Visit to Cave Temples of Dunhuang Exhibition at Getty Museum

The Getty Museum, at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, currently has an outstanding exhibition of artifacts and reproductions of ancient Buddhist art taken from a collection of caves on the western edge of the Gobi Desert, near the oasis town of Dunhuang, China. Known as the Mogao (peerless) Grottoes, these temple caves were built along the Silk Road from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries and house the largest single collection of Buddhist art existing in the world today. In 1987 the caves were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1900 an enormous hidden cache of manuscripts and holy scriptures were discovered by accident in the “Library Cave” that had been sealed since the 11th century.

The exhibition has a breath-taking virtual reality show from one cave (#45), amazing reproductions of the interiors of three other small caves (#275, #285, and #320), as well as a gallery of art and slide shows from the site. The hand-painted reproduction of Cave #275 is on loan from the permanent exhibition at the grottos, while the other two were reproduced just for this exhibition. One room of the exhibition is devoted to the techniques used in restoring these treasures and creating the detailed hand-painted reproductions shown here.

Mogao is known as the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. According to legend, in 360 CE, a monk named Yuezun had a vision of a thousand radiant Buddhas, which inspired him to begin excavating a cave, a process that continued for over a thousand years.

The lines may be long as only a few can see the virtual reality show or visit the tiny cave replicas at a time, but the wait is pleasant, shaded, and well worth it. The exhibition gives the world another view of the Buddha, His teachings, and His life as well as that of other Mahayana deities, and it shows how Buddhism was practiced in Ancient China. The brutal weather and isolation of the site has enabled the caves and their contents to be remarkably well preserved.

Roll cursor over the photos for description and click photos for enlargement. The exhibition will be on display until September 4.

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