The Mogao Caves form a system of 492 caves near Dunhuang, in Gansu province, China.
The caves, also known as the Mogao Grottoes, are located near the historic junction of the northern and southern Silk Roads. From the fourth until the fourteenth century, Buddhist monks at Dunhuang collected scriptures from the west, and many pilgrims passed through the area, painting murals inside the caves. The murals cover 450,000 square feet. The caves were abandoned in the fourteenth century.
The Mogao Caves are the best known of the Chinese Buddhist grottoes, but are not the only ones.
Buddhist monks valued austerity in life, and they hoped that remote caves would aid their quest for enlightenment. The paintings served as aids to meditation, as visual representations of their quest for enlightenment, and as tools to inform illiterate Chinese about Buddhist beliefs and stories.
Today, the site is an important tourist attraction and the subject of an ongoing archaeological project.
The Mogao Caves became one of the World Heritage Sites in 1987.