Mogao Grottoes is also known as “Thousand Buddha Caves or Mogao Caves” which is located 25 kilometers southeast of Dunhuang. It is 1600 meters long from south to north and stacked to five stories building.
It contains 45,000 square meters of murals, 2415 painted statues, and 50, 000 manuscripts written in many languages. Initially, there were 1000 caves, but only 492 caves still standing. Today only 30 caves are open for tourist to visit, and rest are closed for preservation.
Tourist can visit the earlier works of Indian Buddhist Art and latest are the works of locals. The smallest statue is merely 2 cm while the largest is 34.5 meters high. The cave also vary in size, smallest is head’s space while the largest is from foot of mountain to top of mountain. It is the largest and most comprehensive grottoes house in China and in the world.
According to historical records, Mogao Grottoes construction work started in 366 AD, and reached to its peak during Tany Dynasty. One thousand caves had been carved and painted by 14th centuries. The caves divided into south and north section. The main part of Mogao Grottoes located on south section where the monks carry out the religious activities. The caves on south section each contains wall painting or sculptures. According to historical records, the northern section is for monks to live, cultivate them to the religious doctrine and bury the dead peers. This section contains only 5 statues.
The Mogao caves were sealed and abandoned sometimes in 14th century. It was accidently discovered by Taoist monk Wangyuanlu in 1900. He realized the significance of the site and started to work on excavation and restoration of cave.
Some of the relics found from here was taken away by foreign archaeologies. Part of what was taken away from here can be seen in British Museum and the Louvre Museum. Also Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and The Academy of Science in St. Petersburge and China National Library in Beijing.
In 1961, it was listed under the protection of National Cultural Relics by State Council. In 1987, the Mogao Grottoes was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Other well-known Stone Grottoes in China are; Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, and Maijishan Grottoes in Tianshui.