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China’s Amazing Caves of a Thousand Buddhas (Mogao Caves)

September 23, 2009


The Mogao Caves (Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, or the Caves of Dunhuang) are an intricate complex of Buddhist temples inside caves near the city of Dunhuang in Gansu province, China.

Located in China’s Gobi Desert and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, “Mogao” is Chinese for high up in the desert. These are remnants from China’s glorious Silk Route, at the crossroads of trade as well as religious, cultural and intellectual influences, the 492 cells and cave sanctuaries in Mogao are famous for their statues and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art.


According to Tang Dynasty records, a monk had witnessed on-site a vision of thousand Buddhas under showers of golden rays. He started the caves construction work that spanned ten dynasties.Other pilgrims and travelers followed for the next thousand years.
1197955083246The Mogao Grottoes contain priceless paintings, sculptures, some 50,000 Buddhist scriptures, historical documents, textiles, and other relics. The styles applied are typically from Indian-Buddhist schools.
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Some sutras as big as 65 square metres, and encompassing a whole wall.
Despite erosion and man-made destruction, the 492 caves are well preserved, with frescoes covering an area of 45,000 square metres, more than 2,000 colored sculptured figures and five wooden eaves overhanging the caves.
Today, 220 of the Tang caves remain.  Today, the site is an important tourist attraction and the subject of an ongoing archaeological project.

Inspiration: Wayfaring

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2009 11:46 am


    Nice article. I came across this as I have just posted a short article on my blog related to the Mogao Caves. There was a blog entry recently by an NBC journalist who traveled to the grave of Sir Marc Aurel Stein in Kabul, Afghanistan. Stein is the British Archeologist who “took possession” (as the article so nicely puts it) of thousands of manuscripts and paintings that had been housed in the caves.

    It’s an interesting read.

    Thanks for this article. I will be subscribing to your blog now for sure!

  2. uniquetraveldestinations permalink*
    October 1, 2009 5:36 pm

    Hi, I wrote back to you via your blog comment. Yours is also a great read!! Stay curious and continue to explore the world on two wheels! Go to Moravia in the Czech Republic for a wonderful biking experience through the country’s wine country! ciao, dian


  1. Silk Road Cemetery – Afghanistan « Not a Cycling Blog

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