Mogao grottoes in Dunhuang at the strategic crossroad of the ancient Silk Road were first dug out in the 4th century and the work ended when China, West Asia, Russia and half of the Erupe fell under the Mongol’s rule nearly a thousand years late.

Currently, there are 492 caves housing a total of 2,415 statues and 45,000 m2 of murals, mainly in Buddhist and Taoist themes.

A Museum of Classic Chinese Art That Took a Thousand Years to Complete

A Buddha land in the desert

The Mogao cave has been decorated with Buddhist statues and wall to ceiling murals.

A silent Buddhist conference is taking place in another Mogao cave.

Different postures but the same mindset.

A sitting Buddha and a standing Ahart in a Mogao cave.

Peace and War

Statues of a Bodhisattva and a Buddhist Guard in a Mogao cave.

Fist and palm – without compassion, one cannot gain true wisdom; without wisdom, one’s kindness may generate harmful results.

An Arhat, a Bodhisattva and a guard in a Mogao cave.

The progress of conscious awakening is not measured by how long one meditates but how well one handles the real-life challenges.

The statues of the Buddha, two Arhats, two Bodhisattvas, two guards and two devils in a Moga cave

I’ll forever stand by you

A Bodhisattva and her monk soulmate in a Mogao cave.

2D mural & 3D sculpture in a Mogao cave

There are skies beyond the sky, as the Chinese saying goes, as the different worlds are overlapped in any given space. Those who reckon they rule the planet are just fooling themselves.

Acting without action

A Buddha statue in a Mogao cave

Celestial beings in a higher world

Part of a Tang Dynasty mural in a Mogao cave

Taoist immortals in a higher world

Part of a Tang Dynasty mural in a Mogao cave

A Museum That Records How Ancient Chinese Lived and Worked

A Bodhisattva watching two officials playing Go (Game of Siege).

A Song Dynasty wall mural at cave #454 in Mogao cave, Song Dynasty

Free trade between China, Russia, Iran and Rome

Part of a Song Dynasty mural in a Mogao cave depicting a Chinese merchant caravan travelling along the Silk Road

A Middle East caravan merchant travelling to China through the Silk Road – Tang Dynasty mural in Dunhuang Grottoes.

Chinese fishermen fishing with a net

A mural in Mogao cave #96

A rule-abiding monk trying to reason with a naughty monkey not to disturb the order in the temple

A mural in Mogao cave #96

An ancient Chinese swimming pool

A Tang Dynasty mural in Mogao Cave #148

Major constellations

A Tang Dynasty mural in a Mogao cave.

A piece of 2,000-year old paper dating back to the West Han Dynasty was unearthed from a heritage site near Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang.

A Song Dynasty cliff-face timber structures (960 – 1279) serving as the facade of a large-scale Buddhist cave.

A mural in Mogao Cave #72 titled Set Up Buddhist Statue in Liang Prefecture (凉州瑞像安置图) depicts how Chinese Buddhist monks erected a giant Buddha statue in a temple hall, which involved the use of ladders and scaffoldings.

A Museum Along the Silk Road that Was Ruined Under Alien Rule and Foreign Vandalism

This is how Mogao Grottoes in the early 20th century looked. By then the heritage site and the trading road were in ruins after nearly 300 years under Manchu’s rule who prohibited the local Chinese from conducting cultural and trade exchanges with the world outside.

However, it did not stop a large number of priceless Chinese heritage treasures from being stolen by bandits from overseas.

In 1924, American archaeologist Langdon Warner arrived in Dunhuang armed with the chemical solution, which was used to detach murals. He removed over two dozens of masterpieces from caves 335, 321, 323 & 320 and caused permanent damage to the heritage site.

This is Mogao cave #323 where one of the murals was torn from the wall by Warner and eventually smuggled to America.

A Buddha statue that was stolen from Mogao cave #328 by Warner and now is kept by an US museum.

Bring the Ancient Statues and Murals to Life

Since the middle 20th century, Chinese conservation specialists and artists have been working at Mogao Grottoes and a number of damaged statues and murals are carefully restored or copied.

This is one of the murals reproduced by a Chinese artist, which depicts a Tang Dynasty wedding scene.

Chinese of the Tang Dynasty loved the outdoor life. When coming to weddings, they would pitch a tent with blue fabric to make a wedding chamber in the southwest corner of the property, which is considered as the auspicious direction according to Chinese Feng Shui principles, while staging a concert and having a dance party were also integral parts of a wedding program.

A Tang Dynasty all-female orchestra

Wall relief in a Mogao Cave

A female musician playing the pipa. Until the Tang Dynasty, pipa was played in a horizontal position while today it is done vertically.

A mural in Mogao cave

A Tang Dynasty soloist playing the qin

A mural in a Mogao cave

A flying fairy from a celestial realm

A mural in a Mogao cave

Two flying fairies from a celestial realm

A copy of a Mogao cave mural

National Ballet of China brings Mogao sculpture and mural to life.

Bodhisattva with a thousand hands as portraited in Momao Grottoes come to life on the Chinese stage.

The flying fairies from the celestial world painted on the cave walls at Mogao Grottoes emerge on the Chinese stage.

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