Bingling Temple - Atlas Obscura

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Bingling Temple

A hidden Buddhist gem accessible only by boat. 


Looking for a remote destination in central China? Look no further than the grottoes at Bingling Temple in the country’s north-central Gansu Province. Massive crowds are a common feature of many attractions throughout China: This is a good spot to escape the crowds. The temple is tucked away in a little-traveled, remote corner of the country. 

The temple complex is massive, featuring 183 caves and niches, 82 clay sculptures, almost 1,000 square yards of frescoes, and 694 carved stone statues. The temple was built in 420 during the Western Qin Dynasty. Over the centuries, more and more cave temples were excavated and others were added to. Some of the painted frescoes in the caves date back to the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644. The site also features a giant Buddha carved into the rock face.

No roads are available to get to Bingling Temple, so you need to take a boat to reach the site. Large tourist boats leave from the outskirts of Liuxiajia in Yongjing County. Smaller motorboats are also available. These boats transport you from the Liujiaxia Reservoir toward the Yellow River and finally to the secluded cove of Bingling Temple. 

If you are lucky, you may have the entire place to yourself. But, as with most places in China, you are never truly alone: CCTV cameras guard against looting and vandalism. Some of the more delicate frescoes have been put behind glass enclosures. A walkway will guide you to the main attraction, the colossal Great Maitreya Buddha.

Know Before You Go

Locals in Liujiaxia can usually point you towards to where boats leave for the Bingling Temple. It's recommended that you spend at least half a day at the site. 

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August 23, 2023

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