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Dunhuang is an important town on the ancient Silk Road with many famous tourist attractions. It is famous for its “Dunhuang Caves” and “Dunhuang Murals” because of the World Heritage Mogao Caves, Yumen Pass, and Yang Pass on the border of the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty.

The ancient Silk Road was the main transportation route from China to Western countries. Chinese silk and advanced technology spread westward to Central Asia, West Asia, and even Europe along the Silk Road. The products from the Western Regions of China also applied to the Central Plains of China. On the Silk Road, envoys, soldiers, merchants, and monks from all over the world were in an endless stream, and Dunhuang became the “throat key,” the center and transit point of Sino-Western trade. Hu business people from the Western Regions and Han merchants from the Central Plains gather here to trade silk, porcelain, treasures of the Western Regions, northern camel horses, and local food.
At the same time, the culture of Central Plains, Buddhism, West Asia, and Central Asia continued to spread to Dunhuang, where different cultures from China and the West converge, collide, and blend, making Dunhuang a place where humanities gather and culture is brilliant. These prosperous scenes are vividly recorded in the murals on the ceiling of Cave 296 of Mogao Caves.

Must-see Dunhuang tourist attractions

. Mogao Caves (Mogao Grottoes)

Mogao Caves, also known as “Thousand-Buddha Caves,” is a group of caves with a history of more than 2,000 years. It has 735 caves, 2,415 color sculptures, 45,000 square meters of murals, and more than 70,000 volumes of scriptural literature. Also, it is the largest and most abundant Buddhist art site globally and is listed as a world-class cultural heritage. People call it the “Eastern Louvre.” Mogao Caves is world-famous for its architectural art, colored sculpture, and mural art. It has high historical and cultural value and is crucial historical data.

Tips: Book tickets on the official website one month in advance. It is recommended to start the visit in the morning because when the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the cave is too high, the cave will be closed.

. Singing Sand Dunes (Mingsha Hill) & Crescent Moon Spring

High dunes surround the Crescent Moon Spring, and there is a small lake in the middle resembles a crescent moon. Singing Sand Dunes makes a noise on sunny days or when someone slides down from the mountain. There is also a peculiar phenomenon here. Because of the terrain, the sand does not go down the dunes when the wind is blowing but flows from the under of the dunes to the top, so the sand will never bury the Crescent Moon Spring. Because of the drop in water level and the movement of Singing Sand Dunes, Crescent Moon Spring is facing unprecedented threats. Therefore, whether it is the weathered murals in the Mogao Caves or the threatened desert spectacle Crescent Moon Spring, you should visit them as soon as possible.

. Yangguan Pass, Yumen Pass and The Great Wall of Han Dynasty

Yangguan Pass was a critical pass for the Han Dynasty to defend against the invasion of nomads in the northwest. It was also an important gateway from the Central Plains to the Western Regions and Central Asia on the Silk Road. People built the Yangguan Pass in the desert. Archaeologists discovered that Yangguan Pass occupies a dangerous terrain where “one man is the gate, ten thousand people cannot pass.”

Yangguan Pass is in the south, and Yumen Pass is in the north. After leaving the two passes, people entered the vast Gobi Desert. Both are essential passes of the “Silk Road.” It is the leading military center and post station on the Dunhuang section of the Silk Road, an important gateway to the Western Regions and even Europe and Asia. After exiting Dunhuang, one must go through one of the two passes.
The Great Wall of Han Dynasty was built at BC 121 and ended at BC 101, with more than 1,000 kilometers. Due to the needs of military defense, it was built in sections. Generally, pavilions are set up first, and then walls are produced according to the needs of the terrain. Therefore, there are pavilions and no barriers in some places, which are intermittent, but overall, they can still be connected to form a whole military defense alarm system. When constructing, the sand and soil are used to ram the wall, and mixed with tamarisk, poplar, reed, Apocynum, etc., to bond and solidify the network, which is unusually strong. Despite two thousand years of wind, sand, snow, and rain, some areas are still as solid as a rock, standing in the Gobi Desert, like a winding dragon, with extraordinary momentum.  The Great Wall provided a safety guarantee for the smooth flow of the ancient Silk Road. It served as a link for economic and cultural exchanges between various ethnic groups inside and outside the pass.

. Yadan National Geological Park

Dunhuang Yadan National Geological Park, with its unique desert scenery, various geological wonders, and ancient folklore, has attracted countless brave explorers to uncover the mysterious veil of the “Devil City” and explore the mysteries of nature. Yadan Scenic Area locates at the western end of the geopark, 160 kilometers away from Dunhuang urban area, with an area of 346.35km. The Yadan landform is a representative landform type in highly arid regions. It is the result of erosion of Quaternary sediments by wind and water as the main force for about 100,000 years. 

. Son of the earth & Unbounded

These are two rare but highly recommended pieces of modern art sculpture among the many Dunhuang tourist attractions.

The Son of the Earth is carved from red sandstone and joined together. The sculpture is a giant baby in his sleep because the surrounding area is empty, and it looks like the Son of the Earth from the sky. It will be more shocking when you walk in front of you. The original young baby has become very large, making people feel the original and powerful vitality.

‘Unbundler’s creation is inspired by Mogao Cave, which is completely hollowed out steel-framed buildings, which look like a mirage in the Gobi Desert from a distance.

. Transparent Mengke 29 Glacier

“Transparent Mengke” is Mongolian, meaning a tall and wide snow mountain. The glacier’s end is 4260m above sea level, and the highest peak is 5483m above sea level. The snow peaks here are covered all year round and are known as one of China’s six most beautiful glaciers.