Dunhuang is one of the great centers of ancient Buddhist art in China. and stands in prestige and reputation alongside those famous sites at Yungang and Luoyang. Located near the far-western border of Gansu Province, Dunhuang was once an important enter of Buddhist learning on the “Silk Road,” being renowned throughout China during the fifth to the twelfth centuries.
There are three groups of ancient Buddhist shrines in the Dunhuang area the Mogao Caves the mat important and best known of all, located 15 miles southeast of Dunhuang the Elm Forest Buddhist Cave, or Yulinst, hear the village of Tashi, not far from Anxi; and the (West) Thousand Buddha Caves or Qianfoya, actually 16 in number, near Nanhu or South Lake. (The site is also known as Qianfodong–the Thousand Buddha Caves–and is frequently shown on Chinese maps under this name.)
Most visitors prefer to stay a few days to take in the full extent of the religious art to be seen in the area, but those with a specific interest in Buddhism and its art forms would wish to stay longer.
The caves are closed during the winter period November through April. During the visitors’ season not all the caves are open for viewing, a system adopted to preserve the caves from deterioration. Caves are open from 8:30-11 A.M. and 2:30-5 P.M. daily.
If you take your own flashiest you will enjoy the caves more and be less dependent on the guide escorting you around the caves.
Photography is permitted at four the caves only. You must first purchase a “photography ticket.” A guide will accompany you to the caves then escort you back to the check-in point to deposit your camera before visiting the other caves.
The most famous cave is the Mogao Caves. The caves have been carved into the sandstone cliffs of the eastern Mingsha mountain. Behind the cliffs and sloping down on to them are the desert sands; in the valley below the oasis lies shaded by a verdant wood of poplars and willows, and fed by a mountain spring. The caves used to be connected by a rickety latticework of wooden walkways and ladders, suspended in a air almost, on the face of the cliff, but these fell into ruin and have been replaced by four-and five- tiered walkways giving access to all the caves. Built into the cliff face is a nine-story pavilion, housing the giant Buddha( over 100 feet or 31 meters high).