Conservation and the Future of Dunhuang



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


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