Dunhuang is in the Gansu province (甘肃) It is famous for the Buddhist Mogao Caves. After breakfast, which offered slightly more than the days before (besides Chinese specialties), we went to visit them. We first saw two movies, one about the Silk Road, one about the caves. They were very well made and it was great to be put back on our Silk Route theme!
The caves are considered one of the most important Buddhist art in the world. They consist in mural paintings and reliefs. The biggest Buddha is 34.5m tall. There was a library found in 1900 with manuscripts that date back to 406 AD. The caves were created along the mountain. The donors were important people and wealthy families. The site housed 18 monasteries, 1400 monks, artists, translators and calligraphers. Most caves date from the 6th/7th century during the Tang Dynasty, many were repainted in the 11th century during the Xiang dynasty and have two layers. The paintings have Indian and Chinese influences. They are beautiful, very lively and the colours well remained, except the ones that contain led which oxidates and turns black. A theme that is omnipresent besides Buddha himself are the Apsaras, angel-like creatures with soft features flying up in the skies. It was also a theme in our hotel.
The caves were an important stop on the Silk Road. Caravans would stop for prayers, asking for safe journeys through the perilous desert. The caves were abandoned in 1400 and only discovered in 1900.
After the caves we went to see big dunes. On our way we were surprised by a thunderstorm. What a delightful change ! The dunes site is touristically very well exploited. There were hundreds of camels for a ride and other attractions. Philippe and I did a ride on a squat. My pilot was very nasty and I didn’t enjoy the experience. As we were waiting for the group we had a drink with Chantal and Gisèle and met « Micheline Calmy-Rey »!
In the evening I went back to the night market with Gaby, Chantal, Gisèle and André.