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Places of Interest in China

Travel Guide





Mastisi - Zhangye

Zhangye is located in the middle of the Hexi Corridor bordering Wuwei and Jinchang on the east and Jiuquan on the west. It was first established as a prefecture in Gansu after Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty sent General Huo Cubing on a victorious expedition against the Xiongnu (Hun) in 121 B.C. On of the four ancient prefectures west of the Yellow River in Gansu, Zhangye served as a political, economic, and cultural center, as well as a center for diplomatic activities in Northwest China through the ages.

Zhangye is rich in tourism resources, the best-known tourist attractions being Dafo: (Giant Buddha Temple), Mutasi (Wooden Pagoda Temple), and Gulou (Drum Tower).

Dafosi (Giant Buddha Temple)

Dafosi, is located within the city of ZhangyE It was built in 1098 during the Western Xia period and revamped many times during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The main hall that house the giant Buddha was restored during th, Qianlong reign (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty The hall is 49 meters wide and 24 meters deep with a total floor space of 1,370 square meters It is the largest structure dating from the West ern Xia period in Gansu.

The giant Buddha lies in the middle of the hall. A massive painted clay statue with a wooden skeleton, it is 34.5 meters long and 7.5 meter from shoulder to shoulder and its ears exceed meters in length. The walls of the hall are covered with paintings. Apart from some pictures o the Buddha's warrior attendants, most of these murals depict Buddhist stories and episodes from Journey to the West, a classic Chinese mythological novel written during the Ming Dynasty.

The temple has in its collection a great number of brick and wood carvings and a rare cop, of Tripitaka, which provide good material for the study of the history of Buddhism, architecture culture, and arts in the area west of the Yellov River in Gansu in ancient times.

It was during the 1411 reconstruction that the then emperor Zhuqizeng donated 6,000 manuscripts to the library of the temple, so setting the tradition for this temple to become one of the prime repositories of its kind in western China. In response the emperor's gracious donation, the provinciel governors of Shaanxi and gansu ordered the creation of gold copies of the Mahaprajina Paramitra Sutra, which is now one of the most precious Buddhist manuscripts in the world. In 1446, the emperor presented a set of the Tripitaka to the temple, which is now believed to be the only set still in existence of this northern version of the Buddhist classic. In 1679, during Kangxi's reign, the temple reverted to the name of Hong Ren Temple (meaning broad benevolence). The temple retains a lot of important manuscripts, in the second hall, but this building is closed for restoration currently. In front of that building is the Tu Ta or Earth Dagoba – actually easier to see from outside the temple than from inside. It costs RMB41 to get in to the temple, a rather extortionate price for a single site in a small provincial city, but one of the nicest parts is free. On the northern side at the entrance, there is a line of old buildings which are part of the temple but are free to allow people to worship at the small hall at the end of this line. The other buildings are now antique and souvenir shops, but there is an attractive gateway and tiny drum and bell towers halfway along. This little corner of the temple is the most interesting, perhaps because it alone is really used as a spiritual place rather than as a tourist attraction. There is access to the Dafosi from both the front (Nan Jie) and also the lovely pedestrianised street that runs along the back (and behind the Zhangye Hotel)

Matisi is located on the west bank of the Mati (Horse's Hoof) River in the Sunan Yugur Autonomous County at the foot of the Qilain Mountains some 65 kilometers south of the city of Zhangye. Legend has it that God Erlang stopped to relax his horse here when he was pursuing the fleeing sun. To remember the god, the locals built a temple here and so named it because the god's horse had left foofprints on the riverbank.

Matisi is a complex of grottoes. It consists of the Asvajit Cave Temple, the Universal Light Caves, the Thousand-Buddha Caves, the Golden Pagoda Caves, and the Upper, Middle, and Lower Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) Caves. Matisi is built within a high cliff face and accessible only via an amazing passageway through the caves.

Matisi is 70km southeast of Zhangye, reachable by taxi or by arranging a day trip with a travel agency in Zhangye. Unfortunately the only bus to Matisi from Zhangye leaves at 2pm and comes in to Zhangye in the morning. The tourism authorities have, in recent years, arranged a morning bus out to Matisi: ask at your hotel, but don't be surprised if they know nothing about it, as the ability for hotels in China to stay totally disengaged from the promotion of heritage and tourism attractions in their area is legendary. Matisi is reviewed on a separate page. IMPORTANT NOTE The main temple and Matisi North Caves have been closed for restoration through much of 2005 and all summer 2006. If you are going to Matisi explicitly to see this, then you will be disappointed. of course, the tourism authorities should tell you this, but they don't. However, Matisi is definitely worth the trip because of the Qilianshan Mountains behind, the beautiful scenery and the general spirit of the place

Taxi
Contact a travel agency in Zhangye and arrange for day trip

Bus
The only bus to Matisi from Zhangye leaves at 2pm and comes in to Zhangye in the morning.

Hotel
Hua Chen International Hotel Zhangye  
No.162 Of East Street, Zhangye, Gansu Sheng 734000

Hua Chen International Hotel Zhangye  
No.162 Of East Street, Zhangye, Gansu Sheng 734000

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