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Mogao Grottoes sees fresco resotred in seven decades

Updated: 2014-09-12
( Xinhua )

Deep within a network of caves lining the shores of the Dunhuang oasis in Gansu province, thousands of 1,600-year-old Buddhist sculptures sit in silent decay.

The Mogao Grottoes, the collection of buddhist artworks occupying the caves on a 1,700-meter cliff which are considered one of finest in existence, was listed as a world heritage site in 1987.

 

With most of the frescos and sculptures dating back to 400 AD, hundreds of years spent in the damp confines of the caves has taken its toll on the precious works, says Wang Xudong, deputy president of Dunhuang Academy.

Wang and his colleges have spent decades countering the corrosion in the ancient cultural site.

As the academy celebrates its 70th anniversary this month, they are celebrating the 5,000 sq meter restoration milestone while digging in to continue their exhaustive efforts.

Since its establishment in 1944, the academy has devoted its resources in repairing and restoring the antique wall paintings in the grottos.

Located in nearby Dunhuang city, the academy boasts a team of highly skilled specialists who, in addition to decades restoring the artworks, have spent the last few years photographing the frescos in hopes that even if the buddhist art falls to decay, digital references will last for centuries to come.

Using modern technology, they've also devised processes to "cure" the cracked, flaked, faded and detached murals.

Their goal, Wang says, is to "prolong the life of the world cultural heritage site" indefinitely.

Known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, the Mogao grottoes consist of 735 caves, with the ancient buddhist frescos on the inside walls covering a combined area of 45,000 square meters. The paintings are considered among the preserved in the world.

Ever since the 1980s, the academy joined with relic protection institutions worldwide in exploring mural restoration technologies and cultivating talents to help keep the site alive.

In 2009, the National Engineering Research Center for Conservation of Ancient Wall Paintings was set up in the academy to serve as a state-level engineering center on ancient mural restoration for both Mogao grottoes and other ancient murals around the country.

Of China's 38 sites on the World Heritage List, 11 have ancient murals. Dunhuang, a booming town on the ancient Silk Road, is home to more than 800 grottos that are at least 1,600 years old.

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