Dunhuang, “the city of the tousand Buddhas”

On June 17, 2011, in Adventure Trip, Other Regions, Valleys and Scenic Spots, by Jack Li

The city, located in the Gansu province in northwest China,  is accessible thanks to the Dunhuang city Airport located 9 miles east of the city centre. It is possible to fly there from Beijing Lanzhou, Urumqi and Xian, flights available on China Flights. Duhuang was firstly established by emperor Wudi during the Han Dynasty in 111BC […]

The city, located in the Gansu province in northwest China,  is accessible thanks to the Dunhuang city Airport located 9 miles east of the city centre. It is possible to fly there from Beijing Lanzhou, Urumqi and Xian, flights available on China Flights.

Duhuang was firstly established by emperor Wudi during the Han Dynasty in 111BC at one of the cross of two main roads of the ancient Silk Road. The name Dunhuang from Chinese “to flourish and prosper” helps to understand that the city origins are rooted in ancient China. The city being one of the main stops of the Silk Road was the place where products from Far East where introduced to Europe and middle Asia. Furthermore among the area, is still perceptible the Buddhist culture, throughout carved images and traditional architectures, a perfect example of well preserved relics are the Magao caves. Indeed the latter are the main reason to visit the city, Caves are located 20 miles away from the city centre, they are also known as the 1,000 Buddha Caves. Indeed they are filled with spectacular Buddhist manuscripts and art. The construction of the cave was mainly due to a monk, who during his trip on the desert, in the 4th century, had a vision of a thousand Buddhas, explaining the reason why caves have been excavated, filled with treasures and called with the actual name.

Just next to the thousand Buddha caves is situated the “White horse Pagoda” built by a monk from India to thank his horse which helped him to get to China. However sightseers are not allowed to visit the cave on their own, for this reason the site provide a tour guide each 10-15 people for the price of 160 RMB.

For those landscape lovers, visitors cannot miss out the opportunity to visit the Sand Dunes riding a camel reviving the authentic Silk Road experience (for no more than 11 dollars per person). Within this visit, it is possible to experiment the surprising Ringing Sand hill, the hill has the particularity to produce a whistling sound due to friction. Another impressive and unique landscape is offered by the only one of its kind dry coloured flora of the Huyang forest. It is mainly characterized by a small forest constituted by rare poplars (Populus Divesifolia), some of them are more than 600 years old.

Another site to see is the Moon Crescent Lake, located only 6 km south of the Dunhuang city centre, at the Singing Sand Mountains, where the oasis meets the desert. Spring water trickles up into a depression between the high sand dunes creating a small crescent-shaped pond.

In conclusion find the way around may be complicated especially for first visit travellers as most of the attractions are outside the city centre. In this case is always advised to consult China Tours website which will provide you will all the necessary information about the area and an available English-speaker tour guide. For those more expert tourists looking for an accommodation around the Dunhuang city is advised to consult China hotels.

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Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes

On March 14, 2011, in Beijing, Cool Places, Shanghai, by Jack Li

Attracted by China Buddhist culture, you may choose to Travel to Tibet when planning your China Tours. But you should also not miss the shining pearl on the Silk Road — Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes. Dunhuang, located in the desert corridor of northwestern Gansu Province, lies close to the east of Xinjiang and to the west […]

Attracted by China Buddhist culture, you may choose to Travel to Tibet when planning your China Tours. But you should also not miss the shining pearl on the Silk Road — Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes.

Dunhuang, located in the desert corridor of northwestern Gansu Province, lies close to the east of Xinjiang and to the west of Qilian mountain range. This is a 2,000-year old city and was an important resting place for merchants traveling along the Silk Road linking China with Central Asia. Today, this city attracts visitors for the most precious treasure of Buddhist Art known in the world — the Mogao Grottoes.  

    

The Mogao Grottoes, the most archaic Buddhist holy land, lies 25 kilometers southeast of Dunhuang in a river valley between the Sanwei Mountain and the Mingsha Mountain. According to a stone inscription of Tang Dynasty, the stone carvings there came into being in 360 AD, when a Buddhist monk named Yue Seng passed this place and saw a vision of thousands of golden Buddhas. Over the following 1,000 years, hundreds of caves were carved out of the steep sandstone cliffs in a layered honeycombs pattern and connected together by wooden walkways and ladders.    

    

Murals and statues      

The Mogao Grottoes’ 45,000 square meters of mural paitings and more than 2000 color statues are regarded as the greatest treasure-house of Buddhist art existing in the world. Those well preserved caves span a period of one thousand years, from the 4th to the 14th century, and visually present with vivid detail the culture of medieval China.      

    

    

 

Manuscripts and texts       

The Dunhuang hoard consisted of about 13,500 manuscripts, with printing and fragments included, of 19,200 items. It is the largest and most important group of oriental manuscripts ever found.       

Impressed writing exists in Dunhuang manuscripts from the early 5th to the 10th centuries and was a convenient method for Buddhist students to take note on their coples of a text during a lecture. Sometimes they wrote over these in ink after the lecture. The further discovery and study of such marks will help us to verify the pronunciation of classical Chinese and the method of Buddhist teaching.       

    

History

After the 14th century, the grottoes were abandoned. They were accidentally rediscovered in 1900 by a man called Wang Yuanlu who took refuge here while fleeing famine in Hubei Province. He stumbled upon the hidden monastery library, a priceless collection of scrolls, books, embroideries, paintings and scriptures left behind by monks living there and then driven by the army of the Western Xia in 1036. Lacking of interest by the corrupted government of Qing Dynasty, Wang sold those precious arts to British and French Sinologists case by case. Before 1949, this place had been continually plundered by warlords, local bureaucrats, officers and soldiers of KMT as well as western collectors.        

Dunhuang Mural in Britain

The desert and cliff on the upper side of the Grottoes are distinctive contrast to the lower green valley. But the valley still cannot protect the grottoes from being eroded by wind and rain. They are all severely damaged from inside and many have collapsed. Today, 492 grottoes are still standing. Each cave has a label attached to it, indicating its number, date and dynasty. The grottoes cover eight dynasties: the Northern and Western Wei Dynasty, the Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, the Five Dynasties, the Song Dynasty, the Western Xia Dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty.       

        

In 1987, UNESCO placed the Mogao Grottoes under the protection of the world cultural heritage list.      

If you are interested in such precious treasure and spectacular beauty, please book your China Flights and come to Dunhuang.

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