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

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

  • Roderick Whitfield, Susan Whitfield, and Neville Agnew

    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 mecca 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 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. Also discussed are the collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and Chinese authorities in conservation projects at Mogao and the ways in which the site can be visited today. The publication of this book coincides with the centenary of the discovery of the manuscripts in the Library Cave.

    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, 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 the editor of Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road (Getty Publications, 2010).

    Related Getty Conservation Institute projects: Wall Paintings Conservation, China Principles, Site Conservation at the Mogao and Yungang Grottoes


  • 144 pages
    8 x 10 inches
    144 color and 2 b/w illustrations
    1 map
    ISBN 978-0-89236-585-2
    paperback

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute/J. Paul Getty Museum

    2001

    For sale in North America only


  • "Each page presents colorful and eye-catching photographs of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas who populate the interiors of the caves, while time lines and clear historical narrative convey the vastness of Mogao's sixteen centuries of history."
    Tricycle

    "Informative text and enthralling photos ... this book is recommended as a vibrant tour of a world treasure."
    Library Journal


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