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Dunhuang Travel guide

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Dunhuang is an oasis town in Chinese Central Asia west of Xian - a former capital of China.
To the west of Dunhuang lies the Taklamakan Desert. The Silk Road coming from the west split to follow the northern and southern borders of the desert where there were many small oases. Dunhuang was the town where the two branches of the Silk Road rejoined for the final leg into China's capital.

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Dunhuang Travel information

Travel Guide

Located at the west end of the "hexi Corridor" in Gansu Province, Dunhuang has a glorious history and culture. Dun - means large, Huang - means prosperous.

Dunhuang Sights, sightseeing, culture:

Travel Guide

The Dunhuang Great Wall

Walking west from Yumenguan Pass for about 5 km, people can find some ancient beacon towers, broken and dilapidated through years of storms and stress, stand lonely on the Gobi Desert. They are the remains of the Great Wall of the Han dynasty. Like an old man, fatigued and spiritless however, they tell you the ancient and brilliant history of the Qin and Han dynasties.

The Dunhuang Great Wall is a unique Great Wall of Han dynasty, which made from concrete slab and reed. During the construction of this section of Great Wall, a large quantity of reed and plant produced in local area were used. Simple as the materials were, this section of the wall is cast-iron and they were well preserved till today.

If we regard art and culture as a holistic growth of the mankind without the notion of national boundaries, then Dunhuang art can be placed at the midstream of the long river of the Buddhist culture and art that originated from India. The academic content of Dunhuang art is doubtlessly Indian. Moreover, it would be unthinkable that such magnificent Buddhist art could have blossomed at Dunhuang without the expert advice and guidance of people who were conversant with Indian art and culture.

The Magao Grottes - the Thousand Buddhas Caves

Dunhuang has 492 caves, with 45,000 square meters of frescos, 2, 415 painted statues and five wooden-structured caves.

The Magao Grottes, popularly known as the Thousand Buddhas Caves, were built on the eastern cliff of Mingsha Mountain, 25 km to the south-east of Dunhuang city. In 366 A.D. a monk named Yuezun had a vision of the Buddhas over the Sanwei Mountain opposite the cliff of the Mingsha Mountain, so the devout believer set to build the first cave on the cliff. Since then more and more caves have been excavated over a thousand year. The Grottes is the largest in the world and the best-preserved treasure house of Buddhist art. Interesting anonymous description was found in the manuscripts of Cave 17 at Mogao outside of Dunhuang. It provides a good sense of the geography, major religious sites and some of the local folklore and religious beliefs.

According to archaeologists, it is the greatest and most consummate repository of Buddhist art in the world. Many pavilions, towers, temples, pagodas, palaces, courtyards, towns and bridges in the murals provide valuable materials for the study of Chinese architecture. Other paintings depict Chinese and foreign musical performances, dancing and acrobatics.

The art in the Mogao Grottoes has been preserved so well not only because of the remoteness of the site from human activities such as wars and robbery but also because of consistent human care over the last one-and-a-half millennia. This reveals the popularity of Dunhuang art among Chinese communities both high and low. The Dunhuang literature also testifies to this popularity. There is also reason to believe that this art treasure has endeared itself to foreign visitors throughout history.

In Dunhuang and elsewhere, the ancient Chinese conceived Buddhist caves as temples; each cave created was a temple added. Temple Culture was not a Chinese invention, but one clearly imported from India through Central Asia. "Temple culture" means the concentration of wealth, money, manpower, materials, artistic talents and engineering skills that go into the creation of a holy shrine to serve as the cultural centre of society. Prior to the advent of Buddhism in China, there was only the Palace Culture, with a similar concentration of resources to create the grandeur of the king's or emperor's residence.

Temple Culture had an obvious advantage over Palace Culture. The former could be enjoyed by both, the rulers and the commoners while the latter was for the exclusive indulgence of the privileged few. China was a land that witnessed frequent incidents of peasant rebellion.

In the late 1980's, after close study of the images from Dunhuang frescoes, leading Chinese dance experts have created a special Silk Road style dance called "Dunhuang Dance." With a breathtaking beauty and elegance this cultural performance reflects a rich and distinctive dance tradition in China. Dunhuang Dance, as represented by an acclaimed dance production "The Rain Flowers on the Silk Road," has won various top awards in China National Dancing Competitions and obtained international reputation. Dunhuang dance has been performed in Japan, Europe, and other countries, and is always enthusiastically received by Chinese and international audiences alike.

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