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The Kizil caves lie close to Kuqa and is a collection of 237 caves dug into the hillside. They strech over 2-3 km but only a few are open to the public. It was strictly forbidden to take pictures, we actually had to leave all cameras at the ticket office. So these pictures are taken from different web-pages.
They are Buddhist caves made between 300 to 800 AD. Some are miniature temples with many wall decorations. A few caves were probably living quarters for the workers.
Many of the “small temples” also had a big pilars in the middle so the worshippers could circumambulate a statue of Buddha that was place in a niche in the pilar. None of these statues exist any more. European explorers like de Coq took what they could to European museums. The locals also believed that gold dust was mixed in the paint so the have scraped away part of the figures. here is a selection.
These are donors
The squares are pictures removed by le Coq
These caves and decorations made an impression on me. It was strange to stand in these caves and see the decorations and circumambulate the pilars that had meant so much for people 1500 years ago. A temple on flat ground was not enough, they had to climb a steep hillside and start digging caves into the mountain. And this is not the only place this happened, there are two more such places in Xingjian, but the oldest Kizil caves were the first.
These caves also illustrate the actions of the European explorers. But again it is not that simple. Noone can say what would have happened if the caves were left. The locals were clearly on treasure hunts and there are examples other places that caves were vandalized both by soldiers in the 1920s and during the Culture Revolution. At least a lot is preserved even if it is in European museums.