Defying gravity: The spectacular Hanging Temple in China that has been suspended 246-feet above ground for 1,500 years
For some travelers the phrase 'seen one temple you've seen them all' rings true, but The Xuan Kong Si Hanging Temple in China would impress even the most cynical among them.
Also known as the Suspension Temple, this unique monument was built into a cliff by monks near Mount Heng, near Datong, more than 1,500 years ago.
'Hanging' 246 feet (75 metres) above the ground, it's also notable for being the only temple left that represents a combination of traditional Chinese religions Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Far from form over function, the structure was said to have been built to avoid floods and was placed cleverly beneath an overhang to shelter it from rain, snow and sun - which goes a way to explaining its excellent condition today.
The temple of 40 rooms connected by a series of corridors, bridges and walkways defies gravity due to oak crossbeams which plug into holes chiseled into the cliff-side, with the buildings' main support structure deep in the bedrock.
More than 80 statues of bronze, iron and clay are found in the temple representing the range of dynasties which have occupied and maintained it over the years.
Defying gravity: The Hanging Temple near Datong in China 'stands' 246 feet - or 75 metres - above the ground
Cliffside: The temple was built in a small canyon near Mount Heng in Hunyuan County more than 1,500 years ago
Protected: The remarkable structure is in top condition after regular revamps through various dynasties and the fact it's been built under a rock overhang
Out of place: The temple would blend into the cliff were it not for the elaborate and well-preserved traditional roof construction
Mini city: Even though it's built on a cliff, getting around The Hanging Temple is a relative breeze
Breaking barriers: It is the only temple remaining that has a combination of elements from three traditional Chinese religions - Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism
Fixed in place: Oak beams fitted into holes chiseled into the cliff hold the whole thing together while the main support structure is in the bedrock
The cliff corridor: Incredible road cut through 360ft rock face which is only link to Chinese village was built purely by hand
Welcome to the Cliff Corridor, a spectacular mountain road cut through a 110m high cliff face that serves as the only access link to a small Chinese Village.
The 1250m-long road which runs through mountains in Huixian County in central China’s Henan Province, was chiseled and hammered out 40 years ago by 14 villagers from Guoliang village.
The corridor is 5m high and 4m wide, and winds along the cliff at 110 meters high.
Take the high road: The 1,250m long 'cliff corridor' connects Guoliang village in Henan Province China to the outside world
Careful driver: A car makes its way along the cliff corridor which is the only access to the mountainous village in central China
Almost 40 years ago, the only connection between Guoliang village and the outside world was a gruelling, almost vertical set of 720 mountain steps.
The stairs were very dangerous because they were steep, narrow and had no handrails.
Then in 1972 village head Shen Mingxin decided something had to be done and led 13 villagers in a mammoth effort to chisel and hammer a real road to the outside.
Without use of any machinery, they created the cliff corridor purely by hand.
It took the 14 villagers 5 years to complete the corridor, which is wide enough to be driven along, during which time they used up more than 10 tons of drill rods and 4,000 hammers.
Before the road was built in the mid 1970s the only access to the village was an almost vertical set of 720 mountain steps. The corridor is 5m high and 4m wide, and winds along the cliff at 110 meters high
Feat: The 1250m-long corridor was chiseled and hammered out 40 years ago by just 14 villagers from Guoliang village
Effort: It took the 14 villagers five years to complete the corridor, which is wide enough to be driven along
Long way home: A pedestrian trudges up the 1,250m cliff corridor, one of the world's most spectacular roads
Members of Guoliang village take part in an outdoor art class. Their only link to the outside world is the cliff corridor which was built purely by hand
Journey's end: It took 14 villagers 5 years to complete the corridor, which is wide enough to be driven along, during which time they used up more than 10 tons of drill rods and 4,000 hammers
Chinese children forced to learn in rundown building on cliff-face because surrounding towns wrongly fear everyone in their village is a leper
A group of Chinese children are forced to study in a rotting shack at the top of a mountain cliff because surrounding towns claim they are all lepers.
Leprosy died out in Xinzhai, southwest China, decades ago but its neighbours in Yunnan province refuse to believe it.
Despite numerous campaigns to encourage schools to take the pupils, the village is still colloquially dubbed Mafengcun, meaning 'leprosy'.
Outlawed: Pupils at the Xinzhai school in China are forced to learn in an isolated building on a cliff path
Outlawed from better-equipped schools, the village's 13 children, aged five to 15, climb a treacherous path every morning to get an education. The building is shabby, there are only four desks and with gaping holes in the roof, the children get wet when it rains.
'In summer we bake, in winter we freeze, but we need an education so we must put up with it,' one boy told a local newspaper.
School run: The 13 children aged five to 15 have to climb this mountain route to get to class every day
Perilous: The cave-like hollow in the mountain is the small bit of shelter teacher Yuan has found for the group
To and from class, they have to climb a mountain path with just a rusting rail for support.
Their teacher, Yuan Helun, 54, has been there 13 years teaching children the basics of reading, writing, maths and geography.
Locals praise him for his selfless effort to make sure they get an education.
Rusty: This is the rusty and flimsy piece of railing they rely on as support to get up the cliff for school
Desperate: Their teacher, Yuan Helun, has been working here for 13 years but feels sorry for the kids
Cliff-side: Their 'classroom' is a small section of shelter in the middle of a path on the side of a mountain
'Learning conditions are difficult and the children are stigmatised for no good reason by the other villages, but they are good kids and they learn fast, even though we do not have much in the way of resources,' he said.
'I cherish the time I spend with them and hope they find a decent life for themselves afterwards.
'They really are dedicated. They have to slog up this mountain, sit in a cold and wet room for hours, go back down the mountain and them help their parents with the housework.
All conditions: 'In summer we bake, in winter we freeze,' one of the 13 children told a local newspaper
A tough education: Many children in the village pictured here cannot face the daily hike so do not attend school
'They are from very poor families. The younger children make dolls from clay because their parents could never afford to buy them dolls from a toy shop.'
Local media reported that some negotiations even ended in fistfights between those who want the children to move and the schools fighting to keep them out.
'My 13 students in Mafengcun finally have the right to equal education,' said Yuan.