Mogao Caves are commonly known as “Thousand-Buddha Caves”. They are located in Dunhuang, west of Hexi Corridor, Gansu Province. Mogao Caves’ history can be dated back to the Former Qin Period and they had gone through many dynasties’ rebuilding. Now the site is in a large scale with 735 caves, frescos covering 45,000 square meters, and 2,415 painted clay sculptures. Dunhuang Mogao Caves are now a Buddhist art center which has the largest scale and the richest content of Buddhist relics in the world.

Mogao Caves are one of the four famous grottoes in China; other three grottoes are Yungang Grottoes in Datong of Shanxi Province, Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang of Henan Province and Maijishan Grottoes in Tianshui of Gansu Province. Mogao Caves are recognized as a world cultural legacy by UNESCO in 1987.

History: According to a book written in Tang Dynasty, in the year of 366, when a monk passed by the site of Mogao Caves, he suddenly saw golden light twinkling here. It seemed there were thousands of Buddhas in front of him, thus he digged the first cave here. After that a Buddhist monk called Fa Liang continued building caves and practiced meditation here, and named the caves “Mogao” which means “the highest of desert”.

During the Northern Wei Dynasty (368-534), the Western Wei Dynasty (535-556) and the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581), the rulers believed in Buddhism and thus, grotto construction went smoothly under the support from the government.

During Sui and Tang Dynasties, with the prosperity of “silk road”, Mogao Caves were more thriving; over 1,000 caves were built during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian. After “An Lushan Rebellion” in Tang Dynasty, Dunhuang City was occupied by Tibetan regime and thus the construction of new caves was suspended, and the grottoes were left aside since the Northern Song and were gradually desolated during Yuan Dynasty. Mogao Caves went into people’s sight again after the economy recovery of Dunhuang City in Qing Dynasty.

In 1900, a cave for preserving Buddhist sutras was found here, which made Mogao Caves famous suddenly. Unfortunately, the relics in the cave were swindled by several foreign explorers under the background that China was going through domestic disturbance and invasion. Now only a few of the relics are kept in domestic China.

What to See/Do: Architectures: Mogao Caves were carved out of rock surface, and most are wooden constructions, which enjoy great value in research.
Painted sculptures: Painted sculptures of various Buddhas in different shapes are countless here. It can be said to be a “Buddhist painted sculptures museum”.
Frescos: The colorful frescos in the caves present various Buddhism scripture stories and the working scenes of ancient local people to tourists. Besides, most frescos absorbed art features of Iran, India and Greece. It is a symbol of developed Chinese ancient civilization.
Admission: From May 1 to Oct 31: 200RMB;
From Nov 1 to Apr 30: 100RMB.
Website: http://en.dha.ac.cn/
Address: 25 km southeast of Dunhuang, Gansu Province.
Opening time: From May 1 to Oct 31: 08:00 – 18:00;
From Nov 1 to Apr 30: 09:00 -17:30.
Public transport: Take the minibus at No. 151, Yangguan Zhonglu, Dunhuang City (opposite Dunhuang Hotel) at 8RMB; The earliest departs at 08:30, and the last bus is at about 7pm; Or take a taxi from the train station, costing about 40RMB.

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