The Silk Road Series 3/16: The Art-gallery in the Desert

The Art-gallery in the Desert

This episode is unusual for the series in that it focuses on just one subject, the magnificent Mo-gao caves at Dun-huang in the Gobi desert. In this complex, which stretches for more than 2 kilometres along a cliff wall, there are 500 caves and over 3,000 statues and murals. It is counted as the longest art gallery in the world.

The Art-gallery in the Desert

The caves were started in 366 AD, and developed over a period of 1,000 years as the various dynasties rose and fell around it. The documentary shows many of the statues and murals from the various caves, including Śākyamuni statues with Ānanda and Kaśyapa on either side; a 26-metre high Maitreya Buddha; and some beautiful murals depicting Amitābha and the Pure Lands.

I have high hopes of visiting and photographing the complex one day, though I met and spoke to one Chinese visitor when I was at Angkor recently and he told me that many of the caves are still not open to the public.

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