Archaeological Discoveries
in 2001
Archaeological Discoveries
in 2000
Top Ten Archaeological Finds
for 1999
Archaeological Discoveries
in 1999

Significant Archaeological Discovery
at Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang

  A 10-year survey of the caves in the northern area of the Mogao Grottoes has been completed. The Mogao Grottoes are also known as the "Thousand Buddha Caves." In the southern area there are only 492 caves, far from the original figure of one thousand. The 200 caves or more in the northern area, with only a few wall paintings and statues of Buddha inside, have been regarded as places of accommodation for the artisans and painters working on the construction of the southern caves. So they had previously been neglected.   
   In 1988, the Dunhuang Research Academy dispatched a team to the northern area to carry out an overall archaeological survey and excavations. In 1996, the "archaeological survey and study of Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes program" was listed as a key subject in the state social science research programs during the Ninth Five-Year Plan period. The team surveyed and excavated the 243 caves in the northern area one by one. Their first judgment is that the caves were used mainly to accommodate visiting monks, or for meditation or funerals. In these caves, a great deal of fragments of scriptures and sutras were unearthed, written in at least seven languages--Han, Tibetan, Uygur, Sanskrit, Western Xia, Mongol and Syriac, of which the last three were found for the first time. The most valuable finds are the "Gold Fragment " in the Western Xia language and fragments of the "Original Sutra of Ksitigarbha," the only known existing copy in the world. Also unearthed from the caves in the northern area were a number of Persian silver coins, Western Xia coins, and well-preserved Uygur wood-block type, pottery wares, wooden articles and textile products, all of the highest academic value.