The Mogao Caves
The Mogao Caves, located 25km south-east of Dunhuang, contain some of the most exquisite Buddhist murals in Asia, spanning more than a thousand years of history. The caves were established in the 4th century A.D. as a Buddhist monastery and attracted pilgrims, monks and scholars travelling along the Silk Road, many of whom settled and worked in the monastic community. When the Silk Road began to lose its importance as a trade route in the middle ages, the monastery eventually disintegrated and the caves were sealed and abandoned in the 14th century. They were rediscovered by accident in the early 20th century, since when they have been carefully restored and maintained. As well as the murals, there were many manuscripts and paintings on silk and paper, and other artefacts, most of which sadly were removed and taken abroad (the British Museum and the Louvre contain several).
To protect the murals, there is no lighting in the caves; your guide will carry a flashlight, although you may also wish to bring your own.
Below: a hunting scene.