Documentary captures historic splendor of Dunhuang Grottoes

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 13, 2020
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Mogao Grottoes [Photo by Chen Qiuping/]

The glorious history of China's ancient Silk Road shaping around 114 B.C. has been epitomized in a documentary centered on the remote past of Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, a landmark preserved with strenuous and persevering efforts passed on from generation to generation. 

The documentary entitled "China's Corridor of Grottoes" has been on air on China Global Television Network (CGTN) since May 10. 

It marks filmmaker Qin Chuan's 10th exploration of the caves and consists of four episodes: "The Creators of Dunhuang," "The Mural Paintings of the Grottoes," "Oriental Smiles," and "The Treasure Trove of China."

The 55-year-old filmmaker grew up in a village near Dunhuang in China's northwestern Gansu Province and recalled his childhood memories of the gorgeous grottoes.

"The grottoes have stood the test of time for more than 1,000 years. The caves were spotted on the Silk Road like rosary beads dropping from a broken string taken by the Buddha," said Qin.

"They have formed the world's largest and most enduring artistic corridor that demonstrates a collection of genres in a relatively complete sequence of China's old alternated dynasties," he said, adding that the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes have been the most scintillating block, among others.

In addition to highlighting the unparalleled value of the grottoes, the documentary has also been dedicated to those who created, developed, and protected the legacies of the Grottoes and whose contributions and sacrifices, however ambiguous and neglected, are found essential.

Known for its significant Buddhist mural paintings stored in 735 caves covering an area of 45,000 square meters, the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes suffered a loss of relics over the early phase of the last century.

However, the grottoes have been rescued with constant efforts made from late prestigious Chinese scholars, such as Chang Shuhong and Duan Wenjie, presidents of Dunhuang Research Academy, as well as the present octogenarian leader Fan Jinshi. Fan was born in Shanghai but spent most of her life on rural land and is called "the daughter of Dunhuang."

The previous nine documentaries Qin made focused on a variety of topics, including the geography, music, and calligraphies of the far-flung land along China's age-old Hexi Corridor.

According to the filmmaker, he is planning to bring a play named "The Dunhuang of Mankind," written by eminent Chinese writer Feng Jicai, on screen to show the precious land from an entirely new perspective.

"Even if I am allowed to spend ten more years to shoot stories about Dunhuang, it will never be long enough to cover everything there," he expounded.

After a temporary three-month shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes reopened last Saturday, the same day Qin's documentary was broadcast nationwide. 

According to the local administration, the scenic spot of Dunhuang opens to all Chinese medical personnel for free until the end of this year.

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