Archive for the ‘Gansu Travel’ Category

How to Visit Maijishan Grottoes from Xian by Train

Thursday, October 15th, 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.

Jiayuguan Trip, Trip to Jiayuguan

Thursday, September 17th, 2020
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After dinner, we went to Lanzhou Railaway Station for a 11-hour train trip from Lanzhou to Jiayuguan. Lanazhou Railway Station is the only passenger railway station in Lanzhou. It is located below the Gaolan Mountain in the south of Chengguan District of Lanzhou, Gansu Province.

We were arranged to take the overnight Train K9661 starting at 08:38pm and arriving at Jiayuguan at 7:46 the next morning covering the total railway length of 770km. Now it was the tourism peak season here in Gansu Province, there were over a dozen of through or passing by trains linking the two important cities on the ancient Silk Road.

The orange coloured train looked much safer and more reliable.

The orange coloured train looked much safer and more reliable

I was waked up by the early morning sunlight creeping into our cabin. What caught my eyes were the passing by Qilian Mountain with snow capped peaks. 
 
Yes, the famous mountain would accompany us throughout the trip paralleling the the whole Hexi Corridor.
 
Qilian Mountain with snow capped peaks

Qilian Mountain with snow capped peaks

 

We arrived at Jiayuguan on time. Jiayuguan Railway Station was located 5km south of the city center.
 
Jiayuguan Railway Station

Jiayuguan Railway Station

After disembarking at Jiayuguan Railway Station, going through the city center, we went directly to Jiayuguan Hotel (嘉峪关宾馆) for a familiarization trip. It is a 4 star hotel with 177 rooms modernly equipped and elegantly furnished.

Add: No.01 Xinhua Road, Jiayuguan Tel: 0937 – 6201588 Fax: 0937 – 6227174. We were transferred to Jiayuguan Hotel (嘉峪关宾馆) for a fam trip.

 

A huge painted Jiayuguan Tourism Map hanging on the wall in the lobby of the hotel aroused my interest. The map clearly showed the layout of Jiayuguan City with the mapping of its rich tourist attractions.

Jiayuguan Downtown – Jiayuguan Airport ( 13km )

                     Jiayuguan Railway Station ( 5km )
                     Long Distance Bus Station ( 1.5km )
                     Jiayuguan Pass ( 4km )
                     Overhanging Great Wall (Suspension Great Wall ) 12km
                     The First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall ( 15km )
                     Wei Jin Underground Brisk Murals ( 18km )

                     July First Glacier ( 120km )

The Tourist Map of Jiayuguan City

The Tourist Map of Jiayuguan City

 

The next activity was the highlight of our fam trip in Jiayuguan, visiting the Jiayuguan Pass. Jiayu Pass ( Jiayuguan Fort ) was the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China. Built 1372,  Jiayuguan Fort was was christened as the first and greatest Pass under the Heaven. The pass consisted of three defense lines – an inner city, an outer city and a moat.

The fort was located at the narrowest point of the western section in Hexi Corridor ( 15km wide ) bound by Qilian Mountains and Hei Shan ( Black Mountains ). The fort had a perimeter of 733 meters with an area of more than 33,500 square meters. The total length of the city wall was 733 meters and 11 meters high.

Jiayuguan pass had two gates – East side ( Gate of Enlightenment ) and West side ( Gate of Conciliation ). On each gate there was a building with an inscription of “Jiayuguan” in Chinese written. Each gate had 17 m-high towers with double gates that had been used to trapping invading  armies. The south and north sides of the pass were linked to the Great Wall. There was a turret on each corner of the fort.

The West Gate of Conciliation

The West Gate of Conciliation

 
The unrepaired turret of the fort.

The unrepaired turret of the fort

 
The city wall of the pass.

The city wall of the pass.

 
The horse course way up to the pass

The horse course way up to the pass

 

Outside the wall of the pass.

Outside the wall of the pass

 
After finishing the tour of Jianyuguan, we moved on to the south of the pass and got to the first beacon tower of Great Wall of China. The first beacon tower was built 1539 by an local military officer stationed in Hexi Corridor.
 

 

People were taking photos of the First Beacon.

 
Now we were driving along the highway from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang at the driving distance of 385km.

Any questions, just drop a line.

Langmusi Trip, My Trip to Langmusi

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
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“Langmusi” in Chinese literally “Langmu Temple”. But actually it is the name of the small town bordering Gansu in the north and Sichuan in the south. “Langmu” in Tibetan means “Fairy”. The legend has it that once a fairy was discovered in a cave near the village.

With a population of over 3,000, the town is now mainly inhabited by Tibetans, Han and Hui people. The town of Langmusi is only composed of one main street with a stream known as “White Dragon River” passing along the street. The area of north of the stream belongs to Gansu Province while the south to Sichuan.

The rural town is nestled in a valley between the north and south hills along steep grassy meadows, evergreen forests and snow-capped peaks. Langmusi has two Tibetan Temples and one Muslim Mosque. They are:

Sertri Gompa – The temple is located on northern hill ( on Gansu side ).
Kirti Gompa – The temple is on the southern hill (Sichuan side)
Hui Mosque – located close to the Sichuan side temple near the entrance gate to Kirti Temple.

It is easy to spend a few days here exploring the numerous red and white monastery buildings and hiking around the green mountains. The surrounding mountains reminds people of the rural Austria or Bavaria and ideal for hiking and horsetrek.

We took the chartered coach and drove 230km directly from Xiahe, to Langmusi. We only had a few hours exploring the town of Langmusi. Because Langmusi is very close to the fringe of Rouergau Grasslands, we kindly requested our driver to pass by Langmusi itself and went to further to the grassland first. So we drove another 20km via Langmusi to the edge of Ruoergai Grassland.

Ruoergai Grassland is located in the north of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province, and borders Maqu, Luqu of Gansu Province. It is on the east edge of Tibet-Qinghai Plateau with an altitude between 3000 and 3600 meters.

Ruoergai Grassland is said to be the fourth largest grasslands in China after Hulun Buir Grassland in Inner Mongolia, Yili Grassland in Xinjiang and Xilinguole Grassland in Inner Mongolia. Ruoergai Grassland belongs to the kind of alpine meadow, also one of the China’s three largest wetlands, covering 10436.58 square kilometers.

 
 
Ruoergai Grassland, a field of wildflowers

Ruoergai Grassland, a field of wildflowers

 
I’de been to some mesmerizing grasslands elsewhere in China, like Narat Grassland, Gegentala Grassland and  Mulan Weichang Grassland.
 
In comparison, Ruoergai Grassland is neither the greenest nor a fertile grassland, but what catches my eyes and makes my excited is its numerous wild flowers. I felt quite shamed to be unable to name most of the flowers, which I had to call them wildflowers of grassland.
 
Then we drove back to the Town of Langmusi for lunch.  Our lunch was arranged at the Chinese restaurant of Langmusi Binguan (Langmusi Hotel), the best hotel in the town (0941 – 6671086). The hotel is located in the middle section of the area between Gansu side and Sichuan side.
 

Langmusi Binguan ( Langmusi Hotel )

 
After lunch, I went out of the courtyard of Langmusi Binguan, and saw three monks sitting by the gate leisurely.
 
I approached them with a sudden idea of taking a photo with them, they were pleased to agree to my request, hence the only photo with my image during the day trip.
 
Posed with three monks by the gate to Langmusi Binguan

Posed with three monks by the gate to Langmusi Binguan

 
Just outside Langmusi Hotel, on my right side is the main street in the town teemed with restaurants, shops and crowds of tourists. On my left side is the bumpy road leading up to the Kirti Gompa  – the temple is on the southern hill  (Sichuan side).
 
Opposite Langmusi Hotel is the ticket office selling the tickets for the entry to the temple on Sichuan side. Not far from the ticket office is the only Muslim mosque in the town.
 
The ticket office at the crossroad, a little bit shabby. People inside the house would shout at the visitors and stop them for ticket buying since almost nobody would recognize it was a ticket office!

The ticket office at the crossroad

 
We had to skip Sertri Gompa  – the temple is located on northern hill ( on Gansu side ) due to our limited time in Langmusi. We decided first to visit Kirti Temple, then have a look at the mosque, lastly have a walk around the main street in the town.
 
By the side of the road, a row of prayer wheels housed for people to spin for peace and prosperity.
 
On the southern mountain, we saw a few people standing high on the hill with the backdrop of white clouds, green alpine meadows.

people standing high on the hill with the backdrop of white clouds, green alpine meadows.Kirti Gompa, built 1413 and home to about 700 monks. There are 4 major temples in the monastery.  \When we arrived at the monastery, we found a group monks debating in front of the main hall.

 
This scene reminded me of the debating at Sera Temple  in Lhasa, Debates are practiced by the lamas in the monastery every day. In a battle of words, they further their efforts by using a variety of gestures including clapping their hands, pushing their partners for an answer and more gestures.
 
A group of monks debating in front of the main temple in the monastery.

A group of monks debating in front of the main temple in the monastery.

In a battle of words, they further their efforts by using a variety of gestures

In a battle of words, they further their efforts by using a variety of gestures.

 
 
Inside the hall, we also found a group of monks sitting on the ground and debating. It is not easy to be a monk!

a group of monks sitting on the ground and debating

Three monks after debating

 
There are more temples of various sizes in the Kirti monastery.

More temples in the Kirti Gompa

 
 
One temple in Kirti Gompa

One temple in Kirti Gompa

 
Standing on the high place in the compound of the Kirti Gompa, we had a clear view of the Sertri Gompa in the northern hill on Gansu side. It was a pity that this time we had no time visiting the Gansu side temple in Langmusi.
 
Sertri Gompa  – the temple is located on northern hill ( on Gansu side ).

Sertri Gompa – the temple is located on northern hill ( on Gansu side ).

 
From Kirti Gompa here on the southern hill, we overlooked the narrow town bound by the hills in the north and south.
 
Langmusi Town is bound by the mountains in the north and south.

Langmusi Town is bound by the mountains in the north and south.

 
 
The green hills are a perfect place for hiking treks and horse riding. All these activities would be my next trip.

The green hills are a perfect place for hiking treks and horse riding

 
 
Below the monastery was the living quarters of Tibetans with simple and shabby houses.

the living quarters of Tibetans

 
the living quarters of Tibetans 1

the living quarters of Tibetans

 
the living quarters of Tibetans 2

the living quarters of Tibetans 2

 
A  young  monk

A young monk

A monk and his car

A monk and his car

 
 
The White Dragon River coming from the south hill and passing through the Tibetan living area down to the street in the town.
 
The White Dragon River coming from the south hill

The White Dragon River coming from the south hill

 
I walked along the White Dragon River on the bumpy road back to the main street in the town.
 
At the ticket office, I turned right for a glimpse of the only mosque in the town. The mosque was built 1943 by the descendants of ethic groups of Hui, Dongxiang who came here on business.
 
The mosque was built 1943

The mosque was built 1943.

 
The street of Langmusi Town was dusty.  The narrow street was riddled with stores, restaurants and inns.

The street of Langmusi Town was dusty

 
This was the famous Amdo Coffee on the main road in Langmusi.

Amdo Coffee

 
Leisha’s Reasturant ( 0941 – 6671179) is a wonderful place offering fresh apple pies, yak burgers and Yunnanese coffee.

Leisha’s Resturant

 
 
Any questions, just drop a line.