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Mahao Cliff Tomb in Leshan — Trippest Chengdu Travel Guide

The Mahao Cliff Tomb in Leshan is an interesting ancient burial site museum and is the only professional one in China.

Located in Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, this humble museum displays various cliff tombs and abundant unearthed cultural relics that reflect the most authentic lifestyle, social and economic culture, customs, sculptures, and cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries during the Han Dynasty.

Don’t miss this popular museum before you cross the river in the Oriental Buddha Park to visit the Wuyou Monastery, especially as the admission fee is included in the 70 yuan entrance fee for the Leshan Giant Buddha.

  • Location: the site of the Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan Province
  • Visiting duration: 1 to 3 hours
  • Opening hours: 9am to 5pm
  • Admission ticket: 70 yuan (included in the ticket to see the Leshan Giant Buddha)

What to See at the Mahao Cliff Tomb

  • Rich in connotations and exquisite decorations. The Mahao Cliff Tomb contains many types of architecture as well as chariot music and figures of birds, mammals, insects, and fish from the Han Dynasty. There are also a number of historical and mythological stories, portraits, sarcophagi, and calligraphy inscriptions. The interior decoration is exquisite — the stone carving portrait technique is simple, bold, and unrestrained with a very high historic and artistic value.
  • The earliest Buddhist stone carvings. At the same time, the tomb contains the earliest Buddhist stone carvings found in China and even the world. It is a concrete reflection of the fusion of Chinese culture and early Indian Buddhist culture.
  • Dog sculptures are popular in the Mahao Cliff Tomb. Sculptures of dogs are frequently found among the pottery items in the cliff tomb. Dogs were popular in the Han Dynasty and people liked to bury dogs as funerary items after their death, which became a common social phenomenon. They believed that dogs would protect their hosts in the afterlife. These pottery dogs are very vivid and were made by unknown sculptors from the local area in Leshan.

More Interesting Facts about the Mahao Cliff Tomb

  • The Mahao Cliff Tomb lies on the east bank of the spillway river between the Lingyun Mountain and Wuyou Mountain, just 1 kilometer from the city center of Leshan.
  • This cliff tomb is 29.93 meters deep with the widest point measuring 10.9 meters and the highest point being 2.8 meters.
  • With over 544 cliff tombs set as layer upon layer, the tomb door is connected to what seems like beehives and the sight is extremely spectacular.
  • What’s the meaning of ‘Mahao Cliff Tomb’? “Mahao” is the name of this location. A “cliff tomb” (yamu in Chinese) was a popular residence-style tomb built on cliffs in Leshan in ancient times.
  • This kind of burial tomb was popular from the Eastern Han Dynasty to the Northern and Southern Dynasties with 1,800 years of history, hence it is also known as the Eastern Han Dynasty Cliff Tomb.
  • Leshan was one of the most developed areas with convenient transportation in Sichuan Province in the Han Dynasty. The developed economy made local people pay more attention to their afterlife and the building of tombs.
  • As you enter the courtyard you can see a row of cliff tombs. The cliff tomb site reflected the local burial system whereby family members were buried together.
  • These dense cliff tombs are complex and divided into different rooms: a grave passage, a coffin chamber, a rear chamber, and a kitchen niche.
  • Burial objects vary in the different tombs but the main sacrificial objects include all kinds of figures, animals, stone carvings, pottery cups, and stoves. These objects would be placed according to the tomb owner’s living room. That’s why the Mahao Cliff Tomb is a treasure, helping us to understand the lifestyles, customs, stone carvings, and architectural art of the Han Dynasty.

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