Dunhuang, an oasis situated at the crossroads of the two major Silk Routes into China, is perhaps the most famous and largest of the Buddhist cave temple complexes in the world.
Originally Dunhuang's name, which means "blazing beacon", referred to the military outpost and series of beacon towers built there to watch over the critical trade junction. But each year, as cave after cave was carved, sculpted and painted, the oasis became a major pilgrimage site; a beacon to the faithful from all across the continent.
Because of the dry desert climate, Dunhuang's cave temples possess some of the world's oldest surviving Buddhist paintings and documents including the world's oldest printed book, the Diamond Sutra.
But it is not because of the caves' age that thousands of pilgrims and tourists still brave the difficult journey in brutal desert heat. Just like the dusty pilgrims of a thousand years ago, they come to witness the power of devotion and faith to create beauty. They come to experience the power of beauty to create devotion.
The timeless and inspired artist-believers who carved and painted these world treasures lived and worked in a sacred space that blazed with faith and beckoned with beauty.
Use the resources of this site as an introduction to Dunhuang's history, its art and its role as a Buddhist center in China.
The Dunhuang ThinkSpace curriculum materials will help scholars of all ages investigate and explore Dunhuang and will direct you to the wealth Dunhuang material available across the world.
Introductory Essay: Entering the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas by Ryan Bradeen