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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.
Take train from Xi’an to Tianshui City
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 first to goto Tianshui City 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:
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 )
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.
It is a scenic bus ride from the train station to Maijinshan Grottoes – fresh air, green mountains and typical Chinese villagers.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Have a close look at the trinity of Buddha and two Bodhisattva.
Zoom in one of the seven niches with a clear picture of the clay statue with vivid facial expressions.
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 statues at the long corridor 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.
Have a close 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.
Some caves are closed for repair.
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.
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:
Beijing Xian High Speed Train Experience
Best Time to Visit Xian
How to Visit Xian in Two Days?
Xian Airport Transportation
Xian Railway Station Transportation
Xian Taxi: Xian Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
Xian City Layout
Xian’s Top 7 Iconic Landmarks
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Top 10 Attractions in Xian
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How to Visit Xian on a Budget
The Starbucks in Xian
Top Markets in Xian
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Xian
Top 10 Best Restaurants in Xian
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Xian Tourist Traps, Xian Tourist Scams
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How to visit Muslim Quarter in Xi’an
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The Ramparts of Quebec City and Xian City
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The Night View of Great Tang All Day Mall
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Mt.Huashan Snow Scenes Photos
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Xi’an: An Exotic City with an Undeniable Historical Depth
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Muslim Streets in Muslim Quarter in Xian
Hua Jue Xiang, Huajue Lane at Xian Muslim Quarter
The Night View of Great Tang All Day Mall
Xian City Wall Night View
What to do in Xian after dark
Xian’s Best Street Food
Xian Muslim Quarter Exotic Food
Xian Bar Street
Spring Festival Lantern Exhibit in Xian
Xian Terracotta Army Pictures
How to Visit Maijishan Grottoes from Xian by Train
How to Visit Hukou Waterfall
How to Visit Huangdi Mausoleum
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Beijing Xian Flight Experience
Datong Xian High Speed Train
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Any questions, just drop a line.