Like so many places in China (and elsewhere), they’re spending vast sums of money on the future (or even afterlife) and completely ignoring the problems of the present or the poor.
The Xumi GrottoesA number of sources informed us the XumiShan Grottoes were open until 7pm, but when we arrived at just after 5 we were greeted by a door of huge iron bars. All the staff had left so our driver just pushed the unlocked doors aside and we entered the site completely unsupervised.
Visiting after hours was a treat – there were no crowds and the light was perfect. The ever-present stallholders were still packing up and in exchange for buying a 5rmb bracelet; one couple gave us a knowledgeable guided tour.
Erosion has created a series of gulleys and ridges out of the sandstone rocks, and these are dotted with over a hundred grottoes, temples, shrines and buildings.
These grottoes are filled with carvings of Buddha, from hand-sized carvings up to the 20+ meter high sculpture of Sakyamuni.
On the route back to the grottoes lay a huge construction site. This relatively small scenic park is getting new decorative pathways, bridges, car parks, a hotel and a conference centre.
In 1982 the Chinese government listed Xumishan as a National Level Cultural Relic Protected Site. 26 years later, after some misguided attempts to coat the sandstone in concrete, the Xumishan Grottoes were put on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The site is listed as being in danger from erosion, vandalism and looters, as well as the vibrations from the new road and the construction work on the new hotels.
Perhaps stopping the erosion of the 1500-year-old statues, which are still presumably the main attraction, should be considered more important than a hotel so the looters have somewhere nice to stay.
They should probably put some hinges on the gate to stop people wandering round after hours as well…