National Geographic : 1951 Mar
The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas China. He had been educated in Japan and spoke a little English. With my meager Chi nese we got along beautifully. Soldiers carried our bags to his own house, where his gracious wife furnished an excellent breakfast of noodles, Chinese bread, green vegetables, and beef cooked with green on ions. We would, he insisted, be his guests in Tunhwang, and his cavalry regiment would furnish horses for our trip to the caves, 12 miles out of town. We wanted to leave immediately, b u t he explained that a cav alry escort would be necessary, since ma rauding Kazak bands had recently robbed Chinese travelers in the area. No soldiers were available that afternoon, he said, but he promised us an ade quate escort in the morning. About 5 o'clock we were seeing the sights of Tunhwang, when the colonel came rush- Eastern Housewife Meets Western Author at Ansi's Temple Mrs. Li, wife of Ansi's highway director, "let me stumble in my vile Chinese," ing up to us. "You're writes Franc Shor. lucky," he said. "There are men from the caves here. We'll get you a ride." He hailed a truck and intro duced us to some young Chinese, including Mr. Dwan Li-sen, an artist. They stopped at the colonel's house for our bags and drove us out of town and across the desert to the caves. Before us in the moon light suddenly appeared a tall grove of poplars. We turned into a whitewashed compound and were shown to a two-room apartment, its walls lined with copies of cave paintings and repro ductions of Buddha images. We arose early the next morning and walked the 100 yards to the caves in time to see the great cliff in the first rays of the rising sun (page 388). Much of the cliff face is covered with fading murals. Ancient wooden balconies mark the entrances to many of the grottoes "Suddenly she started speaking perfect English!" (page 394), and many tiny niches in the cliff contain small statues. The poplars between the cliff and the river cast a deep shadow over the lower portion of the cliff, softening the col ors of the garish restorations of recent years. Darkness and Dry Air Protect Caves Fortunately, a lack of funds has hampered "restoration" work, which involves touching up the wonderfully muted and fading colors with bright reds, greens, blues, and yellows; so most of the frescoes are still in their original state. In the dry desert air, preservation is excellent; the paintings inside the caves, pro tected from the rays of the sun, are still ex quisitely colored. Those on the cliff face have been softened and blend beautifully with the rocky cliffs and desert sands.