"Dunhuang" Top 5 Page for this destination Dunhuang by mke1963

Dunhuang Travel Guide: 106 reviews and 276 photos

Dunhuang is one of the great sites along the Silk Road; indeed it is hard t talk about the Silk Road without mentioning Dunhuang. Yet it is not the most intimate place to see Buddhist art, treasures and frescos. There are cave complexes in Anxi County and further along the Silk Rad that provide a more intimate, up close and personal, vew of the great artistic talent of the Buddhist monks 1000 years ago at Matisi (near Zhangye), Maijishan (near Tianshui) and even at Yulong (near Datong in Shanxi province) and the Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang. But Dunhuang has become an icon for the Silk Road Buddhist tradition, and possibly more because of what it does not have than for what it does.
In the early 20th Century, the English explorer Aurel Stein happened across the Mogaokou and induced the friendly, diligent caretaker into parting with thousands upon thousands of documents which are probably the most stunning collection of ancient Buddhist texts in the world. He and explorers from other countries, notably France, the USA, Germany, Russia and Japan, also removed frescos and sculptures. Many of this 'stolen' art forms the pride of museums (such as the Musee Guimet in Paris) but even more lies buried in the vaults and storerooms of museums in these countries. What would be an astonishing museum collection in Dunhuang or Kashgar or Kuqa is hidden away for the ultimate benefit of rich Western museums.

Dunhuang has been revitalized in recent years by tourism but has long been a rather wealthy and influential town: its population 1000 years ago is believed to have been around 100,000 people making it a city comparable to many in the Middle East or Europe at the time.
The reason? Dunhuang lay at the far western end of the Hexi Corridor, a long narrow pass that was effectively China's front door. Dunhuang was that door, and the gateway was at the Yangguan and Yumenguan. The former marked the start of the long desert crossing to the south of the Taklamakan to Khotan and Kashgar, while the latter marked the slightly easier and busier northern crossing to Hami and the small kingdoms along the northern edge of the Taklamakan.

Today Dunhuang still grows the crops it always has:cotton, grapes and melons, with cucumbers, tomatos and a host of other crops possible in the sheltered extensive oasis along side the stony desert and the huge sand belts.
For those who love the desert, stark mountains, Buddhist art and history, Dunhuang helps you to create dreams of being still - despite 800,000 visitors annually - a steely-eyed Silk Road explorer, facing the hostile elements.

70km west of Dunhuang is the brilliant and evocative Yangguan and the wonderful oasis village of Nanhu, while the Han Great Wall can be seen to the north at Xihu.

Perhaps even more fascinating is out in the Kumtag Shamo desert at Yumenguan at the remains of the Jade Gate and more Han Great Wall with the amazing Sanlongsha Yardan rock formations.

To the east along the Silk Road is the original, huge city of Anxi, now ruined and slumbering peacefully in the desert, with Jiayuguan a day's travel further east.

  • Last visit to Dunhuang: Jun 2006
  • Intro Updated Jun 12, 2006
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