There were no stones, bricks or wood in the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, so the masons in ancient China used mud from the beaches of Daquan River to build many small pagodas. Most of these pagodas have been destroyed, and most of those remaining were constructed after the Song Dynasty.
The square, pavilion-style, earthen pagoda above the Mogao Grottoes is one of the oldest of these pagodas. It has a plain square base, each side measuring nine meters wide and without ornaments. The square main body's sides measure 6.2 meters at the bottom but taper gradually towards the top. The pyramid-shaped mud roof has eaves built of mud bricks and is topped by a square steeple. The whole pagoda is 10.4 meters high. A door on the front of the pagoda faces Sanwei Mountain, the same as the grottoes.
On the walls inside the pagoda are beautiful statues and murals comparable to those in the grottoes and perhaps done by the same artists. Their style indicates they and the pagoda date back to the Northern Song Dynasty.