The Mogao Grottoes, also known as "the Thousand Buddha Caves", and praised as "a glittering pearl that adorns the Silk Road", are the most famous Buddhist grottoes in China. Located 15km (10 mi) southeast of Dunhuang (25 km (16 mi) by road), these caves are carved out of the sandstone cliffs of the Singing Sand (Mingsha) Mountains.
The 1600 m (one mile) of grottoes in the south to north cliff were constructed in 10 dynasties from the 4th to the 14th century. The Mogao grottoes' 45,000 square meters (480,000 sq ft) of mural paintings and more than 2,000 color statues are regarded as the greatest treasure-house of Buddhist art existing in the world.
The first grotto was chiseled out in 366 AD. According to legend, a monk called Yue Zun dreamed of 1,000 golden Buddhas when he was traveling home across this region, and he decided to turn his dream into reality by painting them on the wall of a cave.
Over the next 1,000 years, 10 dynasties rose and fell, and artists of each dynasty contributed grottoes. Work on the grottoes ceased during the Yuan dynasty (1368–1644), and ever since the grottoes have remained through for hundreds of years, protected from natural erosion by their cave location. Today, 492 caves are still standing. Altogether there are 2,000 statues and over 45,000 separate murals.
From August 1, 2014, the Mogao Grottoes' management started implementing a new visiting model to protect the world famous ancient Buddhist artwork. Read more about the new visiting model.
Mogao Grottoes is one of the seven great endangered attractions in china, check out other six.