Sunday, April 26, 2009

Buddah Caves and Hanging Temple

These Buddah carvings were started around 1,500 years ago in sandstone caves at Yungang near Datong. They're similar to the ones that were destroyed in the Buddhist site of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. There are around 50,000 in all, some as tall as 50 feet and others just a few inches. The caves are numbered, and it's possible to walk inside some.Some of them look like frescos, with every inch of walls and ceilings covered with carvings.

Twenty caves are spred out along a three-quarter mile stretch of park. Most of the statues were carved between AD 460 and 524.

About 40 miles away is the Hanging Temple, clinging to the side of a cliff and suppported by wooden pillars. Building started around 1,500 years ago, but flood waters from a river below regularly washed the buildings away, until finally the temple was relocated high up in caves and hollows in the rock. It was covered with wooden facades.

The rooms are connected by wooden walkways and stone and wooden steps. There aren't any real guardrails to to speak of. It's surprising they let so many people walk around here, but busloads come everyday. We happened to be there at a slow time. It's hard to imagine what it would have been like with crowds.

It was a little scary getting into position to take this picture of Tom. I had to lean out over the edge of this little balcony. Best not to look down!

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