Mogao Caves treasure of Buddhist art

Mogao Caves Dunhuang Gansu
As the national treasure of Buddhist cave art and the historic relic of ancient China, the Mogao Caves are listed in UNESCO in 1987. The beauty of the frescoes, wall sculptures especially the technical difference that reflects the influence of different cultures on the Silk Road make these very unique and remarkable works.

Stage Construction

As early as the 4th century, a monastic community settled along a river and gradually built a place for worship. Situated at a strategic crossroads of the Silk Road, this sacred site received the influences of different peoples who made business here. The mixture of culture, techniques and arts is unparalleled in the Mogao Caves.
It took 16 dynasties to complete these caves. The first cave was in fact built in 366 and each people brought their touch at the site for over centuries. So today we find 492 caves with different styles according to the Northern and Western Wei Dynasty Northern Zhou Dynasty, Sui Dynasty and Tang dynasty. These caves are embedded in the Mingsha hill 1.6 kilometers long along the canyon.

Exceptional Buddhist Treasure

Caves, murals, painted sculptures and furniture cultural relics represent the world largest collection of the greatest Buddhist art. Listed in the UNESCO since 1987, these caves comprise 45,000 square meters of frescoes, nearly 2,500 painted Buddhist sculptures, 4,000 statues of Apsara and many other treasures.
Each of the works is a unique witness of politics, economy, culture, arts, religion and ethnic relations at the time of its creation. All of its paintings and sculptures allow knowing the evolution of civilization in China but also in Central Asia.

Library Caves

One of these Mogao caves stands out from others. Indeed, the majority of these caves are large rooms with murals, statues and pillars. But the Cave No. 17 is different. Sealed to the early eleventh century, it was not discovered until 1898 by the monk of the time. Inside, dozens of thousands of manuscripts and silk paintings were piled. It is assumed that the cave was sealed to protect these sacred texts from invasions of the time and it was then forgotten and neglected. These manuscripts, most of them are extremely well preserved, are a treasure second to none. Indeed, some of these are in rare languages ​​of ancient times. More importantly, this major discovery allows the study of the history of ancient China and Central Asia. The Diamond Sutra which was discovered there is the oldest printed book in the world. Dating back to 868, it was printed on rolls. This priceless national treasure was partly sold by the monk of the time to the French and English explorers Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot. This explains why we can now find some of these works in museums around the world.

Random Cave Visit

Although the site is very beautiful, do not expect to visit all 492 caves. For their protection and preservation, only 30 caves are accessible to visitors. During the visit, you can only visit a dozen of caves chosen by the local guide according to the number of visitors in each open cave. This tour will be in English and you'll be impressed by the quality of its explanations and details provided by the local guide. Some other caves can be visited for an additional fee up to RMB 500! But it will guarantee at least a little more solitude. For the cave visit, prepare a bottle of water and a jacket as it can get quite cold and dry inside as the heat will be well presented on the outside. It will not be possible to take pictures and guards heavily penalize attempts. A flashlight can be useful to admire the frescoes more carefully and the guide could present you with more attention.

  • Best time to visit

    Apr. May. Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. 
  • Altitude

    1 146M Altitude Mogao Caves
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