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Cave Temples of Mogao: Art and History on the Silk Road
     

Cave Temples of Mogao: Art and History on the Silk Road

by Neville Agnew, Susan Whitfield, Roderick Whitfield
 

The Mogao grottoes in China, situated near the oasis town of Dunhuang on the fabled Silk Road, constitute one of the world's most significant sites of Buddhist art. In some five hundred caves carved into rock cliffs at the edge of the Gobi desert are preserved one thousand years of exquisite murals and sculpture. Mogao, founded by Buddhist monks as an isolated

Overview

The Mogao grottoes in China, situated near the oasis town of Dunhuang on the fabled Silk Road, constitute one of the world's most significant sites of Buddhist art. In some five hundred caves carved into rock cliffs at the edge of the Gobi desert are preserved one thousand years of exquisite murals and sculpture. Mogao, founded by Buddhist monks as an isolated monastery in the late fourth century, evolved into an artistic and spiritual center whose renown extended from the Chinese capital to the far western kingdoms of the Silk Road. Among its treasures are miles of stunning wall paintings, more than two thousand statues, magnificent works on silk and paper, and thousands of ancient manuscripts, such as sutras, poems, and prayer sheets, which in 1900 were found sealed in one of the caves and then dispersed to museums throughout the world.

Illustrated in color throughout, Cave Temples of Mogao combines lavish photographs of the caves and their art with the fascinating history of Mogao, Dunhuang, and the Silk Road to create a vivid portrait of this remarkable site. Chapters discuss the development of the cave temples, the iconography of the wall paintings, and the extraordinary story of the rare manuscripts, including the oldest printed book in existence, a ninth-century copy of the Diamond Sutra. The book also describes the long-term collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and Chinese authorities in conservation projects at Mogao as well as the caves and the museum that can be visited today. The publication of this book coincides with the centenary of the discovery of the manuscripts in the Library Cave.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Since 1500 BC, trade routes have existed across the great expanses of Central Asia. An ebb and flow of empires washed across this great desert. Known as the Silk Road, these trade routes brought highly prized silk to the West from China. In the area of Dunhuang, nestled in the middle of the route, a ridge of cliffs were dug out as early as 366 to create a sanctuary of Buddhist temples. Over the next 1000 years additional caves were created and filled with Buddhist paintings, sculpture and artifacts. In one cave alone, thousand of scrolls were found that had been sealed away since 1010. When the Silk Route was abandoned in the 1300s, the cave temples remained essentially undisturbed for 500 years. This publication documents the joint efforts of the Chinese government and the Getty Conservation Institute to document and preserve this collection that is an overview of 1000 years of Chinese painting. Numerous photographs of the art works and surrounding terrain make up a substantive portion this very informative book. 2000, J. Paul Getty Trust, $29.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kristin Harris
Library Journal
For 1000 years, from 366 C.E. to 1357 C.E., Buddhists in the isolated desert oasis of Dunhuang (or Tun-huang) dug a series of caves and decorated them with a vibrant array of wall frescoes and sculptures. On the western frontier of the powerful Chinese empire, Dunhuang was an important trading post on the Silk Road, the route by which Buddhism moved from India into Tibet and China. Called in Chinese Mogaoku ("Peerless Caves"), these places of veneration have been preserved by the dry climate and the depopulation of the area after the collapse of the silk route. Little known to the West until the early 20th century, the beautiful frescoes and the immense store of manuscripts (including the earliest wood block-printed text) are now recognized as a world treasure representing the remaining fraction of ancient Buddhist art that has long disappeared from less remote parts of China. Intended as an introduction for the general reader, this volume does not stint on history or religious explanation, but it never descends into pedantry. The photographs are gorgeous and because they are well lit will probably exceed the quality of what visitors will see on restricted-light tours. Having whetted our appetite with informative text and enthralling photos, the next step, the bibliography, is too short. Nevertheless, this book is recommended as a vibrant tour of a world treasure.--David McClelland, Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
The Getty has published an accessible, well-illustrated guide for the non-specialist to the myriad paintings and sculpture of the Buddhist monastery of Mogao, located in the remote desert along the Silk Road in Central Asia. The text and numerous inset boxes describe the discovery and study of the art in the caves, the history of the monastery there, the translation of the Buddhist texts into Chinese, the preservation of the paintings, and the numerous manuscripts removed from the caves and now in museums. Information is provided for visiting the site and its museum. The authors are art historians affiliated with the site and with British and American institutions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780892365852
Publisher:
Getty Publications
Publication date:
11/28/2000
Series:
Conservation & Cultural Heritage Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Roderick Whitfield is professor of Chinese and East Asian Art and head of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art at the University of London. Susan Whitfield is head of the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library. Neville Agnew, who has worked on conservation projects at Mogao for ten years, is principal project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute and editor of Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road.

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