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China Focus: "Monroe parody" entertains netizens but upsets scholars

By  Gan Chun, Wang Yanming (Xinhua)

09:13, April 18, 2012

A mural featuring a monk seemingly mimicking the signature pose of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch" has managed to amuse Chinese netizens. It has even stirred up a new appetite for parodying the ancient paintings in the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang, which has upset scholars, unhappy with the public's superficial take of Buddhist art.

Preserved in cave 468 of the world's largest Buddhist grottoes, in Gansu Province, the mural didn't attract any attention until Chen Shiyu, a cultural magazine editor, photographed the mural and uploaded the picture onto douban.com. The caption read: "Afraid of being scolded by his teacher, the monk turns as bashful as Monroe."

Thousands of netizens have forwarded the picture since Chen posted it, adding an album title "the Unexplainable Dunhuang" along with a photo of Marilyn Monroe's famous picture to highlight the similarities.

"People used to think that Dunhuang was all about glamorous Buddha statues and delicate frescoes, but if you look at other parts of Dunhuang, there's lots of fun to be had," Chen said.

On March 31, another post featuring the Dunhuang murals was uploaded to tianya.com, and again was forwarded widely. The fresco, featuring a man going to the toilet, reveals what netizens call "the vulgar side" of Dunhuang.

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