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Art of Dunhuang

 2013-11-23    Ada    Tours    Dunhuang    1308  

Browse Dunhuang City online, you’ll find the ancient city’s profound culture, and that’s exactly why the place is regarded as a wonderland for artists from home and abroad. Actually, Dunhuang is a county-level city in northwestern Gansu province, Western China. There is evidence of human habitation in the Dunhuang area as early as 2,000 BC, possibly by people recorded as the Qiang in Chinese history. It was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road. It was also known at times as “City of Sands” or Dukhan as the Turkis call it. It is best known for the nearby Dunhuang Caves.

Dunhuang was one of the four frontier garrison towns (along with Jiuquan, Zhangye and Wuwei) established by the Emperor Wu after the defeat of Xiongnu, and the Chinese built fortifications at Dunhuang and sent settlers there. It commands a strategic position at the crossroads of the ancient Southern Silk Route and the main road leading from India via Lhasa to Mongolia and Southern Siberia, as well as controlling the entrance to the narrow Hexi Corridor which led straight to the heart of the north Chinese plains and the ancient capitals of Chang'an (today known as Xi'an) and Luoyang. As a frontier town, Dunhuang was fought over and occupied at various times by non-Han Chinese people. The name Dunhuang, or Blazing Beacon, refers to the beacons lit to warn of attacks by marauding nomadic tribes.

A number of Buddhist cave sites are located in the Dunhuang area, the most important of these is the Mogao Caves which is located 25 km (16 mi) southeast of Dunhuang. There are massive work of art there. The Great Wall was extended to Dunhuang, and a line of fortified beacon towers stretched westwards into the desert.

By the second century AD Dunhuang had a population of more than 76,000 and was a key supply base for caravans that passed through the city: those setting out for the arduous trek across the desert loaded up with water and food supplies, and others arriving from the west gratefully looked upon the mirage-like sight of Dunhuang's walls, which signified safety and comfort.

Dunhuang prospered on the heavy flow of traffic. The first Buddhist caves in the Dunhuang area were known in 353. By the Tang Dynasty it became the major hub of commerce of the Silk Road. Early Buddhist monks arrived at Dunhuang via the ancient Northern Silk Road, the northernmost route of about 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) in length, which connected the ancient Chinese capital of Xi'an westward over the Wushao Ling Pass to Wuwei and on to Kashgar. For centuries, Buddhist monks at Dunhuang collected scriptures from the West, and many pilgrims passed through the area, painting murals inside the Mogao Caves or "Caves of a Thousand Buddhas." 

There are 735 caves in Mogao, and the caves in Mogao are particularly noted for their Buddhist art, started by a Syrian artist[14] as well as the hoard of manuscripts, the Dunhuang manuscripts, found hidden in a sealed-up cave. A Christian "Holy Bible" from the Yuan Dynasty, written in Syrian has been found in the caves.

Numerous smaller Buddhist cave sites are located in the region, including the Western Thousand Buddha Caves, the Eastern Thousands Buddha Caves, and the Five Temple site. The Yulin Caves are located further east in Guazhou County.

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