Kizil Caves, Kuchar

Kizil Caves - the famous cave temples of Xinjiang

Kuchar is one of the numerous cities in Xinjiang with the history closely associated with Buddhism. It is notable for a large number of caves, preserved completely intact by today. The best known among them are Kizil (Red) Caves.

The Kizil Caves are one of the oldest Buddhist cave monasteries in China. The caves are cut in the foothills and interconnected with platforms, internal and external wooden staircases. The length of the Kizil caves is almost 3 km.

The heyday of the cave temple fell on the beginning of the I millennium. By the XIV century Kizil caves sank into degradation, when Islam superseded Buddhism in Xinjiang. For a long time the Kizil caves were in desolation, many of them were destroyed or buried under the sand. Up to date about 200 caves have

Of particular interest is the interior décor of the Red caves. All the caves-cells are decorated with wall paintings and frescoes depicting not only Buddhist religious motifs, but also various legendary plots. In addition, many of the caves are decorated with statues of Buddha from the smallest statues to the giant ones of 14-meter height.

The wall paintings and frescoes of the Kizil Caves are a synthesis of different cultures. They include the elements of Greek, Indian, Persian cultures, which came to Xinjiang together with the travelers by the Silk Road.

However, in actual fact the history of the Kizil caves is full of tragic moments. In the XIX century, when Xinjiang began playing an important role on the world’s political arena, it became a place for so-called “travelers” to flood back into a country and who not only studied the local culture, but also very often exported the objects of cultural heritage of the Chinese people from the country. The Kizil Caves were among those, suffered much as a result of such “scientific” research.

In the middle of the XX century, the Chinese authorities allocated huge funds for renovation and restoration of cultural monuments. A number of measures have been taken to repatriate the objects of art and culture exported from the country. Today the Kizil Caves in full splendor, being one of the Xinjiang main attractions, welcome hundreds of tourists from all over the world.