Mogao Caves, China
In the Dunhuang city of the Gansu province an amazing example of Buddhist cave architecture is situated. The Mogao caves, also referred as Mogao Grottoes, Caves of Dunhuang and Caves of Thousand Buddhas, are a cave temple system that initially consisted of over 1000 caves. Nowadays 600 of them have remained but only 30 caves are open to the public. The Mogao Caves have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The tradition of the cave temples is related to the Indian culture, but the cave complex in Mogao appeared on the 4th century as the city was a part of the Silk Road – Mogao was a place for scholars and pilgrims to stop by for their religious rituals and meditation. The wealthy merchants and other people also visited Mogao as a religious site as it was important to them that the gods help them to succeed.
Mogao Caves Trivia
There’s a legend that claims that the first cave temple in Mogao is to be dated 366 AD and it was founded by a Buddhist monk, named Lie Zun. Having dreamt a dream of thousand Buddhas, Lie Zun started to persuade pilgrims of the Silk Road to help him in constructing the temples. Many people followed this appeal, helping to carve out and paint the caves. These workers slept in the northern side of the caves and received barely any payments.
The Tang Dynasty was the highest point of the development of the caves – at that time number of the temples reached 1000. However, once new sea roads were discovered, the Silk Road lost its significance and so did Mogao. Only many centuries later, in 1900, the forgotten caves were again rediscovered and rapidly got back its sacred state, resulting in being declared as a national monument in 1961. Nowadays, the Mogao Caves are an object of interest both of tourists and archaeologists.
Even if the most of the caves are not to be seen by the eye of regular people, visiting the 30 ones that are, is truly worth doing. The visitors can also go to the Research and Exhibition Centre that is located outside the complex. There you can take a look at the replicas of some of the caves. You will be amazed by the variety of styles included in the cave paintings and simply by the sense of the Buddhist faith that is present in these historic carved-out temples.