We’re welcoming thousands of visitors to Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road at the Getty from May 7 to September 4. The exhibition explores the cave temples of Dunhuang China (the Mogao Grottoes), site of the largest collection of Buddhist art in the world, located near the town of Dunhuang at the edge of the Gobi Desert in western China. It presents a number of rare objects originally from the site, and tells the story of how Mogao is being conserved for the future.
Lots of you have been asking about tickets and opening times, so we’ve pulled together our best tips on what to see and how to make the most of your visit. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please leave it in the comments so we can add it to this post!
Admission to the Getty Center and to the exhibition is free. Parking is $15, reduced to $10 after 3:00 p.m. No general admission tickets are necessary; however, to reduce wait times, free timed replica cave exhibition tickets are available on site when you arrive at the Getty.
What to See
There are three things to see in Cave Temples of Dunhuang, and you can visit one, two, or three in any order.
1. Artworks and Buddhist treasures, including over forty manuscripts, paintings on silk, embroideries, and other precious objects on loan from museums in the UK and France.
Find it: Inside the Getty Research Institute.
How to get in: Admission to the exhibition galleries is free, no tickets or reservations are required.
Look for: The Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest dated and complete printed book.
2. A virtual immersive experience including panoramic projections of the cave temple site, and a 3D presentation of the interior of Cave 45, created in the 700s during the Tang dynasty.
Find it: In the Getty Research Institute Lecture Hall, to the left of the main entrance to the Research Institute.
How to get in: No tickets or reservations are required; just join the line outside the Getty Research Institute entrance. Capacity is limited to about 20 people at a time. Borrow a free pair of 3D glasses inside.
Look for: A richly painted sculpture of the Buddha in lotus position surrounded by disciples, bodhisattvas, and guardian kings.
3. Walk-in replica cave temples created to the exact size and appearance of three of those at Dunhuang (Caves 275, 285, and 320). Use the handout provided at the entry to identify highlights in the replica caves. Get a sneak preview of the handout at getty.edu/ReplicaCaves.
Find it: On the Getty Center plaza, where the tram arrives at the top of the hill.
Look for: Brilliantly colored, dynamic wall paintings that incorporate Hindu and indigenous Chinese deities into a Buddhist context (in the large, center cave).
How to see it: Obtain a free timed ticket—available on-site in limited quantities—and reduce your queuing time. Check availability at the Dunhuang Ticket Table at the top of the stairs leading to the Central Garden. Tickets are released throughout the day based on demand.
You’ll be escorted through all three replica caves on each visit. If you have a wait before your ticket time, explore the rest of the site, including our other free exhibitions and events.
Note, due to the limited capacity inside the caves, strollers are not permitted inside. (Wheelchairs and walkers are welcome.) A designated stroller parking area is available near the cave entrance.
Best Times to Visit
All parts of the exhibition are open daily except Mondays. To give more people a chance to see the show, we’re also offering extended summer hours starting May 8:
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays: 10am–5:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays: 10am–9pm
The parking lot fills on busy days, especially during summer and school holidays, so it’s a good idea to arrive early—the parking lot, tram, gardens, and coffee cart open at 9:30am, while the galleries, replica caves, and virtual immersive experience open at 10. Weekend evening hours are also a good bet for easier parking and an easier drive to and from the Getty. As a general rule, Saturday evenings are busier than Friday evenings, and tickets to the replica caves may be all distributed by late afternoon/evening. The parking rate reduces to $10 at 3:00 p.m.
Or forget driving altogether and take the bus: Metro Rapid 734 (Monday–Friday) and Metro Local 234 (weekends, holidays, and late and early weekdays) stop right at the Getty Center entrance. Check metro.net for times and connections. Uber and Lyft are also good options that allow you to bypass the parking garage.
Another lesser-known tip: you’re welcome to walk up or down the hill, which is about three-quarters of a mile and takes 10 or 15 minutes, instead of waiting for the tram.
What to Photograph
Replica caves: You’re welcome to take pictures for personal use inside the replica caves—but please no flash, tripods, monopods, or selfie sticks.
Exhibition galleries and the virtual immersive experience: Due to contracts with lenders, photography, videotaping, and live video broadcasting (such as Periscope) are not allowed in the galleries or the virtual immersive experience.
Other parts of the Getty Center: Photography and video are allowed everywhere outside (selfie sticks are allowed outdoors!), as well as in many of the Museum galleries. See our photo/video policy for more details on photographing at the Center.
To learn more about Dunhuang, see the new exhibition catalogue from Getty Publications; for photos and stories from the exhibition, see other posts here on the Iris, and follow the exhibition hashtag #CaveTemples on Twitter and Instagram.