||© Luis Curran
Mogao Caves Entrance
Dunhuang, Gansu Province
Beautiful Buddhist murals in each of these caves. However, no photographs are allowed as the flash would add to the degradation of the murals.
As in other areas of China, many of the murals and literature have been removed by Westerners from Europe and USA for display in their own museums.
The Mogao Caves are the best example of Buddhist cave art to be found in China. There are almost 500 caves, decorated with 45,000 sq meters of frescoes and over 2,000 painted statues carved into the dunes.
Legend has it that the cave art was initiated by a monk on a pilgrimage to India in 366AD.
Subsequently, other pilgrims stopped and added their artistic contributions by carving and decorating caves
and niches in part as tribute to Buddha and to ensure their own safe journey.
Artistic styles from the Jin dynasty (265-420AD) to the Tang dynasty (618-907AD) can be seen in the caves.
The paintings from the Tang era feature many asparas (flying angels) which are a famous characteristic of Dunhuang cave art.
In 1900, a cave containing 50,000 religious and historical manuscripts was found at Dunhuang.
The texts included rare and ancient works in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Uighur, Chinese and other languages.
Over the next 2 decades most of the library was stolen or purchased by adventurers and archaeologists (particularly Aurel Stein of Great Britain) and
the Dunhuang Books have since been scattered worldwide. Most of these artifacts remain in the basement of the British Museum.