Three Buddha statues carved on the cliff surface are the highlights of Maiji's Buddhist heritage. Li Yang / China Daily
When my eyes turned around a protruding rock, I caught sight of a large pair of feet, 3 meters wide at least, carved out of the mountain stone in a big cave.
I had no idea that I was already standing at the feet of three great Buddha statues of a five-story building's height - one Amitabha statue flanked by two bodhisattvas.
All of them wear robes and a smile, with eyes half-opened.
They were carved in the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534) and mended in Song (960-1279), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
The tour guide told me the latest repair in 1984 found a white china bowl made in the Song Dynasty and a well-preserved booklet of Buddhist scripture in the left cheek of the Amitadha statue.
The story adds to the mysteries of the Buddha statues, making my trip more like an exploration for treasures.
The bright sunshine casts shadow on the large statue's face, and the moving shadow gives the still face different expressions.
This is the wisdom of ancient artists. They were good at making use of natural light and imagination to bring life to a still face.
Buddhism came to China through the Hexi Corridor along the Yellow River in Gansu province about 1,600 years ago, when ethnic groups from the north and the west came to central China in large migrations.
The religion born in India has gone to southeast and northeast Asia from China, despite its ups and downs.
The most popular Buddha is Amitabha, who is believed to be the chief Buddha of the Pure Land sect. Amitabha empowers all calling upon him to be reborn into his world, the Pure Land, where they receive all kinds of instruction by him and become bodhisattvas and Buddhas later.
This is the most prevalent school of Mahayana Buddhism during the first stage of Buddhism evangelization in China, when the three main Buddha statutes of Maiji Mountain were made.