Photographer's Note

The Mogao Grottoes are carved into desert cliffs overlooking a river valley about 25 km southwest of Dunhuang. The caves vary enormously in size, from tiny single-room cells that served as living quarters for individual monks to huge, cavernous worship halls housing monumental sculptures and mural cycles. The caves honeycomb a 1,600-meter-long cliff face running north and south, and contain some 2,000 clay sculptures and more than 45,000 square meters (484,000 sq. ft) of mural paintings. The soft stone in the region is unsuitably brittle for carving, so the sculptures are primarily made of clay, coated with a kind of plaster surface that allowed finishing details to be painted on or engraved.

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