3D-printed head helps restore Buddha statue at world cultural heritage site

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A Buddha's head has been three-dimensionally printed to restore a stone statue at the Longmen Grottoes, a world cultural heritage site, in central China's Henan Province.

A staff member places 3D-printed Buddha's head at the Longmen Grottoes scenic area in Luoyang, central China's Henan Province, Sept. 23, 2020. (Photo provided to Xinhua)

The printed head, which is 40 cm tall and 30 cm wide, perfectly matches the remaining part of the Buddha statue carved on the northern wall of Fengxian Temple in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), said Yang Chaojie, a researcher with the research institute of the grottoes.

Located in the city of Luoyang, the Longmen Grottoes include more than 2,300 grottoes with 110,000 Buddhist figures and images, over 80 dagobas and 2,800 inscribed tablets created between the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557) and Song Dynasty (960-1279).

In the early 20th Century, the grottoes were largely damaged and looted, with many Buhhda statues carried overseas.

Wen Yucheng, former head of the institute, said the Buddha's head was missing after 1923 and was later purchased by the Shanghai Museum in 1957.

Restoration research in cooperation with the museum started in May 2019. Among the museum's five relics items confirmed to have come from the Longmen Grottoes, the Buhhda's head was the first one that was identified with its original location in the grottoes.

The locations of the other four items, all Buddha figures, have also been confirmed.

Shi Jiazhen, head of the institute, said the restoration using 3D technology has provided a new choice for the missing relics to "return home."

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