Luban Gorge, Wushan County, Gansu Province.
All year daily 8-18.
|Classification:||Cave Church Erosional Cave|
|Guided tours:||self guided, St=300, D=2-3 h.|
|Address:||Shuiliandong Caves, Wushan County, Gansu, Tianshui, Gansu, Tel: +86-938-342-1081.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|384-417||grottoes built in the later Qin Dynasty.|
|14th century||grottoes abandoned.|
|1959||discovered by Gansu Provincial Cultural Relics Administration Committee whilst exploring the upper reaches of Weihe River.|
|1980s||first renovation works.|
|2001||declared a provincial-level cultural relics protection unit.|
水帘洞 (Shuiliandong, Waterfall Cave) is a series of cave temples created from the Northern Zhou Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. They are located in the Luban Gorge 25 kilometers northeast of Wushan County, which was formerly known as Mulin Gorge. The gorge is rather steep with rounded, boulder-like cliffs on both sides. The round forms are a result of the erosion of the red sandstone. Some of those cliffs have shallow erosional caves which were used to built temples inside. There is actually no waterfall, the name is explained with the heavy rains during rainy season. During such a rain the water falls straight, and seen from inside the cave it forms a massive wall or waterfall at the opening.
There are seven temples and five platforms. The sandstone was used to chisel niches with sculptures and reliefs, and some are painted. There are 69 niche caves, more than 160 statues, and 42 reliefs covering 801 m². The Lazhu Temple Buddha is the world's largest cliff relief sculpture. There are also 2440 m² of cave paintings. And quite Chinese are the 27 inscriptions on 21 m², huge chinese letters which were chiseled into the rock and are colorfully painted. 8 antique buildings, 12 relic towers, two trees, and a headless mummy are under protection.
The site was obviously in use while the Silk Road was an important trading route. Later they were abandoned. The were rediscovered by the Gansu Provincial Cultural Relics Administration Committee while they were exploring the upper reaches of Weihe River in 1959. But due to the Cultural Revolution the caves were ignored. In the years 1984, 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2004 one grotto at a time they were restored. Nevertheless, the caves are in a poor condition and needed better protection and restoration. Only about USD 200,000 where invested over the years, including the restoration, the construction of awnings, paved roads and fences, as well as a security system. Obviously the renovation was quite basic and the paintings and statues are in a poor condition and needed better protection and restoration.
At the floor of the valley is a Taoist temple, from here a staircase with 300 steps leads up to the spectacular cave temple. The reliefs and murals can be seen all over the cliff face. The temple is, like most churches, free, but the visit to the cave costs a nominal fee.