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Digitalization helps to preserve the beauty of Mogao Caves

By Morag Hobbs (People's Daily Online)    16:02, September 19, 2018

China is home to many ancient cultural and historical sites, but arguably one of the most impressive is the area of desert which contains the Mogao Caves, around 25 kilometers outside the city of Dunhuang in Gansu Province.

The caves, which span about a mile in length, contain over 1,000 years of Buddhist and Taoist art, and were a significant point on the old Silk Road. The structure is made of 492 caves and cells which contain over 2,000 sculptures, original artwork and, upon discovery by Taoist Monk Wang Yuan-Lu in 1900, thousands of manuscripts and writings from countries all over the world.

Today, the area is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the most well preserved areas of art on this scale throughout the centuries. However, due to a rising number of tourists as well as the nature of the caves, preservation has been an ongoing struggle.

Every year, more tourists arrive to check out the beautiful caves and the treasures within. In 2017, a record breaking 9.1 million people visited the caves, a year-on-year increase of 12.3 percent, and this level of foot-traffic is having an effect of the condition of the caves.

To help, a visitor center has been established to introduce caves that have been closed off or are under maintenance. The center has digitalized many of the caves using a team of experts, to bring realistic and interactive versions of the artworks to life. A movie theater tells the historical story of the caves while a 4D movie introduces the history of different pieces of art.

The caves have taught historians so much about China’s past, as well as the past of other countries on the old Silk Road. It’s hoped through preservation techniques and digitalization, the beauty of the caves can be preserved for future generations and research. 

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(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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