The Mati Si (Horse's Hoof Temple) and grottoes of Mati Si Scenic Area, Gansu province, China
© Ana Flašker/Alam
A cliff-hanging complex of temples
Feast your eyes on the colorful Mati Si (Horse's Hoof Temple) and its cliffside complex of sandstone grottoes and wooden pavilions. An indentation in the sandstone provides a clue to the mythical origin of the temple. One legend has it that a frightened longma—a winged dragon horse—visited here thousands of years ago and left its hoof mark in the rock as it landed. What you can't see in our homepage image is the narrow network of tunnels cut into the cliff, connecting the seven floors and multiple grottoes to the Mati Si pagoda, which is 200 feet high and holds hundreds of Buddha statues.
Mati Si lies within the grasslands of China's Gansu province along the Hexi Corridor of what was once China's Northern Silk Road. There's no bus service to the temple so you'll have to grab a taxi or, like the mythical dragon horse that left its imprint here, hoof it.