Bingling Temple Ready to Enter the List of World Heritage Sites
    2013-08-21 17:21:03       Web Editor: Liu Kun

The photo shows the biggest buddha under repairment in Bingling Temple of northwestern China's Gansu province.[]

Gansu province in northwest China has always been a top destination for travelers eager to trace the ancient Silk Road. The province is home to many famous stops of the Silk Road, such as Dunhuang, which features many Buddhist grottoes and the Jiayu Pass, known for its architectural grandeur. Bingling Temple, filled with Buddhist caves in the province's eastern Yongjing County, is another major Buddhist site along the Silk Road. The Temple has been preparing to enter the World Heritage Site list for years and is now ready for the final review by the World Heritage Committee.

Our reporter Liu Kun has the story.



A two hour bus journey from Gansu province's capital city Lanzhou takes you to Liujiaxia Reservoir, where the Yellow River narrows down to generate electricity that caters for the majority of populations in northwest China.

Then you board a boat from Liujiaxia and head up north. After a 40 minute ride on the water accompanied by red sandstone cliffs on both banks, you will arrive at Bingling Temple, featuring grotto sculptures constructed over more than 600 years.

The untraditional Bingling Temple is home to 216 Buddhist grottoes,which houses more than 800 sculptures. The sculptures are embedded into the red sandstone cliffs, overlooking the Yellow River on the east bank. The biggest Buddha is 27 meters high and a legacy from Tang Dynasty.

The Temple has been preparing for the ratification of the World Heritage Committee since 2006 and is now ready for the Committee's final review.

Cao Xuewen, vice director of Bingling Temple Protection and Research Center, explains the historical significance of the grottoes.

"Bingling Temple Grottoes are the earliest grottoes to have been dug along the bank of the Yellow river. People continued digging Buddhist grottoes here from the 4th to the 10th century. Secondly, Bingling Temple grottoes have the earliest inscription of annals among all Chinese grottoes. Thirdly, it shows the diverse influence of different Buddhist branches."

Cao adds that Bingling Temple grottoes were constructed within a longer time span compared to other Chinese grottoes.

"Also Bing Temple Grottoes were constructed within a longer period. The latest of the Yungang Grottoes were constructed in the 5th century and the latest Longmen grottoes in the 9th century. But Bingling Temple Grottoes were continuously constructed from the 4th to the 10th century, lasting 10 dynasties in Chinese history."

Pan Shutang, a monk at Bingling Temple, says the grottoes are of crucial importance in tracing the development of Buddhism in China.

"The temple's history dates back to about 1600 years ago. And particularly after the Ming dynasty, people constructed grottoes of Tibetan Buddhism style here."

Cao Xuewen explains the preparations they have been making since they started their application for entering the list of World Heritage Sites.

"We've reinforced the stones that supported these grottoes and repaired some damaged grottoes. And we've conducted joint research with Lanzhou University on the influence of the Yellow River on the grottoes. We also strengthened our safety measures and introduced digital methods into the protection of these grottoes."

Cao says the two main problems the Research Center have been encountering in the process of protecting and promoting the grottoes are traffic and lack of professionals.

"First of all, the traffic is a problem. Of course you can come by boat, but if you come by land, it's very inconvenient. Secondly, we are short of professionals. We currently only have about ten people working here and we need professionals in all areas."

The World Heritage Committee is said to have set heir final examination of these grottoes in October this year.

For China Now, this is Liu Kun.


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