All those with an interest will be able to visit the world
heritage Mogao Grottoes site in northwest China by
simply clicking a computer mouse.
Over a period of five years starting in 2007 China will
digitalize images of 170 of the finest Dunhuang grottoes. Of the
images 147 are from the Mogao Grottoes and the rest from the Yulin
Grottoes and Western Thousand Buddhas Caves.
Wang Xudong, deputy director of Dunhuang Academy, said high
definition pictures of the grottoes, frescoes and colored
sculptures would be taken. The three dimensional images would then
be loaded onto an Internet database accessible to anyone.
Dunhuang Academy is the sole institute authorized to protect,
research and manage the grotto treasures. Wang said the project was
designed to protect and popularize the 1,600-year-old treasures and
in particular the Mogao Grottoes.
Dunhuang became a major market on the Silk Road in the Tang
Dynasty (618-907) period and is home to more than 800 grottoes. The
Mogao Grottoes were added to the World Heritage List in 1987.
The number of people from China and abroad who visit the
Dunhuang Grottoes is rising and will reach half a million this year
when a new train service goes into operation and additional flights
are scheduled to the city.
"The small grottoes are often packed with visitors and this
poses a severe threat to the preservation of the frescoes and
sculptures inside," said Wang. "That's why the 'Dunhuang Digital
Program' was initiated."
Dunhuang Academy proposed the scheme in the early 1980s and
subsequently reached a cooperation agreement with the US-based
Andrew Mellon Foundation. The program now covers 20 grottoes.
"Decay of the artwork is almost inevitable but digital
technology can provide a permanent library which can be used by
both archaeologists and ordinary citizens," said Wang. "The 170
caves are like pearls on a crown and many of them are not open to
"In 2011 with a simple click of the mouse visitors will not only
be able to appreciate the three dimensional artworks in the
grottoes but learn about their age, preservation measures and
inspect details that cannot be seen clearly in the dim light on the
spot," added Wang.
The Academy's database would include cultural relics looted by
foreign archaeologists in the early twentieth century. "With the
help of over 10 collectors and museums at home and abroad we'll
survey all the relics available on Dunhuang culture and turn them
into digital documents," said Wang.
Zheng Binglin, director of the Dunhuang Studies Institute at
northwestern Lanzhou University, felt the program would boost
Dunhuang studies throughout the world. "It'll prompt more
researchers to share their material and thus transform traditional
research methods," Zheng said.
(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2006)