China’s Dunhuang Academy seeks to bring back lost cultural relics through digitalization

(People's Daily Online) 10:00, September 27, 2021

File photo shows a duplicated mural displayed at an exhibition held in Dunhuang in northwest China’s Gansu province. (Chinanews.com/Yang Yanmin)

The Dunhuang Academy in China is planning to kick off a project to collect digital versions of Dunhuang antiques that have been lost overseas, said an official with the academy, Chinanews.com reported on Sept. 25.

The academy will invite museums, universities, research institutes, enterprises and public institutions to take part in the effort in its bid to acquire the digital resources through multiple channels and in various ways, Luo Huaqing, deputy director of the Dunhuang Academy said at a seminar on Dunhuang studies held between Sept. 24 and 25 in Dunhuang, northwest China’s Gansu province.

Due to historical reasons, nearly 50,000 pieces of cultural relics unearthed at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes were lost overseas. Over the course of about 100 years, Dunhuang researchers from home and abroad have more or less uncovered the number, content and value of cultural relics previously preserved at the ancient Dunhuang caves, Luo explained in a speech he delivered during the meeting.

The core of the project is to acquire digital information about the lost cultural relics, said Luo. Because the cultural relics are presently housed by different organizations that boast different levels of digitalization and adopt varied attitudes towards the restoration project, the Dunhuang Academy decided to carry out the project in various ways, including consultations between domestic and foreign cultural organizations, authorizations by foreign organizations, acquisitions of digital resources through cooperation, and authorizations from foreign organizations to publish the catalogs of Dunhuang antiques they have collected, he explained.

Luo disclosed that the National Library of China, Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House, China National Silk Museum, and Zhejiang University have been authorized to acquire digitalized images of Dunhuang antiques that have been lost overseas, expressing the hope that through the project, a database and a sharing platform can be established through coordination, widespread participation, as well as unity and collaboration between various parties.

To facilitate the restoration project, the academy has kicked off a parallel project with a total investment of 250 million yuan. It will carry out the project in the course of 10 years. The Dunhuang Academy has more than 30 years of experience in the digitalization of cultural relics. In 2016, it launched a database, sharing with the world a collection of high-definition photos and video resources on 30 caves in the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes for free.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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