Thousand Buddha Grottoes, Dunhuang Mogao Caves in Gansu China

The Mogao Caves vary in sizes, with 37 being the smallest and 16 the largest covering each an area of 268 square meters. The murals in the Mogao Caves cover the illustrations of Buddhist sutra, Jataka, venerable images, Donors etc.

Dunhuang Mogao Caves, also known as “Thousand Buddha Grottoes”, it’s located at the rock side of the Singing Sand Mountain in Dunhuang city of Gansu Province. The 3 or 4 tier grottoes extend 1.6 kilometers. According to historical records, the Mogao Caves were carved in 366 AD. There are 492 grottoes in existence with some 45,000 square meters of murals, and 415 painted clay figures. It’s worthy of the name of art treasure house of the Chinese Nation.

The 275 grottoes carved in the later period of the Sixteen Kingdoms are the earliest remaining ones. There were marked influence of Buddhism from the west regions upon the murals. Take for instance ” Jataka of the Deer King”. It depicts how the king rescues the nine-colored deer. The steed the king rides was painted vividly and in bright colors. The divided state of the South and North Dynasties lasted nearly 200 years until the reunification in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, when there were increasing exchanges, particularly in the cultural fields between China and the states in western regions. The Dunhuang arts made further progress and entered into its booming period. In the Tang Dynasty, the arts of the Mogao Grottoes were at its highest level. The murals are all illustrations of Buddhist sutras, each covering a large area, with some as big as 65 square metres, and encompassing a whole wall.

The Mogao Caves vary in sizes, with 37 being the smallest and 16 the largest covering each an area of 268 square meters. 96 caves are as high as 40 meters in 9 tiers extending from the foot to the top of the mountain. In spite of the erosion caused by wind and drifting sand for some thousand years, the murals still keep their bright colors and are clearly discernible.

The murals in the Mogao Caves cover the illustrations of Buddhist sutra, Jataka, venerable images, Donors etc. The illustrations of Buddhist sutra make up the major part of the murals. Jataka is that of Buddhism, while the images are those of Buddhas, Bodhisattra, Lokapala, Vijrapani etc.

The painted clay figures and the murals in Mogao Caves came into being at the same time. The ensuing thousand years witnessed their recreation, perfection as well as absorption of the merits of western ancient arts from India, Greece, Iran etc on the national basis. It has become a brilliant pearl in the Chinese art treasure troves.

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