About an hour outside of Zhangye there are these cliff temples called Mati Si. It was a long bumpy taxi ride out there and the scenery got more and more rural till we were out in the middle of nowhere. This area definitely feels more Tibetan than Chinese and there are lots of Tibetan prayer flags around. I walked up to the first temple I saw and walked inside the courtyard. Tibetan prayer wheels were on both sides of me. I was the only person there and everything was completely silent and still. After a bit, I saw one solo monk circumambulating the temple, around and around. It was a magical moment and one of the ones I’ll remember most from this trip. Just me, the temple, silence, and this one single monk.
On this trip I had planned on avoiding the Tibetan areas of China. Since I had spent a couple weeks in McLeod Gange way back when, I felt like i had already gotten the Tibetan experience and wanted to concentrate on things I hadn’t experienced while I was here. But being here really brought back the magic of the Tibetan world. The beautiful temples, monks, prayer wheels, etc. I definitely feel super drawn to this stuff.
The cave temples themselves are absolutely incredible. They were chiseled into the rock wall probably almost 1,500 years ago. It’s almost unfathomable how people were able to do this back then without machinery. There are a bunch of narrow passageways and stairs inside the cliff that you scramble up and down… some of them very steep. Inside different areas you would find various Buddhas and candles and incense. The pictures really dont do it justice! You’ll see the temples way at the top section of the cliff… That’s how high these crazy internal passageways in the cliff went.
At one point and old lady stopped me to take a photo of me with her grandkid. She was super excited when I agreed. Clearly there are not very many foreigners here, heh.