Dunhuang (once known as Shazhou) is at the western end of the Hexi Corridor. Dunhuang is home to many spectacular tourist attractions, and is listed as a state historic and cultural city.
The Mogao Grottoes, also known as the “Thousand-BuddhaCaves,” are the oldest of China's three monumental Buddhist grottoes. Located 25 kilometres southeast of DunhuangCounty, these caves are carved out of the sandstone cliffs of MingshaMountain. According to a Tang-dynasty historical text, the monuments were started by a monk named Le Zun and date back to 366 AD. Over the next 1,000 years, artists continued to contribute to the site, creating a thousand more statues in about 1,000 caves over the course of thousands of years, most of which remain on site today. Today, 492 cave remain intact, featuring a cultural treasure house of 2,000 statues and over 45,000 separate murals.
The spring lies at the foot of the Mingsha Sand Dune and is named for its shape. It is about 100 metres long and 25 metres wide, and has fish and water weeds with legendary healing properties. Though the area is often hit by windstorms that impede visibility, nobody in hundreds of years of civilization has ever seen the spring covered by sand.
The Mingsha (Sighing) Sand Dune is another piece of spectacular scenery in Dunhuang. The dune, a high hill covered in multi-coloured sand, 40 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide. On some days the sand roars like thunder, and is audible from the city, hence the name. China travellers climbing up to the dunes and sliding down from the summit can cause the sand to collapse with them producing loud sounds. Nobody knows exactly how this wonder of nature was formed. Legends claim that a dragon prince, angry at being awakened by celebrating people, covered a whole city in sand. This story claims that the sounds of the dune are from the souls of the dead, trapped beneath the sand.