Maijishan Grottoes, Gansu, China – Aerial View
The Maijishan Grottoes (麦积山石窟, formerly romanized as Maichishan, are a series of 194 caves cut in the side of the hill of Majishan in Tianshui, Gansu Province, northwest China.
This example of rock cut architecture contains over 7,200 Buddhist sculptures and over 1,000 square meters of murals. Construction began in the Later Qin era (384–417 CE).
They were first properly explored in 1952–53 by a team of Chinese archeologists from Beijing, who devised the numbering system still in use today. Caves #1–50 are on the western cliff face; caves #51–191 on the eastern cliff face.
They were later photographed by Michael Sullivan and Dominique Darbois, who subsequently published the primary English-language work on the caves noted.
The name Maijishan consists of three Chinese words (麦积山) that literally translate as “Wheatstack Mountain”, but because the term “mai” (麦) is the generic term in Chinese used for most grains, one also sees such translations as “Corn rick mountain”. Mai means “grain”. Ji (积) means “stack” or “mound”. Shan (山) means “mountain”. The mountain is formed of purplish red sandstone.
They are just one of the string of Buddhist grottoes that can be found in this area of northwest China, lying more or less on the main routes connecting China and Central Asia.
These sites, along with other archeological sites along the eastern Silk Road, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014 as part of the “Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor” site.