The West Thousand Buddha Caves is located in the west of Mogao Grottoes (or Thousand Buddha Caves). It is about 35 kilometers from the downtown area of Dunhuang. It was dug on the cliffs of the Danghe River bank since Northern Wei Dynasty. It is also an important part of ancient Dunhuang art. According to the historic records, the excavation of the West Thousand Buddha Cave should be earlier than that of the Mogao Grottoes.
There are only 22 caves preserved with murals and clay sculptures after long-term erosion and collapse of the wind and river. The figures from the cave indicate that Dunhuang art reached the heyday during Tang Dynasty.
West Thousand Buddha Cave is just a short distance from Mingsha Mountain. Among the existing caves, most were excavated during the Northern Wei Dynasty. Only ten of them can be visited. Inside one of the Northern Wei Cave, there is a votive text written by Buddhist disciple Ji Zang for his deceased grandparents and their parents. This authentic calligraphy in the Northern Wei Dynasty is extremely precious with high historical values
West Thousand Cave and Mogao Grottoes have experienced similar ups and downs like suffering various natural and man-made damages. The art treasures have suffered heavy losses. In recent years, the government has comprehensively restored and repaired the caves. The integrity and stability of the cliffs and caves have been strengthened to avoid collapse. The cliff corridors have been built toensure the safety of tourists. The relic has become an important spot for tourists as well as the professional Historians to study the Dunhuang caves and murals art.