Explore Mogao Grottoes | Dunhuang Night Market | Gansu's UNESCO World Heritage site | 4K HDR | 敦煌莫高窟

Explore Mogao Grottoes | Dunhuang Night Market | Gansu's UNESCO World Heritage site | 4K HDR | 敦煌莫高窟

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The 'Caves of the Thousand Buddhas', also known as Mogao, are a magnificent treasure trove of Buddhist art. They are located in the desert, about 15 miles south-east of the town of Dunhuang in north western China. By the late fourth century, the area had become a busy desert crossroads on the caravan routes of the Silk Road linking China and the West. Traders, pilgrims and other travelers stopped at the oasis town to secure provisions, pray for the journey ahead or give thanks for their survival. Records state that in 366 monks carved the first caves into the cliff stretching about 1 mile along the Daquan River. The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes or Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, form a system of 500 temples 25 km southeast of the center of Dunhuang, an oasis located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, in Gansu province, China.

The Mogao Grottoes are considered one of the most important collections of Buddhist art in the world. At its peak during the Tang dynasty (618–907), the site housed 18 monasteries, more than 1400 monks and nuns, and countless artists, translators and calligraphers. Carved into the cliffs above the Dachuan River, the Mogao Caves south-east of the Dunhuang oasis, Gansu Province, comprise the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world.

It was first constructed in 366AD and represents the great achievement of Buddhist art from the 4th to the 14th century. 492 caves are presently preserved, housing about 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 2,000 painted sculptures. Cave 302 of the Sui dynasty contains one of the oldest and most vivid scenes of cultural exchanges along the Silk Road, depicting a camel pulling a cart typical of trade missions of that period. Caves 23 and 156 of the Tang dynasty show workers in the fields and a line of warriors respectively and in the Song dynasty Cave 61, the celebrated landscape of Mount Wutai is an early example of artistic Chinese cartography, where nothing has been left out – mountains, rivers, cities, temples, roads and caravans are all depicted.

As evidence of the evolution of Buddhist art in the northwest region of China, the Mogao Caves are of unmatched historical value. These works provide an abundance of vivid materials depicting various aspects of medieval politics, economics, culture, arts, religion, ethnic relations, and daily dress in western China. The unique artistic style of Dunhuang art is not only the amalgamation of Han Chinese artistic tradition and styles assimilated from ancient Indian and Gandharan customs, but also an integration of the arts of the Turks, ancient Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities. Many of these masterpieces are creations of an unparalleled aesthetic talent. The discovery of the Library Cave at the Mogao Caves in 1990, together with the tens of thousands of manuscripts and relics it contained, has been acclaimed as the world’s greatest discovery of ancient Oriental culture. This significant heritage provides invaluable reference for studying the complex history of ancient China and Central Asia.

Criteria (i): The group of caves at Mogao represents a unique artistic achievement both by the organization of space into 492 caves built on five levels and by the production of more than 2,000 painted sculptures, and approximately 45,000 square meters of murals, among which are many masterpieces of Chinese art. Criteria (ii): For 1,000 years, from the period of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) to the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty (1276-1386), the caves of Mogao played a decisive role in artistic exchanges between China, Central Asia and India. Criteria (iii): The paintings at Mogao bear exceptional witness to the civilizations of ancient China during the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties. Criteria (iv): The Thousand-Buddha Caves constitute an outstanding example of a Buddhist rock art sanctuary.

Criteria (v): Occupied by Buddhist monks from the end of the 19th century up to 1930, the rock art ensemble at Mogao, administered by the Dunhuang Cultural Relics Research Institute, preserves the example of a traditional monastic settlement. Criteria (vi): The caves are strongly linked to the history of transcontinental relations and of the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia. For centuries the Dunhuang oasis, near which the two branches of the Silk Road forked, enjoyed the privilege of being a relay station where not only merchandise was traded, but ideas as well, exemplified by the Chinese, Tibetan, Sogdian, Khotan, Uighur and even Hebrew manuscripts found within the caves. Mogao Caves encompass caves, wall paintings, painted sculptures, ancient architecture, movable cultural relics and their settings. The property area and buffer zone contain all the attributes that demonstrating the values of the Mogao Caves and thus ensure the integrity of both the heritage site and its environment. Documents of Western Xia, Central Asian and Phags-pa scripts had been discovered through archaeological investigations in the 243 caves in the northern area of Mogao Caves, which was the area for monks to live and meditate and also served as the graveyard in the past.

The Mogao Caves comprise the Northern Area and Southern Area caves together. The location of the Mogao Caves and its settings are faithful to the authentic historical context in which they were created. The design, materials, traditions, techniques, spirit, and impression of the caves, wall paintings, painted sculptures and movable cultural relics still exhibit the characteristics of the periods in which they were created. The continued utilization of the Mogao Caves for tourism has indeed promoted its historic significance. Conservation plans have established the guidelines for the caves’ utilization and conservation and therefore will ensure the authenticity of the site and its settings. The Mogao Caves were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987.

As a State Party, China has put all World Heritage sites under top-level protection. In 1961, the Mogao Caves was listed as one of the State Priority Protected Sites by the State Council and was put under the protection of national laws including the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics. The goal in the future is to implement the measures set out in the management plan by the scheduled time, to learn from advanced experiences in heritage site conservation and management at home and abroad, to ensure the authenticity and integrity of the heritage site and its setting, and to make its full historical information and value available to future generations. The cave-temples are all man-made, and the decoration of each appears to have been conceived and executed as a conceptual whole. The wall-paintings were done in dry fresco.

The walls were prepared with a mixture of mud, straw, and reeds that were covered with a lime paste. The sculptures are constructed with a wooden armature, straw, reeds, and plaster. The colors in the paintings and on the sculptures were done with mineral pigments as well as gold and silver leaf. All the Dunhuang caves face east.

Shazhou Night Market is the largest night market in Dunhuang, popular with tourists from all over the world, which is a wonderful place both to eat and to socialize. Dunhuang used to be called Shazhou. The market is divided into five zones - food & snacks, art crafts, Sanbaotai teahouses, agricultural products and souvenirs, which form a bustling night picture with unique folk customs. Located in East Yangguan Road, Shazhou Night Market is one of the most interesting night markets in China. With the improvement of the essential services, a fast growing number of tourists take it as a must-go in culture-prosperous Dunhuang. When the night falls, all the lights are lit.

Tourists from different places gather here and walk into the crowd to explore something meeting their appetite. The central market mainly contains a set of snack stalls, while the outer street is full of souvenir vendors. There are some Uyghur vendors from Xinjiang to offer beautifully handmade crafts for sale. The outer street also has many small western traveler cafes and outdoor barbecue stalls where anyone can take a chair and lose track of time while munching on Delicious mutton and local apricot juice.

Dunhuang Shazhou Night Market is a must-go site at night if you are staying at Dunhuang for a night and a good place to go if you are ready to try some of the locate delicacy and snacks as well. It is consisted of five separate sections which is locate snacks section, hand crafts sections, tea and drinking resting section, herbs and grain selling section and locate specialty section. You could sit and have a drink at the drinking area and watch the bustle and hustle world going by, or you could join the crowd and indulge yourself for seeking a gift for your families back home in the hand craft area. They are selling hundreds and millions small reduplicate version of the Dunhuang Goddess Fei Tian at a great value. The most notable thing is that there are over 100 stalls sitting in front the street selling luminous cups, Dunhuang silk rugs, books, murals copies and other beautiful things.

Or you could treat yourself in the snack and eating area for a juicy mutton pie.

2021-08-21 21:47

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