Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Admission:

RMB 20

Hours:

How to get there:

Take a tour bus or mini-bus from Turpan.
The Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves (Bózīkèlǐ Qiānfódòng, 柏孜克里千佛洞) are on the northwestern side of the Flaming Mountains facing a river valley about 15 km (9 mi) north of the ruins of the ancient city of Gaochang and 45 km (28 mi) east of modern Turpan. These caves are one of the largest Buddhist grotto complexes in Xinjiang, with 77 shiku (caves carved to house Buddhist images) containing frescoes and statuary ranging from the naïve to the masterly.
 
Unfortunately, the site has suffered waves of despoilment, whether from vandals and thieves, Muslims seeking to eliminate traces of Buddhism after Islam swept across Central Asia, overzealous Red Guards or avaricious European explorer-archaeologists. The most notorious of the latter, Albert von Le Coq, removed a number of frescos from the walls of Bezeklik and sent them off to Berlin, where those that weren't destroyed by World War II bombs can be seen in museums.
 
In addition to the caves, you can take camel rides (RMB 50) into the Flaming Mountains and desert, visit a strange Journey to the West-themed park (complete with large statues of characters from the classic Chinese tale of the Monkey King and his adventures) and, of course, take in the often breathtaking desert landscape.
 

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