The Mati Temple Grottoes, also known as the Horse’s Hoof Temple Grottoes, are a group of Buddhist caves located in Gansu Province, China. These grottoes are considered to be some of the most important and impressive examples of Buddhist art in China.
The Mati Temple Grottoes were first built during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 CE) and continued to be expanded and improved over the centuries by subsequent dynasties, including the Tang (618-907 CE), Song (960-1279 CE), and Ming (1368-1644 CE) dynasties. In total, there are 194 caves in the complex, containing over 7,200 square meters of murals and more than 1,300 painted sculptures.
The grottoes were carved into a cliff face along the banks of the Dang River, and are arranged into three main groups: the Lower Grottoes, the Middle Grottoes, and the Upper Grottoes. The Lower Grottoes were built during the Northern Wei Dynasty and contain some of the earliest examples of Buddhist art in the complex. The Middle Grottoes were built during the Tang Dynasty and contain some of the most impressive murals and sculptures in the complex, including a 13.5-meter-tall Buddha statue. The Upper Grottoes were built during the Song and Ming dynasties and contain some of the most well-preserved murals in the complex.
The murals in the Mati Temple Grottoes are particularly noteworthy for their use of color, which is still vibrant and rich despite being over a thousand years old. The murals depict a wide range of Buddhist themes and stories, including scenes from the lives of the Buddha and his disciples, depictions of the various heavens and hells in Buddhist cosmology, and scenes of everyday life in ancient China.
In addition to the murals, the grottoes contain numerous sculptures, including depictions of the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and other important figures in Buddhist mythology. The sculptures range in size from small, intricately carved figures to larger-than-life statues, such as the 13.5-meter-tall Buddha statue in the Middle Grottoes.
Today, the Mati Temple Grottoes are a popular tourist destination and are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The grottoes are also an important site for the study of Chinese Buddhist art and architecture, and continue to attract scholars and researchers from around the world.