Saturday, 6 November 2010

Hami to Dunhuang

Not such a long drive today, yet more stunning scenery, will it ever end?.. We make it to the Dunhuang for the late afternoon - This small city was established fairly recently, following the discovery of the now world famous cave complex in the nearby mountains.

The following morning we head out of town to check out the caves, one of the most famous sites in China. The caves were discovered in the early 1900’s by adventurers travelling the ’Silk Road‘, the trade route connecting Europe to China. The caves themselves are a series of around 700 man made grottos set into the side of a sandstone mountain, many dating back to the 5th Century. Their purpose was to serve as private places of Buddhist worship for the rich families who commissioned there construction.

The interior of the caves features highly detailed wall painting and sculptures, some originally contained secret rooms containing early Chinese scriptures and paintings. The British explorer that first found the site wasted no time in stealing as many of these artefacts as possible, sending numerous cases of paintings and books back to the British Museum in London. This artwork was high valuable, its theft is still a sore point to the Chinese who would still like to see it re-patriated.

One cave features a massive hand carved Buddha, around 115ft tall. It was forbidden to take photos at the site, but I’ll try and track done some pictures online and post them in the picture gallery, an awesome sight.

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