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Mogao Caves


In the dusty recesses of Gansu, the ancient edge of China, lies hidden resplendent art in the form of hundreds of painstakingly painted grottoes - the Mogao Caves.

Carved, painted, and revered for centuries, the exquisite Buddhist caves of Mogao represent the desire to connect with the divine. Carved into a far-flung desert canyon on the edge of the Gobi, over 700 rock cut grottoes are adorned with images of Buddha, reflections on heaven, and the hope that the best is yet to come. Over the following millennium, hundreds of caves were hollowed out and covered in exquisite murals and statues. In 1900, a vast cache of ancient manuscripts and artifacts from cultures spanning the Silk Road was discovered hidden in one of the cave libraries. This unparalleled written record dating from the 5th to 11th centuries revealed invaluable insights into the diverse religious, intellectual and cultural interchange happening at that time in Dunhuang.

Like a desert mirage for weary Silk Road travelers, the cave temples offered not just respite, but a transcendent glimpse into paradise. One can envision merchants and monks alike reaching this remote spot after months on dusty trails, entering the cool caves to be surrounded by dazzling colors and images of Buddha serenely gazing down. What better inspiration to continue on their journeys? The collaborative spirit across generations shows the lengths humans will go to build connections - whether through trade routes or shared iconography and stories that bind cultures together. One of the greatest byproducts that the Silk Roads have brought about.

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What Ideas Emanated from Here?

RELIGIOUS INTERCHANGE - The Mogao Caves show influence from many cultures, brough together by religion.

MANUSCRIPTS AND SCROLLS - As an important Buddhist center, some of the finest manuscripts were created and spread out from here.

How to Get Here

Once in Dunhuang, finding transport to the Mogao Caves is simple. We hired a taxi to take us east to the caves, a 20 minute drive.

Our Treasure

Walking into the first caves, regardless which one, was mind blowing. The detailed paintings, preserved near perfectly after hundreds of years, and the carvings made it humbling to see what man can accomplish through patience and determination.

Explore More

    ➨ The Seven Wonders of the Silk Roads

S N A P S H O T S   O N   T H E   R O A D

W H E R E   W I L L   Y O U R   J O U R N E Y   T A K E   Y O U   N E X T ?

The Mogao Caves felt out of this world, a temporary pause of all distractions that the Silk Roads offer. Well rested both physcially and spiritually, the last stretch along the Hexi Corridor to China is finally ready to begin. The first stop is the fort town of Jiayuguan, the historic "start" of China.


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