sands of time

Dunhuang’s epic history of cultural survival in the face of invasion and brigandry has been replayed for generations. Today, natural forces and a fresh wave of visitors threaten to overwhelm Mogaoku’s fragile paintings and sculptures. Shifting sands, water seepage, and environmental stresses caused by surging tourism are degrading the murals and statuary at an alarming rate. The tension between access and preservation is growing ever more acute, and a standard tour is now restricted to brief visits to a few unlit caves. If interventions are not undertaken promptly, this irreplaceable legacy will be lost forever.

Tourism has grown from 26,000 visitors in 1979 to 550,000 in 2006.