DunHuang Mogao Caves

Tun-Huang Grottoes - Thousand Buddha Grottoes - Chien-fo-tung - Mogaoku - Peerless Caves

Useful Information

Location: DunHuang, Province Gansu. DunHuang is an oasis town in Chinese Central Asia west of Xian, a former capital of China.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church, ArchaeologyPainted Cave Buddhist cave temples in sandstone
Dimension: L=1,600m
Guided tours:  
Bibliography: Roderick Whitfield, Susan Whitfield, Neville Agnew (2001): Cave Temples of Mogao, Art and History on the Silk Road,
Conservation and Cultural Heritage Series, Getty Trust Pubn, ISBN: 0892365854. (January 2001), paperback, 144 pages.
Address: DunHuang Mogao Caves
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111 BC the town was founded by Emperor Wudi of the Han dynasty.
366 the start of the carving of the caves.
1357 abandoned.
1900s rediscovered.
1987 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


DunHuang Mogao Caves are artificial caves in the Singing Sand Mountain in DunHuang city. All in all 492 caverns with a length of 1,600m. Most of the cave have three or four levels, the biggest ones have up to 9 levels and extend from the foot to the top of the mountain. The 16 biggest caves have a size of 268m² each.

The caves contain about 45,000m² of murals and 2,415 painted clay figures. They show the illustrations of Buddhist sutra, Jataka (very popular stories of former lives of Buddha), venerable images, and donors. They contain an immense store of manuscripts, including the earliest wood block-printed text.

Dunhuang or Tun-huang is an isolated desert oasis which was inhabeted by Buddhists for about 1,000 years. They dug a series of caves and decorated them with a vibrant array of wall frescoes and sculptures. At this time Dunhuang was at the western frontier of the powerful Chinese empire. The Silk Road made the oasis an important trading post. after the collapse of the silk route the area depopulated, but fortunately the caves and its paintings have been preserved by the dry climate.