Zhangye Travel Information
The town of Zhangye in Gansu Province was once an important stop on the Silk Road. Zhangye was founded in the 2nd century in the Han Dynasty under Emperor Wudi as a military outpost. The city lies in the middle of the so-called Hexi Corridor and was therefore a bustling stopover for the caravans on the Silk Road. The Hexi Corridor of the Silk Road was the only possible passage to the west between the massive Qilian Mountains in the south and the barren desert landscape in the north.
In the 13th century Marco Polo is said to have lived in Zhangye for a year. It is said that Kublai Khan was born in Zhangye, but this is not historically confirmed and is most probably a myth. During the Ming Dynasty Zhangye was also an important garrison town for guarding the Great Wall of China.
In addition to the drum tower from the Ming Dynasty, the Great Buddha Temple Dafo Si with a 34 meter- long reclining Buddha is worth a visit. The Buddha dates from the 12th century and is said to be the largest reclining Buddha in China. The main hall of the Great Buddha Temple originally dates from the late 11th century and is built almost entirely of wood. Also worth a visit is the Mu Ta, a 31 meter high wooden tower whose origins date back to the 6th century. The octagonal Mu Ta wooden tower was destroyed several times over the centuries, the construction visible today dates back to 1925.
The Mati or Horse Hoof Temple near Zhangye, Gansu
The Buddhist cave temple Mati Si - or Mati Temple - is located about 65km south of Zhangye. Ma Ti literally means "horse hoof". The Horse Hoof temple was built in the 5th century during the time of the 16 empires. Some of the grottos are protected by wonderful wooden pavilions, some of which were built at dizzying heights on the rock face. The numerous rock grottos are connected by a network of narrow passages, stairs, tunnels and balconies, which make an exploration of the Temple even more interesting. To visit the Mati Temple in Gansu from Zhangye town you have to plan at least half a day.
Zhangye is connected to the Chinese high-speed train network. From Xining you can reach the city of Zhangye in 2 hours, to Urumqi the train takes about 8 hours.