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Published on : Jun 16, 2015

In the calm shadows of Cave 98, preservationist Li Lingzhi gazed as blue suited workers inspected the Buddhist frescoes that were commissioned in the cliff recess of the Gobi Desert over a millennium ago by a ruling family of the local area. 

It has taken almost a decade for restoration of the cave. The central statute is still enclosed by metal scaffolding, seated Buddha which is three story high with orange robes.

As commented by Li, who is a conservationist for the Dunhuang Research Academy, expert inspection is awaited for discussion to happen and open the caves for public. The Dunhuang Research Academy has been managing the Mogao Caves for the central government from the year 1944, before the Communists came into power. 

Experts aare monitoring humidity and temperature in the cave. The work is delicate and requires expertise to preserve the small centuries old heritage caves. About 500 of the caves portray timeline of art along the Silk Road and are also ranked among the greatest Buddhist treasures in the world.

The caves have it all, statutes, frescoes and figurines of Buddha with curly locks and sharp noses, which is mainly seen in ancient Central Asian art, bodhisattvas of Tibetan style having a thousand arms sketched during Mongol rule, also disciples adorned in Indian dhotis. 

Most of these caves that had art work were patronized by royal families that sought a private palace for worship. The oldest of these caves date back to 1600 years. The caves indicated the Chinese empires on the western frontier and one on the eastern side of Central Asian kingdoms.

Caravans of camels passed the Hexi Corridor loaded with spices, scriptures, and silks, part of which are retained in the famous library which drew explorers in the 20th century.