Buoruchev, a Russian, came in October of 1905 and robbed the grottoes of a great amount of its scripture books. In 1907, Sir Aurel Stein, a British archaeologist, took away its Buddhist scripture books in 24 boxes and more than 500 Buddhist portraits and silk paintings. The French stole 6,000 volumes of handwritten books and took several hundred photos in July of 1908. Two Japanese came in October of 1911 and took away more than 300 volumes of handwritten books and two colored sculptures of the Tang Dynasty. Stein came for the second time in 1914 and embezzled another 600 volumes of scripture books.
The reckless and wanton robbery of the Dunhuang Grottoes aroused the indignation of the Chinese. Pressurized by patriotic scholars, the Qing court appropriated funds to have the remaining over 8000 volumes of scripture books brought to Beijing Library. Many were lost on the way.
Czarist official Aliankov and his 500 soldiers came to Dunhuang in
1922 and brought immense damage to the caves. Warner, an American,
followed in 1924 and found that nothing remained, used chemical
cohesive cloths to remove 36 mural paintings, including the precious
painting of "Zhang Jian Goes to the West to Usher in the Golden Buddha"
in No.323 Cave and the Tang colored sculptures of kneeling Buddhas in No.
328 Cave. Two years later, instigated by the first secretary of the American Embassy in Beijing, Warner returned with two of his students and two cart loads of cohesive cloth in an attempt to strip off the mural paintings in No.285 Cave. However, he did not succeed and was driven out of Gansu by the local people.