The city of Dunhuang, in north-west China, is situated a on a crossroads of two major trade routes within the Silk Road. Built in an oasis on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, the city was as one of the first trading cities encountered by merchants arriving in China from the west. It was also an ancient site of Buddhist religious activity and was a popular destination for pilgrims.  The remarkable Mogao Caves, a collection of nearly 500 caves in the cliffs to the south of the city, contain the largest depositary of historic documents along the Silk Roads and bear witness to the cultural, religious, social, and commercial activity.