A small oasis town in Gansu province, Dunhuang (which means ‘blazing beacon’) once prospered as the last stop on the Silk Road before it split north and south to skirt the Taklamakan Desert. It was therefore of prime military importance. Rocked by waves of invasion, Dunhuang has previously been independent, as well as being ruled by both China and Tibet.
Dunhuang was made a prefecture in 117BC by Emperor Han Wudi, and was a major point of interchange between China and the outside world during the Han and Tang dynasties.
Thanks to the draw of Dunhuang’s most important attraction, the UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves, Dunhuang's city centre is relatively highly developed, with numerous hotels and facilities catering towards visitors. A night market is held in the city centre along the main thoroughfare – Dong Dajie. The range of items generally on sale includes jade objects, jewellery, leather shadow puppets, coins, Tibetan horns and Buddha statuettes. Sizeable numbers of China’s ethnic minority people’s engage in business at these markets. The Mogao Caves are filled with exquisite Buddhist art and manuscripts, a collection that began in the 4th century. Nearby there is the White Horse Pagoda.
The Dunhuang County Museum is definitely worth a visit. Displayed here are a number of Chinese and Tibetan manuscripts. The museum also boasts examples of traditional silks and domestic items found near the beacon towers that were once part of China’s outermost line of defence.
SEE ALSO: Nearby site of interest - Mogao Caves
To get you started with planning your holiday to Dunhuang, we have showcased below some popular itineraries requested by our clients which we hope will inspire your visit to China
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