Mogao thousand buddha caves
Mogao thousand buddha caves Dunhuang Reviews
Mogao thousand buddha caves or 莫高窟 Mogao grottos, a real treasure of art and history May 08, 2008
At either 160 RMB for Chinese or 180 RMB for foreigners (the 20 extra is for foreign language interpreter), it's a little expensive to get in. However, if you come to Dunhuang, it's probably because you want to visit Mogao caves, then you would not be disappointed. If you come during the off season (Nov-Apr) then it's half price! They are open from 8:30am to 6pm, ticket booth closes an hour before) during the high season, and 9-5:30 during off season. If you had read about a break for lunch, it is not true.
The ticket allows you to visit the open caves (a small number of rotating caves), the Exhibit Halls on the same day. The caves are not open during bad weather, such as rain (very rare I imagine), snow or sand storms (more often!). There is a free storage check for your bags, cameras and video cameras. You don't have to check woman's handbags or small bags, but photography is strictly prohibited. I had read about special permits, but had no luck asking at the site. Perhaps you have to have real special connections before you come to take photos inside any caves.
If you are in a foreigner's group, then it's more than likely that you would have a smaller group of perhaps 10 people. The Chinese groups are 20-25 people and may not visit real small caves.
The tour takes about 1-1.5 hours with a docent/interpreter giving you good description of the caves, history and artifacts seen there. About 10 open caves would be included in the tour. I am sure the biggest buddha in the 9 storied building is always included. The docent has a key with which to open each cave before allowing you in. All these are perhaps an over-compensation to what had happened to the caves almost a century ago (see my blog for the story of the plunder). But if you had seen any caves of buddhas in China, you would realize these caves are truly above the rest. The murals have amazing details and color, and some of the Tang dynasty statues are exquisite and graceful. There were also a few so-so ones made by donors, not artists. If you are interested in this sort of art, then you should definitely get a book or two, which has photos of the murals and statues which you may not be able to see fully in person, some due to the low light, and some due to the distance of viewing (high up on the walls).
Because the caves span more than 1000 years of history, there are a variety of styles. Even non-experts may start to distinguish the Northern Wei style statues from the Tang Dynasty ones after this tour.
If you are not coming to Dunhuang anytime soon, you may still be able to view some of the great paintings and manuscripts in England, India, France, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Korea and the USA. I don't think the Chinese are real happy about the treasures being lost to these foreign countries, but hopefully they are well preserved and can be studied.
Don't forget to save another hour or 2 to visit the Exhibit halls, with many interesting historic artifacts from the caves.
Part of the Traveling the Silk Road in China on trains, buses, camels and horse travel blog
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