September 1, 2009

Crescent Moon Spring lies in the arm of the dunes at the foot of Echoing-Sand Mountain, extending for 118m from west to the east but only 25m from south to the north. Despite being surrounded by the sand hills , the Spring has never been covered by quicksands and kept clear perennially. Looking like a blue crescent moon enchasing in the desert, it gets the beautiful name “Crescent Spring.” Having been lying among these sand dunes for thousands of years, Crescent Spring still gurgles clear, and still remains an oasis in the desert’s edge.

 

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September 1, 2009

West of the grottoes and south of Dunhuang is Echoing-Sand Mountain, which means “singing sand mountain,” though it is not really a mountain, but a giant sand dune. stretching for more than 40km’s long  and more than 20km’s wide.  If you are looking for some excitement after the solemn grottoes, this place is to be. Sand-surfing, camel rides and therapeutic sand baths (imagine being buried up to your neck) are available activities. Sands will come down and sound could be heard when you slide down from its top.

September 1, 2009

Mogao Grottoes, also known as Thousand Buddha Grottoes, is located on the eastern slope of Echoing-Sand Mountain, 25 kilometers (15.5miles) from downtown Dunhuang County in Gansu Province. It is one of three noted grottoes in China and also the largest, best preserved and richest treasure house of Buddhist art in the world. “Mogao” means high up in the desert in Chinese. It is now protected as a National Key Cultural Relics Protected Unit, and in 1987 it was listed among the ranks of World Cultural Heritage Sites.

According to Tang Dynasty records, a monk named Yue Seng had witnessed onsite a vision of thousand Buddha under showers of golden rays. Thus inspired, he chiseled the first cave here in 366, during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. The endeavor continued through later dynasties, resulting in the fantastic group of grottoes that can be seen today. Dating back to the Han Dynasty, the caves contain Buddhist sculpture and murals from ten dynasties ending with the Tang. After the Tang Dynasty, the heyday of Dunhuang Mogao Buddhist art, the local economy around Dunhuang went into decline and production of Buddhist art lessened dramatically. Mogao Grottoes are commonly known as the Thousand Buddha Caves.

 

Today in the Mogao Grottoes, 492 grottoes still stand, containing some 2,100 colored statues and 45,000 square meters of murals. Quietly going from grotto t o grotto and seeing the exquisite artistry that the devout pilgrims of the past instilled into the barren site.
The grottoes vary in sizes, with 37 being the smallest and 16 the largest covering each an area of 268 square meters. 96 grottoes are as high as 40 meters in 9 tiers extending from the foot to the top of the mountain. The smallest one just allows a head’s space.
The colored statues also differ in size, ranging from a few centimeters to 33 meters high, embodying the remarkable imagination of their makers. These Buddhist statues were generally constructed with terracotta and then covered with a plaster surface that is painted after being carved. Cave number 17 is particularly famous for its hoard of Buddhist scriptures and artwork.
The murals are definitely the big draw at the grottoes. The murals are so important as an historic record that scholars have dubbed them as “mounted library.” Some are Buddhist scriptures and sutras, while others illustrate the different ethnicities that passed through Dunhuang. 
All together, there are 45,000 square meters of murals in Mogao Grottoes. In spite of the erosion caused by wind and drifting sand for some thousand years, the murals still keep their bright colors and are clearly discernible. These murals were created with layers of cement and clay and then painted. The various dynasties each feature different styles and themes, and there is great deal of variety in the content of the frescoes, although themes typically revolve around Buddha images and Buddhist stories as well as life in the secular world.

 

 

September 1, 2009

Yulin Grottoes are located 75 kilometers southeast of Anxi County in Gansu Province. They are the branch of the Dunhuang art complex, also named Ten-thousand Buddha Valley. It is one of the important caves in Gansu Province, another art paradise in China. Yulin Grottoes consists of the existing Tang, Five Dynasties, Song, Western Xia, Yuan dynasties.

There are 41 major caves and hundreds of others scattered around. It is not yet clear when the caves were first cut. Judging from the background and the cave formation, experts have determined that they were not begun later than the Mogao Grottoes.

Murals in these grottoes consist of huge scripture drawings, portraits of Buddha, rare animals and plants, and scenes of plowing, harvesting, weddings, banquets, chess, brewing, iron-smelting, music and dancing.

 

 

The big scripture drawings on the southern and northern walls of cave 25, in composition, technique of expression, line drawing, coloring and human image reveal the artists’ skillfulness and accuracy. They are authentic portrayals of the highly developed art of painting in the Tang Dynasty more than 1300 years ago and are praised as the essence of the Yulin Grottoes. In the drawing of the “Western Pure Land,” the artist, with his great skill of condensation, described the various scenes in the grand, tranquil, and illusory Buddhist after-world.

 

September 1, 2009

Dunhuang is a city  in Jiuquan, Gansu province. It is sited in an oasis.

Dunhuang was made a prefecture in 117 BC by Emperor Han Wudi, and was a major point of interchange between ancient China and Central Asia during the Han and Tang dynasties. Located in western end of Hexi Corridor near the historic junction of the Northern and Southern Silk Roads, it was a town of military importance. Edges of the city are threatened with being engulfed by the expansion of the Kumtag Desert, which is resulting from longstanding overgrazing of surrounding lands. Dunhuang is safe place for traders to cross.

Early Buddhist monks accessed Dunhuang via the ancient Northern Silk Road, the northernmost route of about 2,600 kilometers (1,600 mi) in length, which connected the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an to the west over the Wushao Ling Pass to Wuwei and emerging in 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 Buddha.”

Today, the site is an important tourist attraction and the subject of an ongoing archaeological project. A large number of manuscripts and artifacts retrieved at Dunhuang have been digitized and made publicly available via the International Dunhuang Project