Brief History of Dunhuang Cave Temple

During the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 to 534/535), Dunhuang had become a Buddhist centre and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. This western Kansu city lies in an oasis of the Kansu-Sinkiang desert, situated along the Silkroad. This Silkroad leads to Central Asia, from where the Buddhist monks of the kingdoms there entered the Chinese administered territory from the West. These Buddhist founded the first of the Dunhuang Caves, the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas (Chien-fo Tung), in 366.

Such construction of cave temples and paintings of the frescoes, as well as sculptures continued for a thousand years until the Yuan Dynasty.

The frescoes contain many artistic presentations of famous images as depicted in various Buddhist sutras and stories, such as Vimakirti-Nivdesa, Amiatabha Sutra, Sukhavativyuha-Sutra, Vipasyana Sukhavativyuha Sutra (Sixteen Contemplations Sutra). the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss in the West and various Boddhisattva (e.g. Manjusri and Visvabhadva). The images are of oustanding and graceful artistic forms, which can best be illustrated by the famous flying Apsaras showering flowers. It can also be noted that the different images, although originating from those in India, begin to depart from the Indian influences and are gradually showing the beginning of an aesthetic form of their own. These often reflect daily life in China in the age the frescoes were painted.