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TUN-HUANG - STEIN

 
 

This famous oasis is now called Dunhuang. The caves are called Mogo Caves. Due to the location here of the "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", it has become a much visited tourist attraction. The town has expanded greatly in the past 100 years, especially since World War II and now has an airport and major hotels. Aurel Stein was not the first European explorer to visit the oasis or see the caves, but he was the first to purchase from the caretaker monk thousands of medieval documents and silk paintings. He photographed the caves as well. Here we have some of his photos made during his second expedition and published in "Serindia" and during his third expedition published in "Innermostasia". The quality of my copies of the photos is very poor, but hopefully it will give the reader some idea of the richness of the site and encourage a visit. The location is easily found on Google Earth where one can also see many ground level photos including several 360 degree panoramas. The location is well discussed also in Wikipedia. Both "Serindia" and "Innermostasia" are included on the Internet in the Silk Road Project collection along with Stein's other works, but viewing a focused selection there in the PDF formats is not as convenient as having the text, maps and diagrams in one place.


 
 

Copies of Stein's photos and more recent photos are frequently found in books on China and travel guides. There are some in The History andCivilization of China, published in China without the author's name in English - ISBN 7 - 5073-1360-3/K-605.


 
 

Tun-huang is at 94 degrees 47 minutes east Longitude and 40 degrees 08 minutes north Latitude. It lies in a small cultivated area by the Tang Ho which flows north from the high mountains to the south into the Su-lo Ho. The ancient town is a ruin lying to the west of the new town. The famous caves are SE of the town. The remains of the Han Dynasty wall are along the south bank of the Su-lo Ho. A list of towers is here. Stein made detailed diagrams and area plans of many of the ruins he found, but was very low key and circumspect in his study of populated places like Tun -huang.


 
 

Stein also visited the near by oasis at Nan-hu and found an earlier ruined site in the desert nearby. In his analysis and discussion of the life of Chinese soldiers assigned to control the wall he decided that their agricultural camp that supplied the trooops was at Nan-hu.

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Detail of the NE section of map sheet # 78 Tun huang - This shows the walled town and the site of the caves in the narrow gorge SE of town where Stein set up his camp # 178. He found the ruins of several other villages. All Stein's maps from Serindia are listed here and here.

 
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Photo 210 - Southern gate of Tun-huang town

 
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Plate 42 - Site plan for the layout of the caves at the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas at Tun-huang

 
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Photo 193 - northern end of the main group and middle group of caves of 'the thousand Buddhas" south east of Tun-huang. One can compare these photos of the caves circa 1910 with the photos of the restored caves now catering to tourists.

 
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Photo 195 - Cave shrines at the Caves of the "thousand Buddhas" south east of Tun-huang

 
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Photo 196 - Cave shrines at the caves of 'the thousand Buddhas" south east of Tun-huang

 
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Photo 197 - Cave shrines at the caves of 'the thousand Buddhas' south east of Tun-huang

 
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Photo 213 - Interior of cave at Ch'ien-fo'tung showing platform with stucco images and paintings.

 
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Photo 200 - A cave and its porch partially restored at the 'cave of the thousand Buddhas' south east of Tun-huang

 
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Photo 204 - Portion of a fresco painting on south wall of a cave at Ch'ien-fo'tung - 'the caves of the thousand Buddhas" south east of Tun huang

 
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Photo 205 - Fresco painting on north wall of cave at the cave of 'the thousand Buddhas"

 
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Photo 206 - Panel painted in tempera showing western paradise scene from Buddhist myth on south wall of cave at Ch'ien-fo-tung

 
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Photo 207 - Alcove with stucco images, partly restored, in cave at Ch'ien-fo-tung

 
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Photo 208 - Stucco images, partly restored, of Buddha with attendant disciples and Bodhisattvas in cave at Ch'ien-fo-tung

 
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Photo 214 - Stucco images of late date representing Hsuan-tsang as Arhat with attendants in cave at Ch'ien-fo-tung

 
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Photo 228 - Renovated stucco images in alcove of cell at Ch'ien-fo-tung

 
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Silk painting representing Buddhist heaven - at Cave of Thousand Buddhas - Tun-huang

 
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Another silk painting representing Avalokitesvara with donors dated 971 AD at the Cave of Thousand Buddhas - Tun-huang - interesting that in Buddhist paintings as later in the west donors are shown smaller at the bottom.

 
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Silk painting of Avalokitesvara of a thousand arms with attendant divinities at Caves of Thousand Buddhas - Tun-huang

 
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Silk paintings of Avalokitesvara and Buddha - Avalokitesvara is a favorite Bodhisattva who looks down with comp;assion and has a role of assisting beings to Nirvana - sometimes depicted with 4 arms out of a thousand arms - a guider of souls with a willow branch.

 
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Silk painting of the Lokapala Vaisravana with attendant genii and demons from Cave of Thousand Buddhas.

 
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Silk banners of two Bodhisattvas from Caves of Thosand Buddhas.

 
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Painting of two Bodhisttvas from the caves of Thousand Buddhas at Tun-huang

 
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Silk banners of Lokapalas at Tun-huang - Lokapalas in Buddhist theology are the guardians of directions, Warrior kings dressed in armor - one of the two caegories of Dharmapala the other being protectors of wisdom. The Lokapalas are Vaisirovana - north, with pike or halbard and often a snake; Dhrtarastra - east with bow and arrow; Virupaksa - west with sword or unbrella; and Virudhaka - south with club - Unfortunately from this photo of a photo we cannot determine all the details

 
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Linen banners and paintings showing Buddha and Bodhisattvas at Tun-huang. Bodhisattvas are seekers of enlightenment and some have specific functions

 
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Plate 43 - Plan's for several of the caves CH I, II, III in the Halls of theThousand Buddhas at Tun-huang

 
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Silk banners representing Dharmapala Vajrapanis from the cave 'thousand Buddhas" - Tun-huang

 
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Silk banners repesenting Bodhisattvas from the caves of "thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang.

 
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Photo 208 - Sacred laklet of Yueh-ya-ch'uan with temple and 'sounding sands'

 
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Photo 160 - Remains of inner wall near the north west corner of ruined town Nan-hu seen from interior - Nan-hu was small oasis town southwest of Tun-huang and Stein found near it the remains of an earlier version.

 
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Plate 35 - Site plan for ruin of ancient town Nan-hu - west of new town of same name

 
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Photo 201 from Stein's book - Serindia - Alcove of Buddhist cave-temple, 'Thousand Buddhas', with modern stucco images of Buddha with disciples, Bodhisattvas and Lokapala - Stein quietly deplored the 'kisch' added by the pious caretaker monk who was trying to improve his temple.

 
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Illustration from Stein's book - Serindia - Pained silk banners of two Bodhisattvas from 'Cave of the Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang -

 
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From Stein's book - Serindia - Painting of two Bodhisattvas from the caves of Thousand Buddhas at Tun-huang -one same as in previous photo

 
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Photo 195 from Stein's - book Serindia - Painted silk banners of T'ang period, representing Bodhisattvas, from walled-up temple library, 'Thousand Buddhas' Tun-huang

 
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Illustration from Stein's book - Serindia - This painted story has scenes from the early life of the Buddha starting with his birth

 
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Illustration from Stein's book - Serindia - Painted silk banner from 'Cave of the Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang

 
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Illustration from Stein's book - Serindia - Silk banner with painted Bodhisattva and attendants - 'Cave of the Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang - Stein was unable to make color photos on site, all the colored illustrations are of artifacts he brought to the British Museum

 
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Photo 197 from Stein's book - Serindia - Old silk embroidery on cushion-cover from walled up temple library, 'Thousand Buddhas', - Tun-huang

 
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Illustration From Stein's book - Serindia - Silk banners representing Dharmapala Vajrapanis from the cave 'thousand Buddhas" - Tun-huang

 
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Illustration From Stein's book - Serindia - Silk banners repesenting Bodhisattvas from the caves of "thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang.

 
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Photo 161 from Stein's book - Serindia - Stucco image group, representing Buddha between disciples, Bodhisattvas, and Dvarapalas in cave-temple Ciii, 'Thousand Buddhas' site

 
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Photo 159 from Stein's book - Serindia - Rows of cave temples showing decayed porches, near middle of southern group - 'Thousand Buddhas' site

 
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Photo 226 from Stein's book - Innermostasia - This is of the same cave shrines, with antechapels exposed near center of Ch'ien-fo-tung site (that is the famous caves of the 1000 Buddhas) south east of Tun- huang. The front of the cave complex was eroded. Compare this photo with one of the restored tourist attraction today.

 
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Photo 158 from Stein's book - Serindia - Overall view of the middle group of 'Thousand Buddhas' grottos and beginning of southern group

 
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Photo 161 from Stein's book - Serindia - Stucco image group, representing Buddha between disciples, Bodhisattvas and Dvarapalas - in cave-temple CHiii, at Cave of Thosand Buddhas.

 
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Photo 194 from Stein's book - Serindia - Close up view of bundles of old manuscript rolls, mainly Chinese in original wrappers, from walled-up temple library, 'Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 196 from Stein's book - Serindia - Modern stucco images in Chinese style, representing Hsuan-tsang as an Arhat, with attendants, in a cave-temple of the 'Thousand Buddhas', Tun-huang

 
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Photo 199 from Stein's book - Serindia - Rows of small Buddhist cave-temples seen from the shrine of a colossal Buddha, in southern group of 'Thousand Buddhas' site - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 200 from Stein's book - Serindia - Stucco images of Buddha with disciples and Bodhisattvas, partly restored, in alcove of a smaller cave-temple - 'Thousand Buddhas', - Tun-huang

 
 

193 - Gigantic roll of paper, with Sanskrit and 'unknown' language texts in Brahmi scrips, from walled-up temple library, 'Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 192 from Stein's book - Serindia - Ancient manuscripts in Sanskrit, Central-Asian Brahmi, Sogdian, Manichaean, Turkish, Runic Turki, Uigur, Tibetan, from  walled-up temple libary -Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 202 from Stein's book - Serindia - Fresco composition on wall of cave-temple "Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang - shows scene in Buddhist heaven

 
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Photo 203 from Stein's book - Serindia - Frescos in north-west corner of large cave-temple Ch viii - 'Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 204 from Stein's book - Serindia - Fresco composition representing Buddhist stories, on west wall of large cave temple CH viii, 'Thousand Buddhas' - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 205 from Stein's book - Serindia - Large fresco composition on south wall of porch in cave-temple CH viii, "Thousand Buddhas" showing Buddha on car

 
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Photo 207 from Stein's book - Serindia - Fresco composition in south-west corner of large cave-temple at Thousand Buddhas, Tun-huang - In center Buddha or Bodhisattva raising fan

 
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Photo 206 from Stein's book - Serindia - Fresco compositions in north-west corner of large cave-temple at Cave of Thousand Buddhas, Tun-huang

 
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Photo 189 from Stein's book - Serindia - Modern frescos in loggia of Wang-Tao-shih's temple, representing adventures of Hsuan-tsang, Wang Tao-shih standing at left

 
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Photo 187 from Stein's book - Serindia - Wang Tao-shih, Taoist priest at 'Thousand Buddhas' site - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 185 from Stein's book - Serindia - Temple court at 'Crescent Lake' - Tun-huang

 
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Photo 210 from Stein's book - Innermostasia - Southern gate of Tun-huang town

 
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Part of map from Serindia showing detail of area around Nan-hu south-west of Tun-huang

 
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Photo 160 from Stein't book - Innermostasia - Remains of inner wall near the north west corner of ruined town Nan-hu seen from interior - Nan-hu was small oasis town southwest of Tun-huang and Stein found near it the remains of an earlier version.

 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
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