Mogao Grottoes, also known as Thousand Buddha Grottoes and Dunhuang Caves, is one of three noted grottoes in China. It's also the largest, best preserved and richest treasure house of Buddhist art in the world. In Chinese, "Mogao" means high up in the desert. It is now protected as a National Key Cultural Relics Protected Unit, and was listed in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1987.
Today, with 492 grottoes, the Mogao Caves also contains some 2,100 colored statues and 45,000 square meters of murals. The devout pilgrims of the past instilled into the barren site when they quietly go from one grotto to another and see the exquisite artistries.
The grottoes vary in sizes, with 37 being the smallest and 16 the largest. 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 carved plaster surface. Cave number 17 is particularly famous for its hoard of Buddhist scriptures and artworks.
The murals are definitely the big attraction at the grottoes. The murals are important as a historic record that scholars have indicated them as "mounted library." Some are Buddhist scriptures and sutras, while others illustrate the different ethnicities that passed through Dunhuang.
According to records of Tang Dynasty, a monk named Yue Seng witnessed onsite a vision of thousand Buddhas under showers of golden rays. Thus inspired, he chiseled the first cave here in AD366. People had continued endeavoring since then, resulting in the fantastic group of grottoes which can be seen today.
Location: 25 km from downtown Dunhuang, on the eastern slope of Echoing-Sand Mountain
Transportation: Mogao grottoes are 25 km away from Dunhuang city of its south. Tourists can take countryside bus in front of Shazhou market from Dunhuang, 8 Yuan for one way. Departing at 8:30 in the morning to 7 or 8 in the afternoon, and leave at a regular intervals of half an hour.
Ticket: From May 1 to Oct 31: CNY 200 for Chinese citizens; CNY 220 for foreign visitors (including foreign tour guide service);
From Nov 1 to next April 30: CNY 100 for Chinese citizens; CNY 120 for foreign visitors (including foreign tour guide service)
Opening hours: From May 1 to Oct 31: 08:00 – 18:00
From Nov 1 to next April 30: 09:00 – 17:30