Maijishan Grottoes

Located 45 kilometers (about 28 miles) southeast of Tianshui City in Gansu Province, Maiji Mountain rises up abruptly 142 meters (about 155 yards) from the landscape. The people named the mountain 'Maiji' because it resembles a stack of wheat straw (mai meaning wheat, and ji meaning stack). On the sheer cliff that marks the southwest side of Maiji Mountain, people have labored for centuries carving niches and caves, giving rise to what is known today as the Maijishan Grottoes. Also known as Maijishan Caves or Maiji Caves, it was included on the World Heritage List on June 22, 2014.

Inside the caves are clay statues, whose heights vary from 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) to 15 meters (over 49 feet). Besides 194 Buddhist caves and niches, containing more than 7,200 clay statues, there are also murals of over 1,300 square meters (about 1,555 square yards) in the Maijishan Grottoes as well. These statues are works of art that reflect ancient craftsmanship and dedication to the Buddhist ideal. Rarely can one find caves and statues carved over sheer cliffs in China, and this is one of the most distinguishing features of Maijishan Grottoes. Being carved on the cliff, these caves are connected by plank roads that hang precariously along the face of the cliff. Visitors can only reach each cave by using these plank roads, which offers a breathtaking experience.

Maiji Caves in Gansu Maiji Caves, Lanzhou
Work on the Maijishan Grottoes began in the late Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC), progressing through to the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). The Northern Wei (386 - 534) period was also a time of its great prosperity, and Buddhism began to prevail as a cultural force. Subsequent dynasties added to and sometimes rebuilt the caves according to the styles of the era. Interestingly, although the statues were built at the same location, none of them maintained a similar style with those preceding it. Statues from each dynasty clearly developed distinct elements.

Another curious feature of the statues is their trend toward secularization, that is, a move toward depicting the icons as man rather than god. Except for statues built in the early period, almost all Buddhist statues look affable and accessible. They were no longer gods standing high in the heaven, but rather became more like common people.

Because of its exquisite clay statues and superb sculptural skills, Maijishan Grottoes acquired special recognition. They have been classified as an 'Oriental Statues Exhibition Hall'. Maijishan Grottoes are one of the four most important caves in China. The other threes are Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, Yungang Caves in Datong, Shanxi Province, and Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Henan Province. Their emphasis is on exquisite statues and beautiful natural scenes, while the others' are on florid murals or magnificent stonecutting.

There are other places of interest near Maiji Mountain as well, Xianren Cliff, Shimen Mountain, Quxi and Maiji Arboretum, all offer fine panoramic views of mountains, rivers and plants in Northwest China.
Maiji Mountain, Gansu Maiji Caves in Tianshui Buddhist Statue in Maiji Caves

How to get to Maijishan Grottoes from Lanzhou

By Train:

1. Take a bullet train from  Lanzhou West Railway Station to Tianshui South Railway Station and it takes about 1h 20mins. Upon arrival, take bus 60 to Maijishan Tingche Chang (Parking lot of the scenic area).
2. Take a normal train from Lanzhou Railway Station to Tianshui Railway Station and it takes 4-5h. Then, take bus 34 to Maijishan Tingchechang.

By Bus:

Take a bus from Lanzhou Central Bus Station or East Bus Station to Tianshui and then take a taxi or local bus to the scenic area.
Entrance Fee May. - Oct.: CNY 90; Nov. - Apr.: CNY 70
Free for children under 1.2m (3.9 feet).
Opening Hours May - Oct.: 8:30 - 17:30
Nov. - Apr.: 9:00 - 17:00

- Last modified on Jan. 07, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on Maijishan Grottoes
Asked by Malcolm from UK | Dec. 29, 2018 03:15Reply
Maijishan grottoes ticket + bus
I read somewhere that entrance tickets to Maijishan grottoes are limited to 6400 daily, since mid September 2018.
Please let me know how to get hold of the tickets ?
I will only be in China, arriving to Tianshui on the 2nd day of my trip.
Will I be able to catch the Bus 34 at the Maiji bus station 麦积汽车站, what are the morning timing ?
Thank you.
Answers (1)
Answered by Reagan from CANADA | Jan. 07, 2019 22:53

Well, the ticket booking page only has Chinese version. You can ask help for the hotel staff and let them book the tickets for you.
The operating hours are from 06:00 to 18:30 with the frequency of around 15mins.
Asked by Victor from CATALONIA | Dec. 14, 2017 03:59Reply
Xi'an-Maiji Shan-Lanzhou
People say that there are direct express buses from Tianshui South Railway Station (CRH - high speed train station) to Maiji Shan but I would like to know the bus number and if it's difficult to find the bus stop outsite the Tianshui South Railway Station (indications, exits, etc.).
Also I would like to know if it's possible to make the route Xi'an-Maiji Shan-LZ on the same day with high speed trains, because it seems that Tianshui hasn't a lot of attractions... What do you think?
Answers (3)
Answered by Donna from ITALY | Dec. 14, 2017 20:20

You can take the special bus line Tianshui South – Jingtu Temple to Maijishan Jingqu. The bus stop is easy to find, just walk north for about 10 minutes from the Railway Station Exit, and you will see the stop.

As for the day trip of Xi'an – Maiji Shan – LZ, I don’t think it’s doable. The bullet train from Xi'an North to Tianshui South takes about 1h 40 minutes. The bullet train from Tianhsui to LZ takes about 1h 30 minutes.

But you can make a trip only of Xi'an and Maiji Shan.
In Xi'an, you can visit some downtown attractions, like Bell & Drum Tower, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Provincial History Museum and City Wall.
Answered by Victor Sagi Barrera from CATALONIA | Dec. 15, 2017 03:44

Thanks Donna!!! Before the route Xi'an-Maijishan-Lanzhou, I will stay 5 full days in Xi'an. So do you think is possible to take the train Xi'an-Tianshui, visit Maijishan and take the train Tianshui-Lanzhou on the same day? Grazie mille!
Answered by Donna | Dec. 17, 2017 19:48

Oh, then you can go to the places within the same day. BTW, you are suggested to take the earliest train at 7:42 from Xi'an North. Have a nice trip!
Asked by Amy from AUSTRALIA | Aug. 23, 2017 22:12Reply
Is there bus to get from Tianshui South Train Station to Maiji Caves or will I need to take a taxi?

If I need to take a taxi, how much should I expect to pay for a round trip?

Also, is there luggage storage at Tianshui South Railway Station?

Many thanks for any help you can offer :)
Answers (5)
Answered by Alan from FRANCE | Aug. 24, 2017 02:42

Oh, direct express buses to the caves are available at the South Station. They are in service from 07:00 to 17:00. It takes around an hour and costs CNY8-10.

Offcial left-luggage room is near the exit of the railway station. You can easily spot it.
Answered by Amy from AUSTRALIA | Aug. 24, 2017 03:38

Thanks for you help, Alan :)
Answered by Carlos from BRAZIL | Oct. 12, 2017 20:19

Do you know the interval between the buses that leaves Tianshui south station to the Caves? I mean, their frequency
Answered by Alan | Oct. 18, 2017 03:39

I remember the frequency is 10-20min for the mentioned buses.

Apart from that, there are also some buses leading to the caves passing Tianshui Bus Station and Main Railway Station and the schedules are 06:24 - 22:50. Hope help!
Answered by Carlos from BRAZIL | Nov. 14, 2017 06:36

Thank you! I went to meijin and the bus really helped us. The station is on the right side of the exit but we took bus 60, joining others turists that had desembark on tianshui south station.
Asked by shanna from USA | Jul. 20, 2017 18:49Reply
Are english guide available at Maiji Cave?
If they are, what is the cost would be?
Answers (1)
Answered by Tera from USA | Jul. 20, 2017 22:22

I heard there is no English guide there. You may join a tour package through an agency and they may arrange the guide and transfer service.
Asked by Long from THAILAND | Jan. 09, 2016 21:22Reply
From Maiji Caves to Bingling Si & Labrang monastery, how should I plan for those?
I'd like to visit the caves from Xi'an, then, plan for visiting Labrang monastery in Xiahe & Bingling Si. But I'm not sure about the public transportation from Tianshui to Xiahe or to Bingling Si (may be the nearest town to Bingling Si first), or should I go to Lanzhou first and, then, take bus to Bingling Si and Labrang monastery respectively (may be in the next day) ?
Thank you in advance.
Answers (1)
Answered by John | Jan. 10, 2016 02:26

Xi'an to the caves: take a train to TS within 3h and transfer to local bus no. 34 to reach there directly.

To Bingling Si, you can directly take a taxi or rent a private car to reach directly. This is the best way, or you have to go back to the town for a transfer.

To Labrang Monastery, I'm afraid there is no direct transportation, so you have to transfer in Lanzhou. Take a train to Lanzhou and at the South Bus Station, there are direct buses to Xiahe. Then take a taxi to the monastery.
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