Spanning 1.2 miles from east to west, there are 236 cave temples carved into the cliff.
Over half of them are still fairly intact. They are either simple cells where monks lived, or richly decorated temples with murals. Most of the sculptures have been removed.
The murals depict religious themes, such as legends of the Buddha, and karmic parables. Some of the paintings show the natural landscape, and daily life of people in Kucha, like farming, and hunting activities.
The paintings have two stylistic phases: The first used reddish pigments, while the second used bluish ones, including a precious ultramarine pigment made from lapis lazuli.
There is a distinct lack of Chinese influence with only two caves showing elements from the Tang Dynasty that influenced the area from the start of the 8th century, when the caves were probably abandoned.
Sadly many of the caves were damaged and looted after Islam arrived in the region, during the Cultural Revolution, and when German archaeologists and other explorers removed sections of murals.
The area was listed as part of a World Heritage Site in June 2014, including other ruins on the ancient trade route, and has been likened to an exquisite flower blooming in the desert of the Silk Road.