Located at the eastern foot of the Rustling Sand Mountain in the southeast Dunhuang City, Gansu Province, and known/ reputed as one of the Three Famous Grottoes, the Mogao Grotto is the world’s largest treasury of Buddhist arts with the richest and best-preserved artistic works. The roads within the Grotto, strengthened with thick planks, stretch 1,600 meters from south to north, and stand five storeys as high as 50 meters. The word “Mogao” means “hanging up high in the desert”.
In 366 A.D. during the Eastern Jin Dynasty, after seeing the illusion/ vision of a thousand Buddha in the sunbath/ shower of glorious sunrays, a monk decided to carve the first cave here. The completion of the whole Grotto took ten dynasties, including…, finally presenting to us a splendid/ impressive/ grandeur/ spectacular/ breath-taking complex of grottoes.
There are still/ remains 492 grottoes including over 2,100 colored statues and 45,000 square meters of frescos, the total area of which can cover a land extending 30 kilometers. The grottoes are of/ demonstrate/ display/ show different sizes/ differ/ vary in size; the smallest one can only fit a human head while the biggest one spreads from the foot to the top of a mountain, a height of more than 40 meters. The colored statues also vary in size, as small as several centimeters and as big as 33 meters. All of these show/ showcase the excellent imagination of the creators.
Buddhist arts were originated in India/ have their origins in India. Visitors may find traces of Indian Buddhist art in the earlier works while more recent works describe/ depict the lives and activities of people from all walks of life. An exploration in the caves seems like reliving everything, from daily life to special events, captured by the artists. Across the centuries, the quality of the artistic works varies according to the success of Buddhism and the patronage received. Artists in different dynasties have their unique utilizing of colors, thus making their works, either/ be them from the Tang or Song dynasties, distinguishable.
Resisting to centuries of erosion, the frescoes are still vivid in color with clear lines. Despite historic periods, artistic schools and styles, all the works narrates Buddhist stories as well as secular/ mundane/ worldly life. The frescoes, Buddhist sutras and relics in the caves serve as valuable materials to study ancient Chinese politics, economy, culture, art, technology, military affairs and religions, to record/ document the Chinese history, and to promote exchange between China and the west.
In 1987, UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) placed the Mogao Grottoes under the protection of the world cultural heritage list.