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Mogao Caves

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Mogao Caves, China

A Statue of Buddha at Mogao Caves (Caves of the Thousand Buddhas) , Dunhuang, China

Mogao Caves, also known as Mogao Grottoes or the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, are a collection of 492 caverns, built into the cliffs along China’s Dachuan River, home to a whole host of artwork from over 1,000 years. Constructed on these caves began around 366 AD, by Buddhist monks from several significant dynasties of China, up into the 14th century.

The location of the caves, right on China’s famous Silk Route, also greatly influenced the lasting cultural significance of the caves and the works of art they hold. The caves were an important location for the exchange of both goods and cultures.

Each of the 492 caves is a sanctuary, adorned with various types of art including statues and frescoes. The art work has been dated, and provides a unique look into the progress of Chinese art over the centuries. The art also gives an inside look into life in the area during those years, depicting varied scenes of the culture and arts, politics, religion, and economics of China throughout the various dynasties. The art also shows influences of the other cultures who came into contact with the Chinese throughout this era, including Indians, Turks, and Tibetans. The people portrayed in the art also show the evolution of dress styles and cultural traditions over time.

The caves are numbered, featuring various scenes of daily life, including scenes of the Silk Route, camels with carts, and trade exchanges, field workers, warriors, and landscapes. One of the caves was found with thousands of historical manuscripts, which has been named the Library Cave. This was an important discovery for the studies of ancient Chinese culture, providing much insight into the history and culture.

Mogao Caves Map

Facts about Mogao Caves

  • The Mogao Caves house a total of about 45,000 square meters (about 485,000 square feet) of murals.
  • Somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 statues can be found within the caves, many of them painted.

Where is Mogao Caves?

The Mogao Caves are situated 25 kilometers (16 miles) southeast of Dunhuang in the Gansu Province of northwestern China. The caves are located in the Gobi Desert, on the Silk Route, a trade route of ancient China. The caves are only accessible with a guided tour, but city buses or taxis will transport visitors to the caves.

Dunhuang is accessible via the Dunhuang Airport, which offers direct flights to Beijing and other Chinese cities. The city also has a train station, with service to a few nearby cities, and bus services, though those can take many hours.

Best time to visit Mogao Caves

Summertime in Dunhuang offers festivals, like the Summer Variety Show, a display of traditional performances from the time of the Silk Route. Parts of the Silk Route close during winter, so that may be a season to avoid.

English tours are available 3 times each day: 9 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm, and last about 2 hours. Costs for tickets are about 180 yuan for foreigners, with discounts for students and nationals.

Nearby Attractions: Silk Route, Beijing, Tibet, Maijishan National Park, Xixia Wangling National Park

Photo by : Kzaral

Published On: Thursday, July 4th, 2013