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Mogao Caves (Mogao Grottoes)

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  • Dunhuang Mogao Caves
    Dunhuang Mogao Caves
  • Mural Paintings
    Mural Paintings
  • Nothern Wei Dynasty Murals
    Nothern Wei Dynasty Murals
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Mogao Caves (Mogao Grottoes), also known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, are honored as the biggest discovery in the twentieth century and the 'Louvre of East'. Located in the Echoing-Sand Mountain, it is 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) away from the downtown of Dunhuang. With a great number of caves, murals and painted sculptures, Mogao Caves is the largest treasure house of Chinese classical arts and the center of Buddhist art.

The construction of Mogao Caves began in 366 and ended in the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). It is said that a monk named Lejun found when passing by the mountain that gleamed with a thousand rays that looked like a manifestation of thousands Buddha. He thus considered it the holy land of the Buddhists and decided to practice Buddhism there. Then he raised money from people in the surrounding areas and invited craftsmen to dig the first cave in the steep cliff. When the news spread, more and more people came there to dig and built caves including Buddhists, dignitaries, merchants as well as ordinary people, in the hope of finding a peaceful life. As a result, the mountain was made full of caves.

There are a total of 735 caves in the mountain ranging from the Northern Wei (386 - 534) times till the Yuan Dynasty, divided into northern and southern sections. The southern section - the main part of the Mogao Caves has 487 caves, and is the place where Buddhists only perform their religious practice. The northern section, which has 248 caves, is the place for Buddhists to practice Buddhism, live and bury the dead. At present, 492 caves of the northern and southern sections have murals covering a total of 45,000-square-meter (about 48,000 square yards), 2,415-colored clay sculptures, as well as thousands of stone columns carved with lotus patterns.

In 1900, the cave of Buddhist scriptures was discovered, in which there are a great number of valuable cultural relics like scriptures, brocades, embroideries, and books written in Turpan, Tibetan and the characters of other Chinese nationalities. It is a prominent discovery in Chinese archaeology, which made Mogao Caves win world attention.

 Architectural Art
The existing over 500 caves are varied in architectural forms, including Zen-style caves, temple-style caves, and tower-style caves, to name just a few. The largest cave is more than 40 meters (about 131 feet) high and about 30 meters (33 yards) wide, while the smallest is less than one foot.

 Painted Sculpture
Painted sculptures are the essence of the Mogao Caves. There are Buddhist, bodhisattva, Deity and guardian sculptures, as well as many other depictions. The forms of the painted sculptures are colorful and rich, including round sculptures and relief. The highest is 34.5 meters (about 113 feet), and the smallest is only 0.02 meters (about 0.07 feet).

 Mural Art
The murals in the caves are rich in content and theme. There are paintings of Buddhist stories, landscapes, pavilions as well as scenes of ancient Chinese people's work and life. It is a reconstruction of the folklores and historical changes of over 1,500 years' Chinese history from the Sixteen Feudal States Period (304 - 439) to the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). 

1. For their protection, the murals in the caves can only be seen by flashlight, so we suggest visitors take one with them or rent a flashlight at the ticket office before their tour.
2. The temperature in the caves is quite low, so you'd better take a coat even in summer.
3. There should be no more than 20 people entering a cave at once.
4. Suitcases, photographic equipments, etc. are not allowed in the scenic area.
5. You can take a taxi from Dunhuang City or join a one-day tour offered by a number of travel services.

 Entrance Fee: 
CNY 160 (May. to Oct.); CNY 80 (Nov. to Apr.)
Kids under 1.4 m are free of charge

 Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00 

A. Take the mini buses in the city and get off at Mogao Caves;
B. Take the green buses at Dunhuang Hotel and get off at Mogao Caves;
C. Take a taxi to Mogao Caves (about CNY 35 - 50)

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