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Home Dunhuang Travel Guide Dunhuang Attractions Mogao Caves – One of the Four Great Grottoes in China

Mogao Caves – One of the Four Great Grottoes in China

Mogao caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, is located in Dunhuang. It was built in the sixteen kingdoms period, and it was constantly constructed in the northern dynasties, the Sui, the Tang, the five dynasties and ten kingdoms, the western Xia, the Yuan and other dynasties. it formed a huge scale art treasure that has 735 caves, 45,000 square meters of murals and 2,415 clay painted sculptures, which is the largest extant and the richest collections of the Buddhist art in the world. In 1987, the Mogao caves were listed as a world cultural heritage site. In China, Mogao caves in Dunhuang, Yungang grottoes in Datong, Longmen grottoes in Luoyang and Maijishan grottoes in Tianshui are known as “four major and famous grottoes”.

Mogao Caves

Basic Facts about the Mogao Caves:

  • Mogaocaves are dug onthe cliff at the eastern foot of Echo Sand mountain (Mingsha mountain) which is 25 kilometers away from the center of Dunhuang city. The total length of Mogao Caves is 1680 meters from the north to the south, and there are 735 caves, which are distributed on the 15 to 30 meters high of the cliff. It is divided into two areas: the south and the north The south area is the site of Buddha worship activities. There are 492 cave paintings and painted sculptures in various dynasties and more than 45,000 square meters of murals. The nine-story temple in this area is the landmark of the Mogao caves, where the largest indoor cross-legged clay statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva in the world situated. The 243 caves in the north area are places for monks to practice, live and bury.
  • The majority ofcaves are excavated on the conglomerate, except for the stone and clay sculptures built against the mountains in the north and south, and the rest are mostly wooden structures. Buddha statues, Bodhisattva statues, disciple statues, heavenly king, Vajra and painted sculptures are the main body of Dunhuang art. The painted sculptures have various forms, such as round sculpture, floating sculpture, shadow sculpture and so on, and the highest one is 34.5 meters and the smallest one is only about 2 centimeters with the rich content and superb skills. This place is alsoknown as the painted sculptures museum of Buddhist.
  • The muralsof Mogao caves werepainted on the walls of caves, top of caves and niches. They are rich in content and mainly include seven types such as the figure of Buddha, Buddhist stories, history of Buddhism, decorative pattern and so on. There are a lot of murals showing the hunting, farming, textile, transportation, war, construction, dance, weddings and other various aspects of social life. Some of these paintings are exquisite, while others are magnificent, reflecting the artistic styles and characteristics of different periods. Through observing a large number of murals, people can find that ancient artists learned a lot from Iran, India, Greece and other countries. Mural paintings of different dynasties show different painting styles and reflect the political, economic and cultural conditions of China’s feudal society. They are precious art treasures in the history of ancient Chinese fine arts and provides precious historical materials for the study of ancient Chinese history.
  • Most of the painted sculptures and murals in Mogao caves are about Buddhism, and many involvesart features of India, western Asia, central Asia, Xinjiang and other regions. It can help people know the spread of Buddhist thought and belief in Hexi corridor, as well as the culture integration of Buddhism and Chinese traditional culture.
  • Nowadays, there isa Digital Exhibition Center for visitors to watchtwo interesting movies, namely A thousand years of Mogao cave and Splendors of Buddha Palace. It helps visitors have a deeper understanding about Mogao caves. This center is equipped with shuttle bus service for people to visit the caves.

Mogao Caves

How to Buy Entrance Tickets:

  • Price of ticket:
Peak Season(April 1st to November 30th ) CNY 258(including the foreign language interpreting service)
Low Season(December 1st to March 31st ) CNY 160(including the foreign language interpreting service)
  • Opening time:
Peak Season(April 1st to November 30th ) 08:00-18:00
Low Season(December 1st to March 31st ) 09:00-17:30
  • Note:
  1. Generally, there are many visitors during the July, August and September.The number of tickets is limited a day, so it is better to make a reservation online in advance.
  2. The recommendedvisiting procedure is to go to the digital center and get the ticket first, and the watch movies there. Then visitors can take shuttle bus to the Mogao caves. At last,  visitors can take a bus or taxi back to Dunhuang city.
  3. To protect the cultural relics, taking photos is notallowed in the cave.

Mogao Caves

When is the best time to visit?

As a renowned tourist attraction in the world, Mogao caves is a desirable place all year around. But if you travel it during the peak season, it is better for you to make a reservation online in advance.

Tips: Visitors had better avoid the official holiday in China, because many Chinese citizens choose to travel on official holidays to ease the pressure of their work. As a result, many Chinese tourist attractions are overcrowded and traffic jams are common. Therefore, visiting China at this time will bring tourists a less pleasant travel experience.

Official Holidays in China

Chinese New Year Around January or February
Winter vacation January-February
Labor Day May1st -3rd
Summer vacation(for students) July-August31st
Mid-Autumn Festival Around mid-September
National Day October 1st-7th

Mogao Caves

How to get to the Mogao caves?


  • Visitors can take Bus No.12 at the opposite of Dunhuang Silk Road Yiyuan Hotel.
  • Visitors can also take busat Dunhuang Railway Station.


  • From city center to the Digital Exhibition center is about 9 kilometers.

Mogao Caves

Good to Know:

There are several Silk Road themed shows in Dunhuang, allowing a deeper understanding of the murals and stories in the Mogao Grottoes and the ancient Silk Road. If you are looking for relaxing night options in Dunhuang, watching a Dunhuang Silk Road show should be a good choice.

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