Tianshui and Maiji Shan
The last segments of the trip require longer train rides. Tianshui which is a must see stop for the grottoes at Maiji Shan is not on a high speed rail line. Lanzhou to Tianshui is a six hour ride. Although we had “soft seat” this train is still not as comfortable a higher quality first class seating. Less leg room. Otherwise, it does give me lots of opportunity to work. Bless the portable computer with long life battery.
Without the blessing of a high speed line, Tianshui station is undeveloped and rural. Not having an escalator is, for me, a major issue. Carrying a suitcase and a back pack up and down steps is difficult. JoAnn, with her excellent communication skills is able to get assistance at will. Even young women will carry her suitcase up and down the steps.
The next morning we awoke to a rainy day. So far weather had been good, but today we faced a cold and wet day in the mountains.
Maiji Shan is about 1 hour drive from our hotel and as we drove there was no break in the rain. Arrived at the entrance and received a discount for old age. Avoiding the 1 mile uphill walk, I bought the 15 RMB ($2 USD) tickets to ride the bus. At the entrance were the hawkers with $3 plastic ponchos. Cheap goods. Mine began ripping as soon as I opened the bag.
Maiji Shan rises over 400 feet and the carvings are on the face of the mountain. I estimate that the caves and niches rise two thirds of the way to the top. The path is organized in a cycle so walking up the west face stairs, crossing over on the top walkway and then down the east covers the entire set of niches. I have a problem with heights. Going up was not a problem, but coming down the steps I never looked down but faced towards the rock face.
For this site I must apologize for the lack of organization. Too cold and damp and unable to focus on photos and writing. The niches had many fantastic elements that were worthy of photos, to the point that I was intent on taking pictures to capture key elements.
The range of periods of carvings and statues is quite wide and allows us to see the evolution of Chinese Buddhist art. The earliest caves at the Maiji Shan are from the Qin Dynasty (384 to 417 AD). The Northern Wei period from 385 to 534 AD show a fusion of styles, Indian, Central Asian and Chinese styles. The figures are slim, a bit less earthly and ethereal. The Western Wei style (535 to 556 AD) continues the Northern Wei fashion with similar clothing and sender bodies. The examples at Maiji Shan are more elegant and refined that Northern more touches which create a greater aesthetic sense.
The Northern Zhou period the figures became plumper and more round.
Tang and Sui dynasties are the epitome of the sculpture styles. There is also a mix of Hindu imagery during this period. The seven Buddha Pavilion demonstrate the mixing of styles and traditions of many eras. Most of the images are form the Northern Zhou but there are traces of Song, Ming and Qing periods. In this pavilion Kapsaya and Ananda, two of Buddha’s disciples are pictured with facial features clearly Indian and not Chinese. Warriors at each end of the pavilion are of Song dynasty.
I hope some photos can show these differences.
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