Securing Dunhuang is a top priority for Xi in terms of culture

Nestled in an oasis at the periphery of the Taklimakan Desert, Dunhuang served as a pivotal hub on the antiquated Silk Road, a commercial route that connected the East and the West. The Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the outstanding example of Dunhuang’s unique culture. The complex, which dates to the fourth century, consists of 735 caves dug into a cliff that are now home to 45,000 square meters of paintings and more than 2,000 vibrant sculptures. President Xi Jinping and other tourists are drawn to the medieval city by its exceptional cultural resource.


Over the years, Xi, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, has given careful consideration to both the preservation of Dunhuang’s cultural heritage and its advancement. The Mogao Grottoes were Xi’s first destination on his 2019 tour. He was especially drawn to a fresco in Mogao Cave 323 where he recognized Zhang Qian, a Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220) emissary. Xi had never been to the Mogao Grottoes before, but because of his deep emotional connection to the place, he was already well familiar with the cultural artifacts there.


When Xi was vice mayor of the coastal city of Xiamen in the province of Fujian, he traveled to Gansu as early as 1986. However, at the time, he was unable to visit Dunhuang because of a busy schedule and the distance to the location. He regrets not making the trip back then, and he still talks about it more than thirty years later. In 2005, while attending Zhejiang University for research, Xi, who was the Party secretary of Zhejiang province at the time, read aloud a list of the accomplishments of well-known Dunhuang specialist Jiang Liangfu during an academic discussion. When Xi was a State official conducting research at Lanzhou University in Gansu in 2009, he urged Zheng Binglin, the director of the university’s Dunhuang Studies Institute, to fortify and grow the institute.

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