Archaeologists in north China's Shanxi Province have discovered a 1,400-year-old temple where a collection of statues of the Buddha were once stored.
The shrine, enclosed by walls carved with Buddha niches, is part of the Tongzi Temple complex secluded on a mountain near the city of Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi.
The structure was built in 556 during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557), a booming period for Buddhism, according to researchers with the Institute of Archaeology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (IA CASS).
"The structure is the only one of its kind ever found in China and it sheds light on early Buddha carvings," said Li Yuqun, researcher with the IA CASS and lead archaeologist on the excavation.
Though destroyed in war in 1117, the temple has yeilded up a batch of well-preserved statues. One of its walls was carved with a Buddha figure over 20 meters in height. It was unrecognizable after so many years but archaeologists unearthed some remnants that suggest its original looks.
The structure also houses a 2.6-meter mural dating from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which archaeologists believe is of great value as the oldest in the region.