Dunhuang is a city on the old Silk Road. It is in Gansu Province in north west China. The city was founded by Emperor Wudi of the Han dynasty in 111 BC at the cross roads of two trading routes on the Silk Road, and the name 'Dunhuang', meaning to 'to flourish and prosper,' gives some indication of the town's prominence in ancient China.
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Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with exquisite Buddhist art and manuscripts. Although the city had an early connection with Buddhism due to the passage of monks traveling the Silk Road, it was not until a monk had a vision of a thousand Buddhas above the desert at Dunhuang in 4th century that the famous caves were excavated and filled with the manuscripts and treasures. Nearby is the White Horse Pagoda, built by a monk from India in honor of his horse, which died in the process of bringing the monk to China. It is not possible to tour the caves on your own and all visitors are assigned to different guides (included in the ticket price). The tour takes about two hours and about 15 caves will be visited; all the rest are closed.
Ancient City of Dunhuang, also known as Modeled Shazhou Town of Song Dynasty (960-1279), is about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) southwest of Dunhuang City. The town, covering an area of 12,700 square meters (3.1 acres) was originally designed for the setting of the historical film Dunhuang in 1987.
The town presents its majestic appearance in the vast Gobi bearing a rich flavor of the west regions of China. The complex here can give one an impression that the clock has turned backwards to ancient times. Gates are erected on the east, south and west sides of the town. Various constructions with distinct characteristics of the Song Dynasty are scattered along the streets, housing arcades, temples, hockshops, warehouses, pothouses, restaurants, dwelling houses and so on.