I've been drawn to Dunhuang, and the Silk Road in general, ever since seeing the fantastic exhibition The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith at the British Library in 2004. The Mogao Caves are particularly important, as they yielded a sealed cache of documents, paintings and other artefacts untouched for a period of around nine hundred years. The materials from the caves have been of wide interest to many disciplines, revealing economic, social and religious aspects of Silk Road cultures, Asiatic languages and, in the case of the paintings on wall and textile, artistic development.
Indeed, so extensive are the materials recovered from the site that they have spawned an international digitisation project, aimed at connecting researchers around the world with these unique artefacts: the International Dunhuang Project. Almost as interesting as the artefacts themselves are the stories of the (mostly) European explorers who raced into the Chinese deserts to procure them - one of them is thought to have inspired in part the character of Indiana Jones.