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  • Mogao Caves

    The Mogao Caves, also known as the Mogao Grottoes or the Caves of A Thousand Buddhas, are set into a cliff wall of Echoing Sand Mountain about 25km southeast of Dunhuang, the oasis city in the Gobi desert. This honeycomb of caves was constructed over a millennium, from the 4th to the 14th centuries, and represents the height of Buddhist art and the world's richest treasure house of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures. During its heyday, the cave complex had thousands of caves, and today, a total of 492 grottoes, 45,000 square-metres of murals, 2,400 painted statues and over 250 residential caves remains. Almost every grotto

    contains a group of colorful paintings of Buddha and Bodhisattvas and other religious paintings, or social activities of different dynasties. The caves carved on the cliff wall provide voluminous research material for the study of all aspects of Chinese medieval society, in areas such as religion, art, politics, economics, military affairs, culture, literature, language, music, dance, architecture and medical science. The rich culture and art unearthed in the caves has even given birth to a new field of study, called "Dunhuangology"!

    The mural paintings in existence today can be

    divided into seven categories, including the jataka stories depicting beneficence of Sakyamuni in his previous incarnations, sutra stories depicting suffering and transmigration, traditional Chinese mythology and so on. Although the religious scriptures are primarily Buddhist, written in Chinese, Uygur, Tibetan, Turkic and other languages, Taoist, Manichean and Confucian scrolls are also part of the collection.

    (Unfortunately, due to the corrupt and impotent governments after the later Qing dynasties, many of the treasures of the Mogao Caves were plundered by heinous thieves like Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot, Langdon Warner and Albert von Le Coq, mainly by theft but also through unfair transactions. These treasures can now be found in places like Britain and Germany.)

    According to historical records, in the year 336, a monk called Le Zun came near the Echoing Sand Mountain and suddenly had a vision of golden rays of light shining upon him like thousands Buddhas. He started to carve the first grotto to memorize the accident and show his respect to the Buddha. Other pilgrims and travelers followed for the next thousand years.




  • Echoing-Sand Mounain(Mingsha Shan) 

    Located 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) south of Dunhuang city, Echoing-Sand Mountain which is also known as the sand dunes of Mingsha, offers superb picture-book desert scenery. The dune, surrounded by rolling ridges and precipitous cliffs, reaches a relative height of 250 meters (820 feet).

    The climb to the top of the dunes is sweaty work, but the dramatic view back across the rolling desert sands towards the oasis makes the effort worthwhile. To get to the top, visitors can ride bicycles or hire a taxi. Camel rides can also be arranged by local travel services. Descending the dunes is quite simple - slide down the dune to the sound of "rumbling sands" or the sound of thunder or a drum-roll as the wind sweeps across the sands. The thunder-like sound produced when sliding down along the sands is tremendous!

    Legend has it that in ancient times a Chinese


    general had his army camped in the dunes beside the Crescent Lake. Noise from the encampment attracted the enemy, who attacked in the dead of night. The Han army beat their war drums to call the troops to arms. Suddenly, in the middle of the battle, a fierce wind blew up, filling the sky with sand and burying both armies. This is why, to this day, the wind blows across the sand's surface to the roll of war drums.




  •  Crescent Lake  

    Crescent Lake is 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) south of the center of Dunhuang, near the Echoing-Sand Mountain, and is said to be where the oasis meets the desert. Crescent lake was formed by spring water trickling up into a depression between huge sand dunes, forming a crescent-shaped pond.

    The climb to the top of the dunes is sweaty work, but the dramatic view back across the

    rolling desert sands towards the oasis makes the effort worthwhile.


    Out here the recreational activities include pursuits such as riding camels across the sand dune, or the more adventurous "dune surfing" (sand sliding) and paragliding (jumping off the top of high dunes with a chute on your back). There is also a tow-gliding operation closer to the entry gate: continue past it if you want to jump off a dune!




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