Three Immortals Buddhist Caves

Three Immortals Buddhist CavesThree Immortals Buddhist Caves of Han Dynasty (206BC—220AD) lie in north of Kashgar. The Caves are on a cliff on the side the mountain near to a river. It is about 13 meters (about 17 yards) down the bottom of the cliff and about 8 meters (about 10 yards) from the cliff top. The cliff face is vertical and so smooth that no plants grow on it. It is impossible for people to reach without the aid of climbing equipment.

According to the textual research, the Three Immortals Buddhist Caves were cut in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). They are one of the earliest Buddhist caves in western China, and are possibly 300 or 400 years older than the Mogao Caves. So the value of study the art of Buddhist caves and the history of eastern introduction of Buddhism occupies a pivotal position.

The Three Immortals Buddhist Caves include 3 caves, West Cave, Middle Cave and East Cave. They are 2 meters high and 1 meter wide with rectangular entrances side by side. Each cave consists of a big front chamber and a small rear chamber, the rear chamber being half the size of the front one. Only East Cave retains a sunken panel and most of the murals survive. There are on the ceiling of the front chamber and the wall of rear chamber. A painted Buddha on the ceiling of this cave, whose cassock was painted in interphase blue, green and red colors which is very rare in the earlier Buddhist murals. There is no original mural in West Cave. From the chiseling marks it appears the murals have been stolen. No initial murals were kept in the Middle Cave due to a reconstruction in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). During the reconstruction, murals were repainted on the wall. Although the present paintings are complete, the artistic style is totally different from the original ones in the other caves.

There is a legend on cutting the pearl of Buddhism art, Three Immortals Buddhist Caves. Long time ago, a King had a little pretty princess who was very weak. One day, a fortune-teller told the King that if the princess was not stung by bees in 100 days, she would escape from the disaster. But in such a place, full of fruits, how can the little girl avoid bees? Afterwards, they decided to cut a cave on the mountain. In order to make the princess comfortable, the workmen painted on the wall and decorated the caves like a palace. Unfortunately, the princess was stung in the 99th day when she cried for grapes even though the grapes were checked many times. The princess died, but the carvings and paintings were left forever.

The legend adds some mysterious color and attracts people here from far away. But the Three Immortals Buddhist Caves is a dangerous place for people to reach so that most of them only look from a distance.

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