His­toric grot­toes

Exhibition at Shang­hai Tower takes vis­i­tors “in­side” Mo­gao Caves

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By LIN SHUJUAN in Shang­hai lin­shu­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn thangka Con­tact the writer at lin­shu­juan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Three grot­toes in Dun­huang, North­west China’s Gansu prov­ince, have been repli­cated at Shang­hai Tower, the world’s sec­ond-tallest build­ing, as part of a 10-month-long exhibition.

Jointly or­ga­nized by the Gansu Pro­vin­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage, Dun­huang Re­search Academy, Gansu Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum, Shang­hai Tower and other in­sti­tu­tions, the event opened on April 28, with the aim of pro­vid­ing vis­i­tors with an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence by lever­ag­ing vir­tual re­al­ity and other ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies.

The full-size repli­cas — two from the Mo­gao Caves and one from the nearby Yulin Caves — were in­stalled based on dig­i­tal archives of their orig­i­nals.

Frescoes in the orig­i­nal caves have been copied us­ing high-def­i­ni­tion scan­ning and print­ing tech­nolo­gies, says Mi Qiu, cu­ra­tor of the exhibition.

Dat­ing from the 5th to early 11th cen­turies, they rep­re­sent three dis­tinct styles of different pe­ri­ods of the Dun­huang grot­toes, China’s largest Bud­dhist art trea­sure.

Among them, the No 29 cave at Yulin was repli­cated us­ing high-def­i­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy for the first time in a pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion. The mu­rals in the caves present the aes­thet­ics and eth­nic fla­vor of the West­ern Xia Dy­nasty (1038-

at Shang­hai Tower fea­tures full-size repli­cas of grot­toes in Dun­huang and pre­cious cul­tural relics from seven mu­se­ums in west­ern China.

1227), and the con­tin­u­a­tion of re­li­gious ideas at the time.

Mo­gao’s No 220 cave presents frescoes from the early Tang Dy­nasty (618-907), show­cas­ing many an­cient mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and dances. No 285 cave, which dates back to the West­ern Wei Dy­nasty (535-556) and fea­tures a re­verse fun­nel-shaped roof, is said to have the rich­est con­tents of all the grot­toes in Dun­huang. It de­picts Bud­dhist and Taoist char­ac­ters.

Apart from the three replica grot­toes, 118 pre­cious cul­tural relics from seven mu­se­ums in west­ern China, are also on dis­play. Many ex­hibits are be­ing shown in Shang­hai for the first time, in­clud­ing a bronze statue named Gal­lop­ing Horse Tread­ing on a Fly­ing Swal­low from the East­ern Han Dy­nasty (25-220).

The statue, un­earthed in 1969 from the tomb of a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer in Zhangye, also in Gansu, is one of the top na­tional trea­sures in China. As part of the Gansu Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum’s col­lec­tion, it re­flects the le­gend that a gal­lop­ing horse can be so fast that it can ac­tu­ally fly higher than a swal­low. It be­came the na­tional of­fi­cial tourism logo in 1983.

The exhibition is also show­ing three-di­men­sional holo­graphic im­ages that en­able vis­i­tors to view im­mov­able sculp­tures from different lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing an im­age of Bud­dha’s nir­vana, which fea­tures an 18-meter-long re­clin­ing Bud­dha from No 158 cave at Mo­gao.

Other key ex­hibits in­clude a Bud­dhist art­work fea­tur­ing Mi­larepa, a Ti­betan scholar, 10 orig­i­nal Dun­huang manuscripts, and a col­lec­tion of other re­li­gious and sec­u­lar doc­u­ments dis­cov­ered in the Mo­gao Caves in the early 20th cen­tury.

The exhibition, which runs through Fe­bru­ary next year, will also present more than 50 sem­i­nars and events about the cul­ture, fash­ion, mu­sic and dance, lit­er­a­ture and folk arts re­lat­ing to Dun­huang.

The Dun­huang grot­toes are a liv­ing record of the an­cient Silk Road. More than 700 sand­stone caves con­tain fres­cos, paint­ings, sculp­tures and other relics from the pre-11th cen­tury eras.

In 1987, the grot­toes, also known as the Caves of the Thou­sand Bud­dhas, be­came a UNESCO World Her­itage Site. Fac­ing threats of nat­u­ral de­cay and hu­man-in­duced dam­age, Dun­huang Re­search Academy has been work­ing on a dig­i­tal ar­chiv­ing project since the 1990s. After more than two decades in 2016, the academy launched e-dun­huang.com, a web­site of­fer­ing vir­tual views of 28 of the Mo­gao Caves.

So far, the academy has com­pleted the dig­i­ti­za­tion of more than 100 caves, ac­cord­ing to Zhao Shengliang, the deputy di­rec­tor of Dun­huang Re­search Academy.

“Dun­huang is a shared trea­sure of hu­man­ity and it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to share Dun­huang cul­ture with the world,” Zhao says.

“We used to face a dilemma when it came to preser­va­tion and shar­ing. Dig­i­ti­za­tion has solved that — it al­lows ex­hi­bi­tions of Dun­huang cul­ture to take place at any time, and in any lo­ca­tion.”


The on­go­ing exhibition

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