves in Datong and Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang.

The Maijishan Grottoes Scenic Area is located 30 km south of Maiji District (麦积区) of Tianshui City (天水市). As an individual traveler, a good option for you to go to Maijishan Grottoes from Xian is either taking a less-than-two-hour high speed train from Xian North Railway Station or an over-3-hour normal train from Xian Railway Station.

There are plenty of high speed trains ( G or D trains ) from Xian North Railway Station and all the high speed trains arrive at Tianshui South Railway Station; all the normal trains ( Z, T or K trains ) from Xian Railway Station arrive at Tianshui Railway Station.

The newly built Tianshui South Railway Station ( High speed train station ) is about 8 km to the southwest of the old Tianshui Railway Station.

How to Get from Tianshui South Railway Station to Maijishan Grottoes

If you arrive at Tianshui South Railway Station (High speed train station) from Xian by high speed train, basically you have two  choices to get to
Tianshui Maijishan Grottoes below:

 1. Taking the Bus No.60:
Bus Fare: 7 yuan ( Be ready for the money in advance)
Distance: 33 km
Bus Ride: almost two hours ( so very slow )

2. Taxi
Taxi fare: about 100 yuan ( no meters and you have to bargain)
Taxi ride: about one hour

How to Get from Tianshui Railway Station to Maijishan Grottoes
When you arrive at Tianshui Railway Station from Xian Railway Station (not high speed train), you will see a signboard pointing to Bus 34, a shuttle bus going from Tianshui Railway Station to the parking lot attached to Maijishan Grottoes. The Bus 34 is on the right side of the square in front of Tianshui Railway Station if you exit from the railway building (about 50 meters away on your right direction).  Bus 34 Bus fare RMB 5, a 50-minutes bus ride.

The first bus leaves at 6:00 and last bus at 9:00pm. Get ready for RMB 5 to be put inside the slot for the 50-minute bus ride from the station to the parking lot of Maijinshan Grottoes. The bus leaves every 13 minutes. Line up at the front door to get a seat on the bus and get off the bus at the middle door at your destination.

The Yellow Colored Bus 34 going to Maijishan

The Yellow Colored Bus 34 going to Maijishan

It is a scenic bus ride from the train station to Maijinshan Grottoes – fresh air, green mountains and typical Chinese villagers.

A scenic bus ride from the train station to Maijishan Grottos

A scenic bus ride from the train station to Maijishan Grottos

Getting from your bus and visit Maijishan Grottoes
Getting off from your bus and walk to the ticketing office by the entrance – Chinese traditional decorated gate. Entrance fee: RMB 70 and RMB 15 for a return electric car which brings you up to the base of Maijishan and back.

It is worth taking the golf cart for the fast and comfortable ride otherwise you need to walk another 3km to get to the base of Maijinshan.

The electric car service saves your time for a 3 km walk.

The electric car service saves your time for a 3 km walk.

Maijishan, or Maiji Mountain is 142 meters high with an altitude of 1742 meters .  The hill is large in the middle part and a bit narrow at the bottom and the flat top, resembling a wheat stack, hence the name of Maiji – a wheat stack in Chinese. One of the glamour Buddhist grottoes areas along the ancient silk road, Maijishan Grottoes were originally built in late Qin ( 384AD and 417AD ) of sixteen states period., developed and expanded through the successive dynasties ranging from North Wei, Zhou, Sui, Tang, Song and Ming dynasties.

The red-looking Maijinshan is a Danxia landform, relatively easier for grottoes carving. Currently there are 221 remaining grottoes, over 7000 statues and 10000 square meters of murals. Carved between 30 meters and 80 meters in the side cliffs of Maijinshan, visitors now need to climb up the cat-walks and spiral stairways to see these caves.

The caves are hewn from the rocks on the side cliffs, but the statues inside these caves are not carved from the same rocks. Instead the statutes are mainly composed of 3 kinds – stone as core covered with clay, clay statutes, clay carving mixed with other materials ( wood ).

What distinguish the grottoes in Maijishan from other same their those in Datong, Mogao and Yungan is  that most of the a Buddhist statues are clay carvings. The clay statues still keep a large mount of pigment.  The clay statues in Maijishan are vivid, personalised with more secular life descriptions. It is worth your 10-hours round trip from Xian.

The Decorated Chinese traditional entrance gate to Maijinshan

The Decorated Chinese traditional entrance gate to Maijinshan

Get off from the electric cart,  you still need to walk up about 500 meters to the bottom of Maijinshan Mountain, passing by along a long string of food  and souvenir stalls. Before starting your climb up to Maijin Hill, you’d better locate a good spot to take a panoramic picture of Maijishan Mountain with grottoes.

The east side cliff of Maiji Hill

The grottoes on the east side of the cliff

The grottoes on the east side of the cliff

The west side cliff of Maiji Mountain

The grottoes on the west side cliff

The grottoes on the west side cliff

Just follow a single trail up to the hill along the zigzag stairways taking you to different caves with good English captions introducing each major cave. Some caves are closed for protections and you have to see through the wire fence windows. The visit on the mountain caves takes about 2 hours.

Climb up the catwalk with guard rails

Spiral Catwalks

Spiral Catwalks

The zigzag stairway leading to the caves caved on the cliffs.Walking up toward to the Grotto No. 013. Built in Sui Dynasty ( 518AD-618AD), and later rebuilt in Song Dynasty.

The grotto contains a huge high-relief stone frame clay sculptures of the Buddha in the middle and flanked by two Bodhisattva, 15.70  meters high, the largest  statues in the Maiji Mountain.

Walking up along the zigzag catwalk.

Walking up along the zigzag catwalk.

Have a close look at the trinity of Buddha and two Bodhisattva.

A close look at the giant statues

A close look at the giant statues

This is the Grotto No. 009, known as Middle Seven Buddha Pavilion.  A large pavilion is perched in front of the seven niches housing the seven buddhist statues. The grotto was built in the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557 – 581) and rebuilt in Song, Ming and Qin dynasties.

The Seven Buddha Pavilion

The Seven Buddha Pavilion

Zoom in one of the seven niches with a clear picture of the clay statue with vivid facial expressions.

Look at one of the seven niches

Look at one of the seven niches

Continue to move on to Grotto No.003. Also originally built in the Northern Zhou Dynasty. It is a long corridor pavilion, 36.5 meters, a representative art of early wood structures. The upper and lower rows of Buddha, hence the name of One Thousand Buddha Corridor.

The One Thousand Buddha Corridor

The One Thousand Buddha Corridor

The statues at the long corridor are seen through the mesh grills.

The statues are seen through the mesh grills.

The statues are seen through the mesh grills.

Continue to walk up to the Grotto No.004, also built in the Northern Zhou Dynasty ( 518AD – 618AD). It is known as Upper Seven Buddha Pavilion.

The Seven Buhhda Pavilion

The Seven Buhhda Pavilion

Have a close look at the statues inside the Upper Seven Buddha Pavilion.

Look at the statues inside the Upper Seven Buddha Pavilion

Look at the statues inside the Upper Seven Buddha Pavilion

Narrow catwalk support numerous visitors. High on the catwalk with a panoramic view of the surrounding lush mountains.

Standing on the spiral

Standing on the spiral catwalk

Some caves are closed for repair.

Some caves are closed

Some caves are closed

After the 2-hour visit of the Maijin Mountain, walk down to the parking lot for the bus returning to Tianshui railway Station for a 3-hour train back to Xian.

If you have any questions, just drop a line.

Tips for Visiting Hanyang Tombs Xian

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020
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When you are planning your Xian tour, your focus will be definitely on Terracotta Warriors Museum. But the other equally interesting and important subterranean archaeological museum may slip under your radar, namely, Hanyang Tombs (Hanyangling), the Tomb of Tomb of Emperor Jingdi Jindi (188BC—141BC), the fourth emperor of Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) which follows Qin Dynasty ( 221–206 BC).

This is a wonderful cultural site, more interesting and engaging than the Terracotta Warriors. The well-structured site comprises the emperor’s tomb, empress’ tomb, the south and north accompanying burial pits, and human sacrifice graveyard.

With the emperor’s tomb laid out in the center, the site tells the strict hierarchical social structure. A must see!
Note: The Emperor’s Tomb is still intact, not excavated yet.

Tips
tips-11. How to Get There
Han Yang Ling Mausoleum (Hanyang Tomb) is located about 25 km north of Bell Tower in the city center of Xian and about 24 km to the east of Xian Xianyang International Airport.

To get there is a little bit tricky. You may take Tourism Bus No.04 starting from Xian Library to Hanyang Tomb.
Bus Timetable:
Xian Library to Hanyang Tomb: 09:30, 10:30; 13:30 and 13:30
Hanyang Tomb to Xian Library: 15: 00, 16:00,17:00 and 18:00

Or you may take a taxi either from Xian city center or Xian Xianyang International Airport. Taxi fare about 80-100 yuan.

2. Entry Fee and Opening Hours
Admission: 90 yuan ( March – November ) and 65 yuan ( December – February )

Opening Hours: 08: 30 – 19:00 ( March – November ) and 08:30 – 18:00 yuan ( December – February )

Tel:029-86031470

3. Visiting the Protection Hall of Burial Pits
The Protection Hall of Burial Pits is popularly known as the underground museum or on site subterranean museum. This is the place worth most of your visit time in Hanyang Tomb.

It is awesome to walk on the glass floors to view the terracotta smaller scale people, more engaging and interesting than Terracotta Warrior Museum,

The Protection Hall of Burial Pits

The Protection Hall of Burial Pits

The underground museum is built on the excavation sites above which glass floors are built for people to have a close look at the artifacts underneath. You will see small-sized terracotta figures. Not only terracotta soldiers, but various animals and household items were buried as well.

It gives you a feel of  the Emperor’s attempt to create his daily life in miniature in the tomb accompanying him for eternity.

4. Visiting Hanyang Tomb Archaeological Exhibition Hall
The above-ground museum is a bit far from the underground museum mentioned above. There are buggies shuttling between the two sites.

Visiting Hanyang Tomb Archaeological Exhibition Hall

Visiting Hanyang Tomb Archaeological Exhibition Hall

Han Yang Ling Archaeological Exhibition Hall is a modern comprehensive museum. It has a unique style and advanced exhibition area. About 1700 exquisite artifacts unearthed in the past 30 years are on display in the two-storey building.

5. How to Schedule Your Visit
A side trip to Hanyang Tomb can be arranged either after you arrive at Xian Airport or before you go to Xian airport since the site is easily accessible on the highway linking the airport, the tomb and the downtown of Xian.

Alternatively, you may visit Hanyang Tomb for one or two hours before you are heading to the Terracotta Army Museum.

6. A Nice Gift Store
A nice store to buy art crafts.

A Nice Gift Store

A Nice Gift Store

Tip: Hassle-free Xian Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for Xian guided tours:

Xian City Day Tour from US$69
Xian Terracotta Warriors Day Tour A from US$85
Terracotta Army and Song of Everlasting Performance from US$135

Xian 2 Day Tour Package from US$170 p/p
Xian 3 Day Tour Package from US$235 p/p

Further Readings


Beijing Xian High Speed Train Experience
Top 10 Attractions in Xian
Tips for Visiting Muslim Quarter in Xian
Tips for Visiting Xian City Wall
Tips for Visiting Shaanxi History Museum
Tips for Visiting Xian Bell Tower
How Visit Terracotta Army
How to Visit Daming Palace National Heritage Park
Top 10 Photography Spots in Xian
The Night View of Great Tang All Day Mall
Tips for Visiting Hanyang Tombs Xian
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow Show in Xian
Tips for Visiting Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Tips for Visiting Huaqing Hot Springs in Xian
How to Visit Mount Huashan
Top 10 Hostels in Xian
Best Time to Visit Xian

Any questions, just drop a line.

Taking High Speed Train from Beijing to Xian

Saturday, April 18th, 2020
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Dear Travelers,

We’d like to have the following travel guide to be always updated for the benefit of new visitors coming to Xian from Beijing by high-speed train. If anybody having used the piece finds necessary updates, please leave a message or feedback. Thanks!

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Plan your Beijing Xian tour? Basically you may go visiting Xian from Beijing either  by flight or train.  Many travelers choose to take a  5-6 hour high speed train from Beijing to Xian or vice versa. We’ve rounded up some useful tips to plan your Beijing Xian tour by taking high speed trains.

1. The right train station for the trains from Beijing to Xian.
There are 4 major railway stations in Beijing, namely Beijing Railway Station ( the oldest one ), Beijing West Railway Station ( for the high speed trains from Beijing to Xian, and regular trains to Lhasa and Kowloon), Beijing South Railway Station ( for the trains from Beijing to Shanghai and Tianjin) and Beijing North Railway Station ( for the trains to Zhangiakou)

So you should choose Beijing West Railway Station for your train going to Xian from Beijing and back.

Beijing West Railway Station
Add: Lianhuachi Donglu, Fengtai District ( just south of Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution)
Tel: 51826253, 51824231
The trains departing from Beijing West Railway Station: Xian, Luoyang, Chongqing, Chengdu, Lhasa, Urumqi, Guangzhou and Kowloon.

2. How to get to Beijing West Railway Station from Beijing Capital Airport?
1) Taking the  Airport Shuttle No.07: Capital Airport Shuttle Bus to Beijing West Train Station

2) Beijing Capital Airport Express Train + Subway: Take airport express train and get off at its final station of Dongzhimen (东直门), interchange for Subway line 2 to the south and alight at the second stop of Chaoyangmen (朝阳门), again interchange for subway line 6 to the west and alight at 7th station of Baishiqiao South (白石桥南), then again interchange for Subway Line 9 to the south direction and get off at the second station of Beijing West Railway Station (北京西站)and start your train travel.

3) Taxi fare: about RMB 130 ( 40km ).

3. How to get to Beijing West Railway Station from the city center?
To leave or go to Beijing West Railway Station, taking subway is the most convenient way of public transportation since the subway line 9 passes by  Beijing West Railway Station.

With subway line 9, you are linked to other three train station: Beijing Railway Station ( line 2), Beijing South Railway Station ( line 4 ) and Beijing North Railway Station ( line 2 and 4 ). Check Beijing Subway Map for more information.

4. What does the main train building look like?
Beijing West Railway Station is a modern passenger station 90 meters at the highest  in a shape of “品” with an area of 510,000 sq meters constructed with 10 platforms.

The main building faces north and south with two squares – North Square and South Square. There are public buses in each square with the north square having more public transport. Basically we suggest go through the north entrance to the station. If you take a taxi, just ask your taxi driver to go to the north square instead of south square.

The main building

The main building with the north square

Both the first floor and second floor at the north entrance are designed for check-in. If you taxi to the station, your taxi driver will take you directly to the second floor for entry while arriving by public bus you will check through the  first floor.

5. How many daily high speed trains from Beijing to Xian?
Currently there are more than a dozen of daily high-speed trains going between Beijing and Xian. You are supposed to reach the station at least half hour before departure.

6. Ticket and Security Check at Beijing West Train Station
Either on the first or second floor there are several booths for ticket and security check.  Passengers are required to line up and go one by one with their tickets and ID cards or passports ready.

So don’t forget to bring your passport with you for the train ride.  Your luggage and bags will be X-rayed for security check.

Line up for ticket and security check

Line up for ticket and security check

7. Which waiting room ( or Platform )  for Beijing Xian High Speed Trains?
After having your luggage X-rayed and enter the main waiting hall,  you will see a huge electronic  train schedule board with real-time information on the trains in and out.   There are 10 platforms in Beijing West Railway Station with 1-5 for common trains and 6-10 for high speed trains.

Just match your train number with the waiting room number. Basically your waiting room leads to the platform for your train to Xian.

Normally your waiting room will be numbered “8” for the trains to Xian.  There are 13 waiting rooms inside the station. The waiting room No.8 is normally for passengers taking the trains to Xian.

 you will see a huge electronic train schedule board

you will see a huge electronic train schedule board

Walking through the long corridor and looking for the Waiting Room No.08 for Passengers taking high speed trains for Xian.

8. Any decent restaurants inside the main building?
There are some clean and quality cafes and restaurants available at Beijing Railway Station like KFC and McDonald. Luckily, your waiting room No.8 is close to MacDonald.

Your waiting room No.8 is also close to KFC.

KFC.

KFC.

And Starbucks

Starbucks

Starbucks

9. What about the waiting room and ticket collecting?
Make sure you are on the right waiting room.  The train staffer at the gate (Information Desk)  to your waiting room will double-check your train ticket for the right place.

The Entrancd to Your Waiting Room

The Entrance to Your Waiting Room

Each waiting room is marble-stone paved with air-conditioning  and ventilation system. On the front sides there is food and book stalls as well a cafe.

Each waiting room is marble-stone paved with air-conditioning and ventilation system

Each waiting room is marble-stone paved with air-conditioning and ventilation system

Check the electronic board to seat on the right row for your train.  Basically there are two rows of benches for each high speed train.  If you hold the pink-colored ticket, you seat and line up on the pink side; if you have the blue ticket, you line up on the blue side.

Purchased from a ticketing agent, a pink train ticket needs be checked manually while with a blue ticket bought directly from a train station, you need to have your ticket checked by swiping it on the machine by the gate.

Different passages for pink and blue tickets

Different seating areas for pink and blue ticket holders

You see people are lining up to have their tickets checked and enter the platform for their train.

 people are lining up to have their tickets checked

people are lining up to have their tickets checked

10. Get on the right car, compartment facilities and train speed
Usually it is quite a walk from the ticket check-in gate down to the platform and the  right compartment.  Just take it easy carrying or rolling your luggage down to the platform and locate the right car you are in.

Take an elevator down to the platform

Take an elevator down to the platform

Many passengers would stop and take some pictures of the train.  The train is sleek, thin and long with its head looking like a plane. The train is one of the design of CRH series. It is designed to travel at 350 km per hour.

However, the trains are only allowed to run at 300 km per hour due to the safety factor – keeping a required safe distance between following trains.

The train is sleek, thin and long with its head looking like a plane.

The train is sleek, thin and long with its head looking like a plane.

Mainly there are two kinds of seats – 5-seat row ( second class) and 4-seat row (first class).  Some high speed trains have 8 cars and others have 16 cars.

There is a snack car on the train where you may have coffee, snacks and fast food. The inside of the train has a futuristic look as well with comfortable seats, wide windows, smartly dressed attendants and food service better than a plane.

It is easy to get on the train as the train is at a high level platform. And all the stations on route  are built with high level platforms. This males it so easy to handle your heavy suitcases onto the train.

The train is at a high level platform

The train is at a high level platform

A 5-seat row ( second class) car

A 5-seat row ( second class) car

A 5-seat row ( second class) car

Put your large suitcases on the luggage rack by the door in the linkage area.

luggage rack by the door

luggage rack by the door

11.  Train Speed
The train starts so smoothly that you won’t  feel you are moving. But once out of the train station, the train speeds up to around 300 km per hour. If you don’t look at the outside through the window, you won’t realize you are on a moving train. The electronic information board in each end of  each car showing the train speed  and  next station  stop.

All this is due to the elevated track that uses slab construction that holds the continuously welded rail. All the local traffic moves under the elevated track so there are no level crossings or underpasses.

All this is due to the elevated track

All this is due to the elevated track

Lunch can be bought  in the coach car from an attendant who supplies it from an airline type cart.

Lunch can be bought in the coach car

Lunch can be bought in the coach car

The slab non-ballasted tracks for high speed trains make the trains smoother and comfortable different from common trains on ballasted track.

The slab non-ballasted tracks

The slab non-ballasted tracks

Train tracks on a high level viaduct

Train tracks on a high level viaduct

Train tracks on a high level viaduct

12. Arriving at Xian
For the Beijing Xian High Speed Train, the Beijing terminus is Beijing West Railway Station, with the Xian terminus at Xian North Railway Station.  The major calling points are Shijiazhuang, Anyang and Luoyang on route.

Arriving at Xian North Railway Station

Arriving at Xian

Arriving at Xian

13. Go to Xian downtown by subway line 2
Arriving at Xian North Railway Station, it is both money-saving and convenient to take subway line 2 directly from the train station to the downtown Xian ( Bell Tower ).

Go to Xian downtown by subway line 2

Go to Xian downtown by subway line 2

Note: There are some luggage deposit offices in the station to store your baggage.

Tip: Hassle-free Xian Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for Xian guided tours:

Xian City Day Tour from US$69
Xian Terracotta Warriors Day Tour A from US$85
Terracotta Army and Song of Everlasting Performance from US$135

Xian 2 Day Tour Package from US$170 p/p
Xian 3 Day Tour Package from US$235 p/p

Further Readings


Beijing Xian High Speed Train Experience
Top 10 Attractions in Xian
Tips for Visiting Muslim Quarter in Xian
Tips for Visiting Xian City Wall
Tips for Visiting Shaanxi History Museum
Tips for Visiting Xian Bell Tower
How Visit Terracotta Army
How to Visit Daming Palace National Heritage Park
Top 10 Photography Spots in Xian
The Night View of Great Tang All Day Mall
Tips for Visiting Hanyang Tombs Xian
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow Show in Xian
Tips for Visiting Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Tips for Visiting Huaqing Hot Springs in Xian
How to Visit Mount Huashan
Top 10 Hostels in Xian
Best Time to Visit Xian

Any questions, just drop a line.

Chinese version of the travel guide:

从北京乘坐高铁到西安