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Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road

Edited by Neville Agnew, Marcia Reed, and Tevvy Ball

The Mogao grottoes in northwestern China, located near the town of Dunhuang on the fabled Silk Road, constitute one of the world’s most significant sites of Buddhist art. Preserved in some five hundred caves carved into rock cliffs at the edge of the Gobi Desert are one thousand years of exquisite wall paintings and sculpture. Founded by Buddhist monks in the late fourth century, Mogao grew 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 45,000 square meters of murals, more than 2,000 statues, and over 40,000 medieval silk paintings and illustrated manuscripts. 

This sumptuous catalogue accompanied an exhibition of the same name, which ran from May 7 through September 4, 2016, at the Getty Center. Organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Research Institute, Dunhuang Academy, and Dunhuang Foundation, the exhibition celebrates a decades-long collaboration between the GCI and the Dunhuang Academy to conserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It presents, for the first time in North America, a collection of objects from the so-called Library Cave, including illustrated sutras, prayer books, and other exquisite treasures, as well as three full-scale, handpainted replica caves. This volume includes essays by leading scholars, an illustrated portfolio on the replica caves, and comprehensive entries on all objects in the exhibition.

Neville Agnew is the former principal project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute. Marcia Reed is the former chief curator and associate director for special collections and exhibitions at the Getty Research Institute. Tevvy Ball is an editor at Getty Publications.

“[An] important book by a multinational team of scholars, conservators, and cultural- heritage professionals. . . . I only wish I had read this sumptuous volume before I spent a week in the Dunhuang grottoes, which are best understood through the multiple lenses employed in this book: not only historical, art historical, archaeological, and religious but also local, national, and international.”
—Linda Safran, Common Knowledge

302 pages
9 1/2 x 11 inches
213 color and 18 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-489-4

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute