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Dunhuang was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road and is best known for the nearby Mogao Caves.It has also been known at times as Shazhou Dunhuang is situated in a oasis containing Crescent Lake and Mingsha Shan (鸣沙山, meaning "Singing-Sand Mountain"), named after the sound of the wind whipping off the dunes, the singing sand phenomenon.During the Song Dynasty, Dunhuang fell outside the Chinese borders.In 1036 the Tanguts who founded the Xi Xia Dynasty captured Dunhuang. era of the Guiyi Circuit), Dunhuang was a multicultural entrepot that contained one of the largest ethnic Sogdian communities in China following the An Lushan Rebellion.Dunhuang Commandery was probably established shortly after 104 BC.
The Tibetans occupied Dunhuang when the Tang empire became weakened considerably after the An Lushan Rebellion; and even though it was later returned to Tang rule, it was under quasi-autonomous rule by the local general Zhang Yichao who expelled the Tibetans in 848.Dunhuang was conquered in 1227 by the Mongols who sacked and destroyed the town, and the rebuilt town became part of the Mongol Empire in the wake of Kublai Khan' s conquest of China under the Yuan Dynasty.Dunhuang went into a steep decline after the Chinese trade with the outside world became dominated by Southern sea-routes, and the Silk Road was officially abandoned during the Ming Dynasty. 1516, and also came under the influence of the Chagatai Khanate in the early sixteenth century.Dunhuang was one of the four frontier garrison towns (along with Jiuquan, Zhangye and Wuwei) established by the Emperor Wu after the defeat of the Xiongnu, and the Chinese built fortifications at Dunhuang and sent settlers there.The name Dunhuang, meaning "Blazing Beacon", refers to the beacons lit to warn of attacks by marauding nomadic tribes.