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Journey to the breathtaking West (3)

(Shanghai Daily)

08:54, October 24, 2011

The Mogao Grottoes or Mogao Caves are the best-known Chinese Buddhist art and are one of the three famous ancient Buddhist sculptural sites in the country, including the Longmen Grottoes near Luoyan in Henan Province and the Yungang Grottoes near Datong in Shanxi Province.

The southern part of the Mogao Grottoes contains 45,000 square meters of delicate frescoes inspired by classical Buddhist sutras and 2,415 lifelike painted Buddhist clay sculptures that represent a high level of aesthetics and craftsmanship.

Some faces contain glazed eyeballs and are draped in resplendent gold-plated robes. The caves in the northern area are closed to the public; they were the quarters of the monks and other craftsmen who led an insolated life but pooled their talents to create masterpieces.

A basic "full-fare" ticket costing 160 yuan (US$25) includes eight to 10 important grottoes; there's one guide for every 10 tourists. Some guides speak English and tours can be arranged. Visiting additional grottoes with a higher artistic value will cost extra.

Standing in grottoes, one is surrounded by figures of Buddha and Buddhist saints, the frescoed walls also depict Buddha, Bodhisattvas, flying apsaras, dancers and musicians. The experience is breathtaking and cannot be recreated by a museum.

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