Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves
The Bizaklik Thousand-Buddha Caves is located ‘ Mutou Valley’ in the Flaming Mountains, which is 48 kilometers northeast of the Turpan city, twenty-two kilometers from the ancient city of Gaochang. They were called the Ningrong Grottoes in the Tang Dynasty.
There are 77 numbered grottoes, about 40 of which still have murals in them. The group of grottoes in Bizaklik, with a total of 1,200 square meters of murals, has the most grottoes, most diversified architectural styles, the richest mural content. The greatest number of grottoes and mural paintings are concentrated in Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves.
The earliest of these grottoes were built during the reign of the Qu family in Gaochang in the sixth century, and from that time on Bizaklik Thousand Buddha caves was an important Buddhist center throughout the Tang Dynasty, the Song and Yuan dynasties right up to the thirteenth century. Its most prosperous period was under the reign of the Xizhou Huigu government, Huihus s established it’s kingdom in Gaochang in the middle of the ninth century,which was built the royal temple of the King of Huigu on this site. Most of the existing grottoes were extended or reconstructed during the Huigu period. Bizaklik Grottoes considered to be a treasure-house of Huihu culture and arts.
The Bizaklik Grottoes come in a variety of shapes. Most of them are rectangular caves with vertical vaulted ceilings, while others are square with horizontal vaulted ceilings. There are also square caves with dome ceilings built at the end of the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties.
The ceiling of Grotto I8 is a painting dating from the Northern Dynasties. With a large lotus blossom at the center, the painting is filled with designs of triangles, four-leaf patterns and other geometrical figures, painted in the mineral colors of blue and green as well as white with simple and powerful strokes.
The murals depicting “Buddhist disciples wailing in mourning” and “Bhikku wailing in mourning” on the back wall of the Grotto No.33 are rare artistic pieces which depict the inner feelings of the figures with vivid images and individual characteristics. The ancient instruments shown in the mural depicting “Female Dancers on Performance” in Grotto No.16 and the mural of “Transformation in the Hell” in Grotto No.17 are seldom seen in Buddhist grottoes in China.
Nowadays, we can still see on the remaining Buddhist murals the features of the King and Queen of Huigu and people of different status, as well as scenes of the lives of ancient Uygur people. Inscriptions in the ancient Huigu, Chinese and Brahmi languages are valuable materials for research on the written languages and history of Xinjiang’s various nationalities, and Uygur in particular.