There are 492 caves in Dunhuang, and those caves house a combined 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 2,000 painted sculptures. Researchers give a number to each cave to facilitate their studies and research. According to The Dictionary on Studies of Dunhuang Caves, written by Shi Weixiang, Cave 254 contains works that represent the early stage of Buddhist art created in the Mogao Grottoes. The classic works in Cave 254 include four murals, which date to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Given its long history, how well it is preserved, and its great artistic value, Cave 254 is seldom open to the public.
Chen Haitao and Chen Qi, both graduates of the Fine Arts School Affiliated with China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), completed their postgraduate studies in 2006. Chen Haitao received his master's degree, in animation, from Beijing Film Academy while Chen Qi received her master's degree, in oil painting, from CAFA. After they completed their master's degrees, the young couple relocated to Dunhuang, to study and research Dunhuang art. They have designed and produced two animated films about Dunhuang art. They have also written essays and organized workshops to promote Dunhuang culture.
Earlier this year, Chen Haitao, 39, gave a lecture at the National Library of China, in Beijing. He is neither a celebrity nor a pop star, but he is a scholar dedicated for more than a decade to the study of Dunhuang art. During his lecture, Chen Qi, his wife, sat in a sound-control booth at the back of the room. She watched carefully as her husband promoted the charm of Dunhuang art.
Chen Qi recalled their visit to Dunhuang in 2006, when they were both 28. At that time, they chose not to join either an animation production company or be freelance artists.
Instead, they escaped the hustle and bustle of Beijing to live in Dunhuang. They were both employed by the Dunhuang Academy. The young couple got married in Dunhuang, where they have since enjoyed a rich, and peaceful, life.
Why did they choose to live in Dunhuang? "I was attracted by a mural, on the southern wall of Cave 254, which depicted a prince sacrificing his life to save a mother tiger and its cub," Chen Qi answered.
She saw that mural, for the first time, when she was in the first year of her postgraduate studies. Her supervisor, famous artist Yuan Yunsheng, emphasized the importance of inheriting aesthetics, which was established and developed in ancient China. In the 1990s, Yuan often encouraged his students to get inspiration from murals, sculptures and ancient stones painted with portraits. Chen Qi visited Dunhuang to complete a field-research project when she was in the first year of her postgraduate studies. She spent two months observing and completing a series of paintings, which were copies of the murals in the Mogao Grottoes. She was particularly impressed by that mural on the southern wall of Cave 254.
Chen Haitao, who was then Chen Qi's boyfriend, participated in the project too. Day by day, they worked