The history of Buddhism in China is closely linked to eastern Turkestan. From the 2nd century BC, as the Silk Road began to operate, Buddhist monks began to visit East Turkestan and preach their teachings there. They began to build temples and build numerous cave monasteries, the most famous being the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang.
Turpan, like other cities in East Turkestan, was one of the main centers of Buddhism in China. There are numerous ruins of ancient temples and Buddhist monasteries preserved especially in the famous ‘dead’ city Gaochang. However, the most important Buddhist shrine in Turpan is still the Bezeklik Caves – the famous cave monastery located in the mountains 45 km from Turpan on the slopes of the Flaming Mountains.
Unfortunately, the place has experienced waves of looting, destruction, and exploitation. Today, 57 caves are still preserved, all numbered, containing fragments of frescoes from the 6th to the 14th centuries, each depicting various Buddhist themes. The explanatory inscriptions are almost all in Chinese and Uighur. This suggests that at that time the cultures of China and Uygur complemented and influenced each other.
All caves are surrounded by large terraces. They offer a magnificent view of the Flaming Mountains and the Mutou Valley, which is located at their feet. The Bezeklik Caves are a vivid testimony to the history of Buddhism in Turpan and in China.