The Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves 73 kilometers west of Kuqa are the oldest caves dedicated to Buddhism in China. The spectacular murals in these caves can be compared with those of Mogao Grottos in Dunhuang, Gansu province.
Those caves were first chiseled in the 3rd century. Over the 500 years, dynasties rose and fell; artist of each period contributed. Thousands of such caves were carved out of the craggy sand stone cliff. However, years of war and natural erosion have destroyed quite a few of them and now there are over 236 grottos, which houses approximately 10,000 square meters of mural paintings.
Historic documents prove that these caves were once so popular among worshippers that itís always shrouded with the smoke of burning incense and monks living there reached hundreds of thousands.†††