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Dunhuang, a small city with a population of 100,000 and covering an area of 3120 square km, is located near the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road in Gansu Province, and is surrounded by high mountains and Gobi desert with an average altitude of 1100 meters. It was originally set as a prefecture in 117 BC in the Han dynasty and became famous due to the numerous Buddhist Grottoes, known as the Mogao Grottoes, which are one of the world's most important sites of ancient Buddhist culture. The grottoes, also known as Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, preserved nearly a thousand years of Buddhist cave-temple architecture, clay sculpture, mural paintings, and manuscripts dating from the 5th to the 14th centuries.
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The rediscovery of the caves and their treasures in 1900 opened a new field of study that uses the monuments and documents found at Dunhuang to illuminate the complex of cultural interactions of ancient Central Asia. The old and new finds in Dunhuang have reflected the features with the controlled periods by the Chinese, Tibetan, and Uygur people, and the images and texts reveal the impact of many other Asian regional styles and languages. The intermixture of Indian, West & Central Asian, and Chinese elements created a dynamic, eclectic, and thoroughly multicultural context that had a profound impact on the later development of narrative literary forms as well as on Buddhist image-making. This early internationalism has an echo in the contemporary distribution of Dunhuang material and Dunhuang studies around the world.

Mogao Grottoes

The Mogao Grottoes or the Caves of A Thousand Buddhas, are set into a cliff wall of Echoing-sand Mountain about 25km southeast of the oasis city in the Gobi desert. The honeycombed caves, enjoying a millennium long construction from the 4th to the 14th centuries and marking the height of Buddhist art, are the world's richest treasure house of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures. At its height, the cave complex had thousands caves. A total of 492 grottoes remain after thousand years vicissitude, covered with 45,000-square-metre fascinating murals. There are also 2,400 painted statues and over 250 residential caves. Almost every grotto exhibits a group of colorful clean-cut paintings of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, and other religious paintings, or social activities of different dynasties. The caves carved on the cliff wall provide voluminous research materials for the study of all aspects of the social life, such as religion, art, politics, economics, military affairs, culture, literature, language, music, dance, architecture and medical science in the old China.

The mural paintings remained can be divided into seven categories, including the jataka stories depicting beneficence of Sakyamuni in his previous incarnations, sutra stories of suffering and transmigration, traditional Chinese mythology and so on. Although the religious scriptures are primarily Buddhist, written in Chinese, Uygur, Tibetan, Turkic and other languages, they are not limited to Buddhist. Taoist, Manichean and Confucian scrolls are also part of the collection. Unfortunately, due to the corrupt and impotent governments after late Qing dynasties, Mogao Caves was plundered by a few of foreign thieves, while most of the treasures were then transported to Britain, Germany and other places. The splendid culture and art unearthed here stimulates worldwide interest and now a new international subject called Dunhuangology has formed.

Echoing-Sand Dunes

Located 6 kilometers south of the city - Dunhuang, Echoing-Sand Mountain (also called Sand Dunes of Mingsha) offers best picture-book desert scenery. The dune, surrounded by rolling ridges and precipitous cliffs, reaches a relative height of 250 meters. The climb to the top of the dunes is sweaty work, but the dramatic view back across the rolling desert sands towards the oasis makes the effort worthwhile. Visitors can ride on camels or just climb up to the sand mountains and then slide down. "Rumbling sands" - a sound like thunder or a drum-roll as the wind sweeps across this area.

Crescent Lake

The Crescent Lake surrounded by willow trees, is located right in the center valley of the Echoing-Sand Mountains, where the oasis meets the desert. Spring water trickles up into a depression between huge sand dunes, forming a crescent-shaped pond. Out here the recreational activities include the interesting camel rides, the more novel "dune surfing" (sand sliding) and paragliding. There is also a tow-gliding operation closer to the entry gate. Each year, especially from June to September, there are many Chinese and foreign tourists come to visit Dunhuang and travel along the famous Silk Road.

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