Conservation and the Future of Dunhuang

INTRODUCTION

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Showing of the theme movie "Thousand Years of Mogao" at the Mogao Digital Exhibition Center.

莫高窟数字展示中心主题电影《千年莫高》。

Courtesy Dunhuang Academy. 图片来源:敦煌研究院

The discovery and excavation of the Library Cave at Mogao Grottoes in the early 1900s brought the Mogao Caves and Dunhuang back into the light after being largely abandoned for almost a thousand years. However, the state of being at this historical site was in ruins. The wind-whipped “singing sands” famous in the region weathered the cliffs and the caves built on them. Deposits of natural minerals slowly but steadily damaged the mural paintings anchored on the surfaces of the cave walls. Human activities also destroyed and dislocated artifacts from the caves. 

Although domestic artists and scholars started to recognize the caves as important, due to national and international disruptions caused by wars and political changes in the first half of the 20th century, these caves were not officially managed until 1944 by the establishment of the National Dunhuang Art Institute by the Republican government. 

The Mogao Caves and Dunhuang then went through different phases of conservation, research, and international collaboration challenges and innovations, which led to the current status of Dunhuang being the main site of Dunhuang studies (Dunhuangology), a historical and cultural center for conservation of temple cave shrines, and a famous cultural tourist destination for domestic and international travelers. 

In this last exhibit of the UW Dunhuang project, we trace Dunghuang, mainly the Mogao Caves’ development after it was finally in the hands of people who cared about the site and the great treasures they contain. Along the way, we commemorate those who devoted research, funding, and effort in preserving Dunhuang for the many generations after us.

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Mogao Caves along the cliffs. 峭壁上的莫高窟。

Courtesy Dunhuang Academy. 图片来源:敦煌研究院

在被遗忘了将近千年之后,随着20世纪初期藏经洞的发现和其中文献的散播,莫高窟和敦煌重新回到了世人的眼中。但此时该历史遗址基本处于废墟的状态。当地有名的风吹“鸣沙”实际上在日夜风化着崖壁和建造在崖壁上的洞窟。窟壁自然矿物质的淀积给壁画造成了缓慢但持久的伤害。人为的破坏和窃取又使得洞里的文物脱离了它们本身的环境。

虽然当时国内外艺术家和学者都开始认识到了敦煌石窟的重要性,但由于20世纪上半叶中国国内和国际形势的动荡,战争和政权的转换,直到1944年当时的国民政府才成立国立敦煌艺术研究院,对洞窟进行官方保护和管理。

随后,莫高窟和敦煌在维护、研究和国际合作方面经历了不同阶段的挑战和创新,终于使敦煌在今天成为了敦煌学的主要焦点、佛教石窟维护的历史文化研究中心和中外游客首选的文化旅游景点。

在此华大敦煌项目的最后一个展览中,我们将追溯敦煌,尤其是莫高窟,在重新回到爱护她和她所承载的内容的人们之后的发展历程。在此我们也纪念那些曾经为敦煌付出研究、经费和精力的个人与群体。正是他们的齐心协力才使得敦煌能够得到保护和研究,能够继续呈现给后人。