This place stands to be at the crossroads of cultural, religious and intellectual crossroads, along the Silk Route, China. Also known as the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’, the Magao Caves is a chain of 492 temples. These caves have been marked as site of World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations. The land on which these caves are located is in itself an epistome of the grandeur of Buddha and Buddhism. Silk Road extends from Europe through Egypt, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam and finally it reaches China.
The cliffs above the Dachuan River are home to the beautiful caves of Mogao. Located in the Gansu Province, these caves comprise the largest and the most widely used treasure house of the Buddhist Art in the world. These caves are example which show how meekly had Buddhism begun and what zenith of success did it achieve in spreading it’s message all throughout. The 492 caves located over here stretch approximately upto a distance of 25 kilometres.
There is a sheer variety of art that these caves abode. They were mostly constructed as early as 366 A.D. Whatever Buddha preached and the principles of Buddhism are all depicted though these caves. They mostly cover a period of ten centuries; roughly the 4th- 14th century. There is a cave which depicts a camel pulling a cart. This cave is believed to be the oldest. It is the cave 302 of the Sui Dynasty and is emblematic of the trade which used to take place in those days. An excellent example of Chinese cartography is cave 61. It has the beautiful landscape of Mount Wutai. It shows all the beautiful cities, temples, mountains and rivers.
More idea about the labour and trade can be taken from caves 23 which belongs to the Tang Dynasty. These caves show both workers working in the fields. Besides this, cave 156 shows warriors all standing in a line. Somewhere around the 1900s a huge library of manuscripts were found in these caves. These manuscripts largely tell people about the culture and the kind of scenario, both political and social prevailed in Central Asia and China as well. No other discovery is supposed to be as huge as this oriental or as we call it the eastern one.
Duhuang, despite being quiet cut off from the Middle Empire, remained to be a cosmopolitan in those days where one could have found all the people from Asia together. Devotees from religious sects like Buddhism, Nestorianism and Islam were found, and most of them were nomads. These caves also show the long struggle which followed in establishing Buddhism as a religion. Buddhists monks are believed to have started working on these caves back in 366 A.D. but Buddhism, as a religion got recognition only in 444 A.D.
It is often said that Buddhism is a religion which is quiet liberal as when compared to many other religions which follow some really staunch traditions or rather the rules. People who have speculations regarding the same should visit the Mogao Caves at least once because the moment one steps on this land; the feeling of being free starts over- powering one. One starts to feel that hes is the creator and the decision- maker of whatever is going to happen to him or in his life.
As mentioned earlier, most of these caves were constructed from the 4th century to the 14th. They not only signify the long struggle behind establishing Buddhism as a religion abut also tell the tourists about the mystical and the transcendental teachings which this religion wanted to spread. Though after the formation of these caves there was a decline in the whole of Central Asia which in a way affected these caves as well and their maintenance. It is at times, really sad to think over the fact that a precious collection of cultural heritage was not taken care off for a really long time.
As we know that the Magao Caves due to their explicit beauty and historical significance have been listed as on eof the sites under the the United Nations World Heritage. China, even a step further has put all the sites of the World Heritage under the top priority category of the nation, which is a very good move to preserve these monuments. The near future goal that that the government of China seeks to implement is the knowledge through experience to it’s people, as to how can these cultural heritage sites be protected.
The Mogao Caves, although as they seem to be are remotely located but the tourism companies make proper arrangements to let the customers reach the spot in the most comfortable way possible. One can hire a taxi to reach the Mogao Caves. If a person is very fond of carpool and people around, then one can also board a green line bus to reach the same. These caves and the inscriptions which it bears are fall under the category of rarity of location. Going on a tour to places like China for the purpose is in itself a refuge from the hustle- bustle of the city life and it’s anxieties.