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Creative products give murals of ancient grottoes a modern spin

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-09-15 16:13
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A mural in Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu province.[Photo/Xinhua]

Born and raised in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu province, Yao Yanbei has long been immersed in the cultural heritage of the city.

Once an outpost on the ancient Silk Road, Dunhuang boasts exquisite Buddhist art dating back over 1,650 years. Its Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are home to more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of murals.

After graduating from a college in the eastern Chinese city of Xiamen, Yao returned to Dunhuang as a promising designer. She was determined to promote her hometown through her creative works.

In 2016, inspired by patterns in Dunhuang murals, Yao created a toy camel embellished with fiery red hair and patterns of honeysuckle on its hump.

"Through the toy camel, I intended to convey the spirit of the locals who are usually tough-minded and hard-working," Yao said.

"Tourists can take home artistic products like the camel replica as souvenirs after visiting the murals," she said. "They help more people know about my hometown."

In August 2017, Yao spent nearly a month inside grottoes sketching the murals, in quest of inspiration from the Buddhist art.

"Staying in the grottoes from dawn to dusk, I felt spiritually connected with the ancient artists who painted the murals. It was an amazing experience," she said.

Inspired by the sculptures and murals, Yao later designed an array of innovative products, including tote bags, T-shirts, bookmarks, pocket mirrors and key rings. They all emanate a modern vibe that appeals to the younger generation.

Thanks to the efforts of designers like Yao, the cultural and creative industry began to take root in Dunhuang. Starting from 2018, every year the city has held an international design week to help promote the budding industry.

"By pooling the wisdom of designers from home and abroad, we want to make Dunhuang's creative products more fashionable and reflective of the latest trends," said Liu Mengxing, a vice general manager of a local company.

"We hope more people can realize that the culture of Dunhuang not only thrives in a remote desert but can also spice up our daily life," Liu added.

Looking ahead at her career in design, Yao plans to explore Dunhuang's ancient art further and apply the wisdom of ancient artists into products of modern life.

"I want to design more creative products that appeal to more international customers," said Yao. "I hope my design can bring people closer to Dunhuang."

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