Books: Art, archaeology, and inspiration: long-lost Buddhist art comes to light

Cave Temples of Mogao
Art and History on the Silk Road
Roderick Whitfield, Susan Whitfield, Neville Agnew
Photography: Lois Conner and Wu Jian
The Getty Conservation Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum:
Los Angeles, 2000
144 pp.; $29.95

The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple
Tantric Wall Paintings from Tibet
Ian A. Baker
Photography: Thomas Laird
Thames and Hudson:
New York, 2000
216 pp.; $65.00

 Left: Silk painting found in Mogao; Below: The caves as they appear today. Silk painting: Courtesy Museé Des Arts Asiatiques-Guiment, Paris. Photo © RMN. Caves Photo © Guillermo Aldana, 1991.
Left: Silk painting found in Mogao; Below: The caves as they appear today. Silk painting: Courtesy Museé Des Arts Asiatiques-Guiment, Paris. Photo © RMN. Caves Photo © Guillermo Aldana, 1991.

The Mogao cave temples are one of the most significant sites of Buddhist art in the world. Founded in the fourth century as an isolated monastery, Mogao is home to some five hundred caves carved into rock cliffs. These caves contain miles of wall paintings, thousands of statues, tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, and additional work on silk and paper.

Located in a remote area of China near Dunhuang and the Gobi desert, Mogao lies on the famous Silk Road, the ancient trading route linking China with the West. It is believed that the cave temples were built to provide a site for prayer and rest before or after the treacherous journey across the Gobi desert.

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