The Mogao Caves are a system of several hundred cave temples located on a river oasis on the Silk Road near the city of Dunhuang. Buddhist monks beat about 1,000 caves in the sandstone cliffs between the 4th and 12th centuries and decorated them with Buddhist motifs. 492 of these caves are still preserved and some are accessible to tourists. They contain around 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 2,000 painted sculptures. The largest statue is 34.5 meters and the smallest is only 2 inches high.
The Mogao Caves, southeast of Dunhuang Oasis in Gansu Province, are carved into the cliffs above the Dachuan River and form the largest, richest, and longest-serving treasury of Buddhist art in the world. In 1900, the Taoist monk Wang Yuanlu discovered around 50,000 documents from the 4th to 11th centuries, which monks had built in a cave in 1036 to protect them from the onrushing Mongols.
Since 1961, the caves, as well as the Western Thousand-Buddha Caves, have been on the list of monuments of the People’s Republic of China. Since 1987, the Mogao Caves have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.