Bingling Grottoes

The Bingling Grottoes, 3 hours from Lanzhou by car, are one of the few places in China where you can admire such well-preserved sculptures. Binglingsi presents a vast collection of statues, engravings, and paintings made on the cliff and in caves. Some of these masterpieces are considered to be among the earliest Buddhist monuments in China. Unlike most caves in Gansu Province which feature clay sculptures, Bingling Temple Caves have a wide range of stone sculptures. They were made in different dynasties, presenting different styles, and were added to the World Heritage List on June 22, 2014.

“Bingling” in Tibetan means “Thousand Buddha”, so Bingling Temple Caves are also called Thousand-Buddha Caves. At present, there are four layers with a total of 183 caves and niches, 694 stone statues, 82 clay sculptures, and 900 square meters of murals. The sacred sculptures were started to build in A.D. 420 at the end of Western Qin, then the work continued and more caves were added. Until the Ming dynasty in the 16th century, the sculptors stopped their work.

The way to visit Bingling Temple Caves is very special. Generally speaking, you need to get to Liujiaxia Dam from Lanzhou by car, which is about 2hrs. Then take a speedboat (160 RMB per person for a round trip) to cross the Liujiaxia Reservoir, about 50 minutes to the caves. An ordinary boat is also available but not recommended because it will take 7-8 hours for a round trip. After arrival, there are 1.5 hours to visit the Caves. Then you need to get back to the speedboat and return to Liujiaxia Dam.

Useful Information

Chinese Name: 炳灵寺石窟
Location: Lanzhou, 150km; Xiahe, 206km; Langmusi, 380km;
Opening hours: July to November
Ticket: 50 RMB/person
By ordinary boat (2-3 hrs one way): 25 RMB/per.
By speed boat (3 hrs round trip): 160 RMB/per.
Recommended length of visit: 1 day

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