Why is Mogao Grottoes special?
Mogao Grottoes, also known as Thousand Buddha Grottoes and Dunhuang Caves, is one of three noted grottoes in China. It's also the largest, best preserved and richest treasure house of Buddhist art in the world.
In Chinese, "Mogao" means high up in the desert. It is now protected as a National Key Cultural Relics Protected Unit, and was listed in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1987.
Today, with 492 grottoes, the Mogao Caves, also contains some 2,100 colored statues and 45,000 square meters of murals. The devout pilgrims of the past instilled into the barren site when they quietly go from one grotto to another and see the exquisite artistries.
The grottoes vary in sizes, with 37 being the smallest and 16 the largest. 96 grottoes are as high as 40 meters in 9 tiers extending from the foot to the top of the mountain. The smallest one just allows a head's space.
The colored statues also differ in size, ranging from a few centimeters to 33 meters high, embodying the remarkable imagination of their makers. These Buddhist statues were generally constructed with terracotta and then covered with a carved plaster surface. Cave number 17 is particularly famous for its hoard of Buddhist scriptures and artwork.
The murals are definitely the big attraction at the grottoes. The murals are as important as a historic record that scholars have indicated them as "mounted library." Some are Buddhist scriptures and sutras, while others illustrate the different ethnicities that passed through Dunhuang.
The history of Dunhuang
According to records of Tang Dynasty, a monk named Yue Seng witnessed onsite a vision of thousand Buddhas under showers of golden rays. Thus inspired, he chiseled the first cave here in AD366. The endeavor had continued since then, resulting in the fantastic group of grottoes which can be seen today.