Saturday in Dunhuang

2/28 – We met with our new Chinese friends in the hotel lobby at 10am. I wish I could tell you their names, but after we were introduced, the names just leaked right out of my brain. We piled into a van, and headed to the Mogao Grottoes, an ancient collection of over 2000 Buddhist statues and murals as old as the 3rd century, hidden until the early 1900s in caves dug out of the mountains.imageimageimage

As usual, the Brits got there first, and carted most of the best stuff back to London. Visitors must take a guided tour, and ours was only in Chinese, so I can’t tell you much. Photos were not permitted, but after watching the other visitors snapping away with their phones, we did the same.image

The grottoes are kept dark so that light does not degrade the relics. In most of the caves the guide’s flashlight was the only illumination.
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There were many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas depicted, in the different styles of the ethnicities who traveled through Dunhuang on the ancient Silk Road. My favorite was a great big Buddha. Here is his enormous foot:image

And way up there is his head:image

A young student heard us speaking English, and asked if we would pose with his family.image

Outside the caves were stupas, tombs of famous monks and other stuff.

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One of the tombs contained a statue with its head removed, probably during the Cultural Revolution. The fact that these grottoes were not destroyed during that period is a testament to their importance.image

Here are our new friends.image

We had lunch together at a small restaurant run by a Uyghur couple.image
I made the mistake of ordering a chicken dish. The nice man went back into the kitchen and hacked up some chicken with a hatchet, and served it with pieces of bone in every bite. No horse, no chicken – I’m becoming a picky eater! The specialty in this town is donkey – do you think I will try it?

After lunch we went to the museum and saw more stuff.

Our last stop of the day was the big sand dunes of the Gobi Desert where they have camel races every year. image

This is a poster of the camel races.
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We opted not to take a camel ride, but as we turned for home, one came right down the street!imageimage

What a day!

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