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Mogao Caves

Mogao Caves is a shrine of Buddhist art treasure. It is 25 km (15.5miles) from downtown Dunhuang on the eastern slope of Mingsha Shan (Mount Echoing Sand). A network of plankGate of Mogao Caves reinforced roads plying north to south 1600 meters (5, 249 feet) long lead to the cave openings, which are stacked five stories high some reaching up to 50 meters (164 feet). By the way, Mogao means high up in the desert. The Mogao Caves are the best known of the Chinese Buddhist grottoes and, along with Longmen Grottoes and Yungang Grottoes, are one of the three famous ancient sculptural sites of China. The caves also have famous wall paintings. The Mogao Caves was ranked one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987.

Mogao Caves

According to Tang Dynasty records, in 366 AD a Buddhist monk, Lè Zūn had witnessed onsite a vision of thousand Buddhas under showers of golden rays and inspired the excavation of the caves he envisioned. The number of temples eventually grew to more than a thousand. Mogao Caves are commonly known as the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas. From the 4th until the 14th century, Buddhist monks at Dunhuang collected scriptures from the west while many pilgrims passing through the area painted murals inside the caves. The murals cover 450,000 square feet. Both scriptures and murals were used as teaching tools to inform illiterate Chinese about Buddhist beliefs and stories.

Buddhist art has its origins in India. Mogao Caves improvised where the rock surface did not work well under their chisels. They placed clay statues in front of the cave walls, carved relief murals as backdrops, and painted the sidewalls and ceilings with art decorations. The largest statue is 34.5 meters (113 feet) high and the smallest a mere 2 centimeters (0.79inches) high.

Buddha Statue of Mogao CavesThe Indian Buddhist art in Mogao Caves is the earlier works. More recent works depict all walks of life and activities in a local setting. The tourists will relive the daily routines and special events as captured by the artists while exploring the 750 caves. There are also ups and downs in the artistic quality over the centuries, depending on the fortunes of Buddhism with available art patronage.


Mogao Caves Tour

There are 50,000 manuscripts written in many languages apart from artifacts. The Mogao Caves are a depository of historical and cultural exchanges over more than a thousand years between China and other nations.

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