Not far out of Dunhuang on the way to Yumen Pass in a very sparsely vegetated landscape you will see signage for Thousand Buddha Caves and after turning off the highway a short drive brings you to a deep and broad river gully, where the attraction is located. It doesn't have the majesty and layered historical/emotional dimensions of Mogao Caves but in its own way a sense of timeless human effort lingers in the space. This tinged with pathos of the damage done to it in recent times, for example during the cultural revolution when heads of the Buddha were knocked off their shoulders (Zhou En Lei's protection of Mogao Caves in those times clearly didn't extend to these ones).
The caves are not very numerous but are really worth a look and a nice place to have a picnic. The way the ground literally opens up to the river bed full of trees, unseen from the dry plain above until the last moment, is quite startling. I enjoyed the 2 hours we had there.
Once again and as is common practice photography is not allowed. Flash photography is destructive to ancient art but I am not sure why digital cameras without flash are disallowed , where high iso. capacities make for reasonable low light shooting. No meaningful response to this question obtained when I asked only a surprisingly glacial response about the 'rules'. But it's China, and the way cultural heritage in the area suffered at the hands of European archeologist/adventurers like Pelliot and Langdon Warner is deeply etched into social memory.
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