(to view a small photo, click on it; to return to the page, click on the back arrow at the top left of your web page)


Christmas 2006 (1/07)

Basketballs bounce in Xi'an

Zhangye, a deeper look (7/06)

China comes to Virginia (7/06)

Winter Conference 

Happy Birthday, Amity, 
Part 1

Part 2 (11/05)

Bringing Sunshine,
Part 1

Part 2 (10/05)

Summer 2005: (7/05)

Needed: China volunteers

Bluefield College in China

Lantern Festival (2/05)

Village of God (2/05)

Summer 2004:

FBC Richmond (5/20)

Opposites attract (5/26)

Mission Impossible (5/24)

Rules for a new mother (10/24)

Brocade Museum (10/24)

Barbara Diggs at NIM (4/4)

Fujian Earthen Houses (2/14)

Zhangzhou Puppets (2/14)

Merry Christmas

JIE's 50th Anniversary

Oral English Competition

Sam's Page

Virginia Baptists arrive for 2002 SEP, Shanghai - Nanjing

Part 2: in Jining, the program begins

Inner Mongolia's grasslands

Baotou and Wudang Temple

Abby and Sarah in Xi'an

Discovering the Nestorian Pagoda

Eating Zongzi June, 2002

Mary Washington comes to China, Part 1
Part 2 May/June 2002

Xi'an May 2002
Terracotta soldiers
   The Nestorian tablet





Along the Silk Road:

Dunhuang is a city located at the western edge of Gansu Province, which is in northwest China. The reason for going to Dunhuang is to visit the Mogao grottos about 45 minutes outside of town. As best I can figure, the word, 'grotto,' as used for these kinds of places, applies to caves in which sculptures are found, usually Buddhist in content. There are apparently four major sites in China and many smaller ones. On my travels in July, '05, I visited two of the minor ones, in addition to this one at Dunhuang. What separates Dunhuang from the smaller ones is the size and extent of the caves and the fact that the beginning of this site as a collection of such grottos goes back 1000 more than 1000 years. Dunhuang is now a World Heritage site and is protected from further deterioration and vandalism which, unfortunately, seems to be a universal threat to isolated and ancient relics. I'm not sure what the structure is in this photo, but it is the visual focus of the place and appears in all the photos, probably because all the caves are now protected by doors, so you can't really tell much by looking at the overall scene.

Entry gate.JPG (423028 bytes)              Hillside2.JPG (448248 bytes)

Hillside building.JPG (405395 bytes)              Hillside3.JPG (438794 bytes)

These are typical scenes. Upper left photo is the entrance to the grottos. Tourists must leave their backpacks and bags larger than a purse in a check room and may not take photos inside the fence, which is very limiting. Even if you can't take photos inside the caves, you would like to take photos on the outside as you go along. But, I suppose if you allow cameras at all, some persons would still take them inside and perhaps forget to turn off the flash. In most caves, the only illumination is daylight that comes in when the door is unlocked and opened, and the flashlight that the guide carries. Tourists are gathered up in groups of about 20 and are led by a tour guide. You may not wander about at will, or at least, you can't enter the caves unattended, because they are locked except when a group is inside.

This is a reproduction in a nearby exhibition center, which gives an idea of what the caves look like. They vary, of course, in both size of the cave, with larger caves having larger statues, but most will have one or more sculptures (not carved out of stone; perhaps molded over a wooden frame, as explained by the tour guide, but she gave that answer regarding a really big Buddha; how these smaller ones are made, I don't know) and wall paintings. In one cave, I asked why the faces of the painted figures, which were repetitious patterns of a Buddha figure, were all defaced. The guide said that because the faces had been painted in gilt, local people had scraped the faces off for the gold. There are hundreds of these caves, large and small. We only saw two really large caves and figures, one a seated Buddha and one a reclining one, both are traditional forms, and were maybe 30 to 40 feet tall or long.


Dunhuang sand dunes and oasis:

The only other tourist site near Dunhuang was a tourist park not far from the city which took advantage of some rather tall sand dunes and a small pond in the middle of the desert. Unfortunately, the entry fee and added fees for tacky touristy activities made the site less than desirable. The photos are better than the place.