Gansu’s Mogao Grottoes
Gansu’s Mogao Grottoes are now famous across the world because of their fabulous frescos and statues of Buddha and gods and goddesses as well as other important paintings. They were located on the Mingsha Mountain in Dunhuang County, Gansu province. Today the site is among the top three grottoes sites across the world.
The construction of the Mogao Grottoes began in the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms (about 366 A.D.), and the endeavor continued through the later dynasties, including the North Dynasty, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Western Xia and Yuan. Today, the grand dimension of the site is shown by 735 caves, with murals covering 45,000 square meters and colored clay statues 2,415 square meters. It is the largest and richest extant treasure house of Buddhist art in the world.
Located on the precipice of the Rattling Sand Mountain, the caves are divided into south section and north section. The south section, as the main part of the Mogao Grottoes, is for religious activities of monks. Each cave contains wall paintings or sculptures in this section. The north section is the area in which the monks live, cultivate themselves according to the religious doctrine and bury the deceased peers. There are only five caves containing frescos or statues in this section.
The soft soil of the caves' location is unsatisfactory to produce stone statues. Thus, the majority of statues in the grottoes are wooden-body clay statues with the exception of four big stone-body clay statues of Buddha. Whether in single or group forms, the Buddhist figures are so delicately made and life-like that they become a harmonious integration with the surrounding murals. Frescos can be seen on the walls and ceilings of caves and inside the niche for Buddha. The motif of these paintings covers a wide range with profound depth, such as joss, Buddhist stories, spirits, and decorative patterns. Social lives during that age are also displayed in the murals, including hunting, farming, spinning, transportation, battle, construction, dancing, wedding and funeral. Some paintings are bold and broad in style while others are magnificent with resplendent colors, reflecting the artistic styles and features in different periods. Apart from those refined sculptures and murals, the caves were also constructed exquisitely in various forms and sizes.
In modern times, the Cave of Buddhist Scriptures was accidentally discovered and the Mogao Grottoes re-attracts attention from all over the world. Tragically, a large amount of rare scriptures were stolen. A new branch of international studies, the Dunhuang Studies, has come into being for the research on scriptures of this cave and Dunhuang’s art.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Xuanbi Great Wall
The Xuanbi Great Wall is a very anicent portion of the famous China Great Wall and is located in the rugged and try terrain of Gansu. It is worth a visit and you can walk all the way up to the top tower to have a fantastic view of the surroundings. More photos are at the travelogue section of this VT page.Related to:
- Historical Travel
If you take a walk through Sertri Gompa monastery and keep going towards the mountains you will find the mediation cave. This has been used by monks for centuries and is primarily used as a test for a strong spirit.
The belief is that when you die your spirit lies in limbo for several weeks before it is reincarnated. This time is very scary but if you test your spirit beforehand you know that you can handle it. The test is that you need to crawl through a small tunnel inside the cave and once done you are prepared for death. Interesting!!
Water Prayer Wheels
Just outside of Sertri Gompa monastery are the water prayer wheels. They are situated on top of a small stream and the force of the water makes the wheels turn sending prayers to the Gods.
This is a very pretty sight on your way to the mediation cave and on into the mountains.
Sertri Gompa and Kirti Gompa monasteries
Both these large monasteries are of the Gelukpa sect of Buddhism of which the Gandam Tripa is the head priest. It was the 53rd Gandam Tripa who founded the Srtri Gompa (seat of gold) in 1748.
During the Cultural Revolution the monastery was totally devasteed, however reconstruction began in 1981. It is once again a working monastery and the home of approximately 400 monks.
The large Kirti Gompa on the southern hil was also ruined during the Cultural Revolution but is now the home of some 700 resident monks. Its former Lams, Kirti Tulku fled to India during the Cultural Revolution and founded a monastery in Dharamsala, where he has also held office in the Tibetan Government in Exile.
These two monasteries have enaged in an old age power struggle for control and influence over the surrounding nomadic areas. The settling of the provincial boundaries in between the two is a modern incarnation of this centuries old rivalry.
Visit a nomad family
During the summer the graslands are filled with yak and nomadtents. Almost every grouptour visits a nomadfamily. Our group brought some presents (bread and fruit) and a small amount of money. The local guide asked the family if we could visit. In one case the tent was too small for our group, in the second case there were only children around, but they agreed. The local guide showed us how to make the famous yakbutter tea and tsampa.
The first stupa in Tibet
The first stupa in Tibet is right next to the entrance gate. It is nothing special but it is the first stupa. It is called the stupa of Zhaxi Sinun. There is a caretaker on the grounds, opening the offerblock so you can donate....... Ofcourse you don't have to
Entrance to Tibet
Tibet used to be much larger than the TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) is today. The areas of Kham and Amdo belonged to it too.
When you enter the Amdo area in the Gansu province on your way from Langzhou to Xiahe, you go under a gate with Tibetan symbols on top.
Western beginning of China's Great Wall
The Western beginning ot China's Great Wall is located at Gansu province at the beautiful canyon shown in this photograph. From here, the Great Wall will stretch thousands of miles all the way to the East where it ends at the famous Shanhai Pass facing the Yellow Sea.
Yellow River or Huanghe in Chinese is a famous river and the second longest in China next to the Yangtze River. It is famous for its yellow colour, frequent floods and changing courses throughout history as well as providing fertile soil for farming along its banks.
The Gobi Desert is made up mainly of rocks and stones and is one of the largest deserts in Asia. The rocks and stones are of quite shapes and sizes due to wind erosion, as the wind is very strong in this desert.
The symbols of Tibet (II)
Along the Dharma Wheel you often see two vistory banners on each side one. Often in gold, they symbolise vistory over oneselve, as the faith of Buddhism is winning over the bad human habits.
The symbols of Tibet (I)
The golden Kharma Wheel, with two deer besides it. The Wheel symbolises Sakyamuni, a founder of buddhism, and the deer were the first listeners to his preaching.
Try the tasty Hami melons
Gansu is famous for its tasty Hami melons all the way till September. You must try this sweet and juicy melon which are very cheap. There are roadside stalls selling it.
The yellowish Huangpu mountains located near the city of Lanzhou are the mountains which give the Yellow River its colour due to deposition of soil from these mountains into the river,
Gansu Sheng Hotels
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