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Baizeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Baizeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Baizeklik Thousand Buddha CavesThe Baizeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are on the northwestern side of the Flaming Mountains facing a river valley, and are only 15km north of the ancient Gaochang City and 45km east of Turpan. These caves are one of the largest Buddhist "grotto" (or Shiku, meaning grottoes or caves carved out of the mountain's face to house Buddhist statues) sites in Xinjiang.

The heyday of the caves was during the end of the Gaochang state in the 13th century before the kingdom was moved to Gansu province. After which, the area's people were converted to Islam and the caves were subject to attack and fell into disrepair. Most of the statues and frescos here have either been destroyed by Muslims or by foreign adventurer-explorers, the most notorious of which was Albert von Le Coq. He stole numerous frescoes, a wall at a time, and shipped them off to Berlin for display, only for them to be destroyed in World War II bombing of Berlin. The caves of today are only a glimmer of their previous glory. Nevertheless the surrounding scenery is quite nice, so it's worth a trip.

Situated at the foot of Flaming Mountains lying east of Turpan City, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are considered most valuable caves in Xinjiang and houses 83 caves in good condition 50 percent of which are decorated with murals.

As Buddhism was the first religion introduced to this area from abroad, Xinjiang witnessed the earliest development of Buddhist cave art in China. Soon after the religion's establishment in the region, Turpan became the Buddhist center on the Silk Road owing to its geographic location. Among the Buddhist caves found in Turpan, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are considered most valuable. Bezeklik means "place where there are paintings" in the Uigur language.

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are situated at the foot of Flaming Mountains lying east of Turpan city. Bezeklik means "place where there are paintings" in the Uygur language. At this place is also the Royal Temple of the King of Huigu, which was built by the Xizhou Huigu government of the Gaochang Kingdom.

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are complex of Buddhist cave grottos located between the cities of Turpan and Shanshan (Loulan) at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert, near the ruins of Gaochang Ancient City. The caves are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountains.

The chiseling work began during the Gaochang Kingdom Period from 499 to 640 while large constructions were conducted from the 6th century to the 14th century for around 800 years.

There were originally hundreds of such caves. Unfortunately this area is highly exposed to natural erosion, which have severely damaged quite a few of them. Now there are 83 caves in good condition 50 percent of which are decorated with murals. The total murals find here reach up to 1,200 square meters (12,917 square feet).


The favorite parts by people.
The rounded arch ceiling

Most of the caves have rectangular spaces with rounded arch ceilings often divided into four sections, each with murals of Buddha. So the whole ceiling contains virtually hundreds of Buddha’s. Some larger fields contain a big Buddha, surrounded by other figures and scenes, including Indians, Persians and Caucasians.

The striking murals
Now there are 83 caves in good condition 50 percent of which are decorated with murals. The total murals find here reach up to 1,200 square meters. The caves were palace temples of the Huihu Kingdom (Huihu was the ancestor of today's Uygur).

The features of the murals
The features of the murals of that period were greatly influenced by that of the Tang Dynasty. They have precise designs, distinctive lines and bright colors. The figures are simple, with round heads, elongated ears and puppet-like segmented bodies which are boldly outlined. The murals take us back to the ancient Huihu State, where we can see the King and Queen and people from all walks of life. The inscriptions, written in ancient Uygur, Chinese and other languages, provide authentic reference for valuable historic research.

The quality of the murals
The quality of the murals varies with some being artistically naive while others are masterpieces of religious art. As often with this kind of religious paintings, some are rather naive, others are artistically stunning, depending on the ability of the artist. Some faces show the individual characteristics and the inner feelings of the figures.

The most rare murals
The most exceptionally rare mural topics in Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are found in Caves No.16 and 17. Cave No.16 depicts a musician playing Xiao Hu Lei - a lute-like instrument originating from southern China's Yunnan Province. This strengthens the belief that cultural exchange between northern and southern China was unprecedented during Tang Dynasty. The mural Transformation in Hell in Cave No.17 supports the notion Huihu Gaochang was the center of Manicheism from 9 to 12 century. Buddhist disciples wailing in mourning and Bhikku wailing in mourning in Cave No.33 are also highly praised for their vivid depiction.

How to reach the caves
A steep stairway leads 10 meters up to a narrow and winding path to the cliff top. The caves were built along this path. Today there is a broad walkway which allows easy access to the caves.

Travel Tips
After your visit to the caves, you may consider exploring the other nearby attractions.
Astana Tombs, 12km (7.5 miles) from the caves
Flaming Mountain, 13km (8.1 miles) from the caves
Gaochang Ancient City, 15km (9.3 miles) from the caves

As the Caves are located on the cliff, stay within the marked safe areas.
To protect the murals for future enjoyment, visitors should refrain from touching the murals and artifacts.
Smoking is strictly prohibited in the caves.


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