Paintings on silk
Being in the Silk Road, it was easy that silk would become part of the artistic materials used in Mogao.
You can find some marvellous detailed paintings on silk, with beautiful colors. Here is depicted a nobleman of those days, with delicate dressings that suggest an atmosphere of luxury and refinement....
More History of the Mogaokou - Part II
The number of caves grew in number over the years, and the caves became a renowned centre of Buddhist art, with many painters and sculptors travelling long distances to add their work to the to the growing galleries in the pebbly cliff-face. The processes varied little over the years, with paper patterns, pricked with holes used to mark out the main features. Powder was blown through the pinholes creating a stencil effect, over which the artists - at least some of them - painted in colour. The religious grottoes became a focal point for Buddhist art and there was no shortage of benefactors to contribute money for new frescos, paintings and art. The monks created a library, later to become one of the most famous Buddhist and Central Asian libraries.
The caves are not natural, having been hollowed out by the monks, who used multiple layers of mud to create a smooth surface. Often mud was used to cover over older frescos to allow newer, better frescos to be created. This was not always done through choice, as over the centuries earthquakes damaged many of the caves: the newer frescos were often just done to patch up the spaces where part of the roof or wall had collapsed. The latest stage of Dunhuang art used very advanced forms of smooth surface for their age, utilising kaolin to create a white surface. The lack of space on the cliff at Dunhuang led to frequent reuse of caves at later points, although often the earlier structure (with a central supporting roof pillar) was kept rather than creating a bigger, open cave as was more common later. Sadly, the bigger caves have tended to weaken the entire cliff face, so exacerbating the situation.
Landscapes around Dunhuang
Dunhuang lies at the edge of the Kumtag Shamo, part of the Gobi Desert.
One day I'm hoping to put together a few pages on this dry land, but for now I'm just putting up a few photos of the landscape here. No real text, but hopeful it should give you an indication of the wilderness.
There are many, many subtle variations in the Gobi. As in any desert, the desert is not homogenous, and hopefully these photos will show some of these subtle shades of desert.