East Asia

China, Gansu

The oasis town of Dunhuang would have been a welcome sight for the camel trains of old, a fertile outpost close to where the Silk Road split into its southern and northern routes either side of the impassable Taklamakan Desert. The town itself is pleasant and prosperous but it's the encircling riches – the magnificent carvings of Buddha at the Mogao Caves, the wind-worn traces of ancient Han Dynasty-era Great Wall, and the towering Mingsha sand dunes crested with plodding camels – that make Dunhuang an essential highlight of any Silk Road expedition.Dug out of the western cliffs of the Mingsha Mountains, this complex of 492 grottoes represents the pinnacle of Chinese Buddhist art. Used by travelers for meditation, worship and to store texts, these temple caves contained tens of thousands of frescoes, paintings, sculptures and terracotta statues. They also housed innumerable manuscripts, including the earliest dated and printed book yet found. The caves were created over the course of 1,000 years and were a central religious and cultural crossroads along the ancient Silk Road. The Mogao Grottoes were rediscovered in the early 20th century and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. On a WildChina journey, we’ll arrange a private tour of caves normally off limit to the public with the director of the Dunhuang museum.

find enlightenment in Dunhuang's Mogao Caves