Friday, 10 October 2014

China Silk Road Travel Part 28: Mogao Grottoes.

The Mogao Caves or Mogao Grottoes are a system of 452 caves that were manually carved into the cliffs more than a thousand years ago. These caves were strategically located along the ancient Silk Route and they contained 2000 painted sculptures(mostly of Buddha and his diciples) and wall murals depicting scenes among others of cultural exchanges along the Silk Route.
As is the norm we entered a beautiful modern complex before we could visit the site. We sat through a 20 minutes movie that showed a virtual re-enactment of Mogao Caves History and a 20 minutes 4-D prelude to the actual Mogao Caves we would be visiting. From here it was a 20 min bus ride before we reached the actual site.
My first impression of the grottoes was the lack of authenticity as the structures look so neat, so new and so modern.
 What used to be an ancient grotto now looks like a room with aluminium door, modern brick walls and cement steps. 
This is another grotto(No 065)! Apparently all the grottoes are numbered.
Proper stairs and railings were built for visitors too.
Externally these grottoes may not look authentic as a lot of restructuring has been done but internally (ie inside the grottoes), there is commendable effort to preserve the past relics and wall murals. Mogao Grottoes has been inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1987.
Photography was allowed outside but not inside the grottoes. Most of the grottoes were kept dark and the tour guide had to use a torchlight. This is a zoomed shot of one of the wall murals from outside. These murals are a thousand years old and they are authentic. The paints have faded though. What's so impressive about all the caves we visited is the murals were very delicately and intricately hand-painted and they covered all four walls and the high ceiling of each cave. Some of the statues have been stolen and have been replaced with replicas.

Of all the grottoes this pagoda-like grotto is the most spectacular.
There is a statue of Buddha as high as this 7-storey pagoda inside.
These are probably the authentic grottoes - with no more doors seen. This stretch of grottoes are located along the same cliff some distance from the ones we visited.
Some stupas were also seen in the vicinity.

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