Travel along the Silk Road: Lanzhou, Information about Bingling Caves
Lanzhou is the capital of Gansu Province in northern China on the shores of the Yellow River. With a population of about 4 Million it is also the biggest city of Gansu Province. Due to its strategic location on the southern end of the Hexi-Corridor, the city of Lanzhou has always been an important link on the Northern Silk Road and later an important trading post for goods transported on the Yellow River.
The town experienced several periods of prosperity in its history, especially during Han Dynasty, but was also badly damaged during the Dungan revolt in 1864-1875 and the Sino-Japanese War 1937 – 1945.
Lanzhou is linked to the modern high-speed railway network. Lanzhou can be reached by high-speed train from Xian in about 3 hours, and from Xining in about 2 hours. The airport of Lanzhou has connections to most major cities in China.
Bingling Grottoes or Bingling Temple, Lanzhou
The main reason for a trip to Lanzhou are the famous Bingling Buddhist Grottoes, located about 100km south-west of Lanzhou on the shores of the Yellow River.
The Bingling Temple is a series of grottoes filled with Buddhist sculptures carved into natural caves and caverns. The total of 183 caves were carved out of the bare rock face in the middle of a breathtaking landscape in a side valley of the Yellow River and are among the earliest Buddhist rock carvings in China. The most prominent of the over 800 sculptures found at the Bingling Grottoes is a 27 m high seated Buddha, which was probably created during the Tang Dynasty.
Construction of the Bingling Grottoes started around 420 A.D. at the end of the Western Jin Dynasty (385-431). The work continued and more and more grottoes were added in the following dynasties as Wei, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming for the following 1000 years. This explains the different styles of Buddhist carvings found inside Bingling Grottoes.
The Bingling Grottos can only be reached by water via the Yellow River. From Lanzhou you first travel to Liujiaxia reservoir to Donggan Matou and from there continue the journey by local boat to Bingling Temple. For a visit to the Bingling Grottoes from Lanzhou you need to calculate half a day.