Bingling Si is located in Lanzhou, China. The place is known for the architecturally marvelous Buddhist caves. The carvings, frescoes and sculptures represent the best in Buddhist artwork and draw large crowds from around the world not just the Chinese.
This is a complex of caves, into which Buddhist murals and statues have been carved out hundreds of years ago. It is believed; the carvings started in 420 AD and continued till the 17th century. Over the centuries, a number of erosions, earthquakes and looters have damaged many of the caves and the destroyed the artistic treasures inside the caves.
Bingling is a translation of Tibeten and simply means `10,000 Buddhas.’ Presently, there are just fewer than 700 clay statues and around 900 sq m of carved murals in 183 caves.
Each statue is unique in its own way. The largest figure is over 27m high with the smallest one being under25 cms.
Today, significant importance ias given to these treasured Bingling thousand Buddha caves. The grottoes are divided into upper temple, lower temple and caves. There are 196 shrines, 82 clay sculptures, 694 stone statues and frescos covering over 900 sq m.
The stone statues imply the themes of dance, decorative patterns, culture and Buddhist art. They include pagodas and frescos are a lying clay statue of Buddha of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) and the 25-cm-high stone statue of a maidservant of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), one of the most precious artwork sets in China today.
The caves are carved beside the Liujiaxia Reservoir, off the Yellow River.
One of the drawbacks here is one can reach this place only by boat. There are no roads that lead to the caves. Traveling by boat has its own set of problems and the problem here is that you can travel only during the summer season and the water level needs to be adequate for a boat to pass off safely.
The entire trip takes around 12 hours and one gets less than 2 hours to visit the caves. However, the scenery en route to the caves makes the journey interesting. In short, there is never a dull moment.
The first leg of the journey to the caves begins from Lanzhou. One needs to take a 2-hour bus journey to the impressive Liujiaxia Hydro-Electric Dam. During this journey, one is enthralled with the impressive fertile loess fields of China and the destination, Liujiaxia is still better. The Dam is surrounded by the colorful mountains. At the dam, one needs to board the waiting ferry to take you to the caves via the Yellow River. The journey in the ferry is even more impressive. You can experience views of fishermen at work to the peasants cultivating wheat, rice, and sunflowers. Another aspect of the ferry journey is the boat enters a tall and hung gorge. The river churns and froths and a section of the river bank get whipped into the water. It is believed the Yellow River carries 35 kgs of silt in every m3 of water and these results in the murkiness.