Although it was only a small oasis town located in the desert of northwestern China, Dunhuang became the site of the largest complex of ancient Chinese art. Particularly, the Mogao Caves, which are located in the gobi-desert 25 kilometers away from the city, consist of 492 caves with 25000 square meters wall paintings and more than 3000 painted sculptures. These well preserved caves span a period of one thousand years, from the 4th to the 14th century, and visually represent with vivid detail the culture of medieval China. The discovery in 1900 of a secret library cave, which was sealed around the mid-11th century and remained untouched for nine hundred years, has further made Dunhuang an extremely important site for the studies of medieval Chinese civilization. In addition to the Mogao Caves, a few other sites of Buddhist caves are located in the Dunhuang region, including the Yulin Caves (42 caves), Eastern Thousand Buddhas Caves (23 caves), and Shuixiakou (8 caves) in Anxi county, the Western Thousand Buddhas Caves (22 caves) in Dunhuang, and the Five-temple Caves (6 caves) and One-temple Cave (2 caves) in Subei county.
Despite a surge in tourism development, the town still has a fairly relaxed feel to it, and itís easy to kick back here for a few days. There are several sights worth visiting in the surrounding area, and the town is just lively enough to keep you entertained.