Out of the shadows

By Zhao Xu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-04-16 09:37:51

Out of the shadows

Wooden Buddha sculptures that used to line the lower part of the main hall's eastern and western walls before they were smashed during China's 'cultural revolution' (1966-76).[Photo provided to China Daily]

The boys balked and the murals were saved. And according to Lu, the darkness inside the main hall also helped, since the vandals did not realize how sumptuous the frescoes were. She points out for me a horizontal line that goes through the 11-meter-long frescoes on both the eastern and western walls. It is about 60 centimeters from the bottom of the painting.

"The part above that line has been exposed for 600 years, while the part below it has just done so for 50 years, since when the Buddha sculptures right in front of the walls were destroyed on that fateful day," she said.

Today, those sculptures can only be viewed in the black-and-white pictures taken by British reporter Angela Latham, Morrison's contemporary who photographed the temple in 1937 and had the pictures published in the Illustrated London News that same year.

Wu, in the final years of his life, suffered from Alzheimer's disease and handed the keys to Fahai's main hall to Ding. He died in the mid 1970s aged 74. "He never left the temple," Ding says.

Before his death, Wu, who had been an antiques dealer for years before a series of misfortunes brought him to Fahai, left a will in which he requested to be buried near the temple. The family obliged.

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