Category Archives: Central Asia

Airport to close for expansion near China’s Dunhuang caves

Source: Xinhua | February 20, 2017, Monday | ONLINE EDITION

THE Dunhuang airport, located near the Mogao Caves, which contain some of China’s finest ancient Buddhist art, will be closed between March 15 and May 25 for an expansion project aimed at coping with a growing tourist influx.

The 976-million-yuan (US$142 million) expansion project, which began in 2016, will enable the airport to handle an annual capacity of 960,000 passengers and 1,700 tons of cargo.

The airport will close to allow for revamping of the runway and enlarging airport aprons, said the airport on Monday.

The 1,600-year-old Mogao Caves are home to more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of frescoes. They are located in a series of 735 caves carved along a cliff in northwest China’s Gansu Province along the ancient Silk Road route. In 1987, the site became China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In recent years, tourist numbers to the caves have soared thanks to their growing fame both at home and abroad.

The Buddhist site received more than 8 million domestic and foreign visitors in 2016, up 21.37 percent year on year.

Since 2014, the Mogao Caves have set a daily limit of 6,000 reserved tickets plus an extra 12,000 emergency tickets to cater to the growing number of tourists during the peak travel season.

Transportation infrastructure has been built to cope with the large passenger flow. In addition to the airport expansion, easier transport links to Dunhuang were launched last year, including new trains from Beijing, and Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.


UM Museum Opens Photography Exhibit of Buddhist Caves


The exhibit “Dunhuang through the Lens of James and Lucy Lo” is now open at the UM Museum.

Images from China illustrate artistic and architectural achievements


OXFORD, Miss. – Photographs of the intricately painted Mogao and Yulin Caves in Dunhuang, China are on exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museum.

“Dunhuang Through the Lens of James and Lucy Lo” features photographs taken of the caves by the Los in the 1940s. The nearly 500 caves containing artwork are in the northwestern area of China along the ancient Silk Road and are a major Buddhist pilgrimage site. The caves, which served as spaces for meditation and worship, were painted between the fourth and 14th centuries.
The exhibit opened Jan. 10 in conjunction with the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, held on the UM campus Jan. 13-15. The free exhibit runs through April 29, and an opening reception is set for 6-8 p.m. Jan. 31.

Joshua Howard, Croft associate professor of history and international studies and a Chinese historian, proposed this exhibit to the University Museum.

“These photographs have high artistic value,” Howard said. “James and Lucy Lo used natural light and often placed mirrors in the caves to create special lighting effects and create a sense of the caves’ spirituality.

“James Lo also experimented with his photo angles; for instance, shooting a 50-foot reclining Buddha from the vantage point of the head of the statue rather than from the feet looking toward the head. The result is a more intimate and serene shot of the Buddha. Other landscape photos they took give a sense of the harsh but beautiful desert terrain the caves inhabit.”
The collection of 31 black-and-white photographs is from the Lo Archive and the P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art at Princeton University. The Mogao and Yulin caves illustrate artistic and architectural achievements, as well as provide an intimate look at the history of Buddhism and other religions of the region.

Museum officials were excited about the opportunity to open the exhibit to conference attendees, said Robert Saarnio, museum director. The conference included workshops, panel discussions, lectures and film screenings of Asian poetry and literature, history, language, art, philosophy and politics.

“These are exactly the kinds of multidisciplinary and cross-campus partnerships that the museum seeks to foster and welcome, wherein great art and artifact content can be exhibited in such close correspondence to curricular, research and teaching endeavors,” Saarnio said.
The museum, at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.


CARC launches new Gandhara Connections project thanks to support of the Bagri Foundation and the Neil Kreitman Foundation

The Classical Art Research Centre at Oxford University has launched a new project to advance and support the understanding of ancient Gandharan art and its links with the Graeco-Roman world. The project has its origins in an exploratory workshop held by CARC in 2013. Thanks to the support of the Bagri Foundation and the Neil Kreitman Foundation, the Centre will now be able to hold international workshops and other public events over the next three years, to produce open access publications representing the latest thinking about Gandharan art, and to develop a variety of online resources for anyone interested in the subject. These will be available through a new microsite:

The Buddhist art of Gandhara, in what is now roughly northern Pakistan, has attracted intense interest since the nineteenth century, particularly because of its largely unexplained affinities with the the art of Greece and Roman, thousands of kilometers to the west, as well as other traditions of the Indian Subcontinent and the ‘Silk Road’ regions. The Gandhara Connections project will focus especially on this theme, as well as unresolved questions around the chronology and local geography of Gandharan sculpture.

You can follow us with Twitter or Facebook for further information about the project as it develops, and we shall be making periodic announcements to this email list.

Classical Art Research Centre, University of Oxford
Twitter: @CARC_Oxford @GandharaConnect

Exploring China’s new frontier e

Reporter: Han Bin 丨

10-12-2016 13:01 BJT

The Ancient Silk Road was not only a trade route, but also a corridor for ideas to flow.

Today in the Uygur Autonomous Region, the major religion is Islam. Prior to the arrival of Islam, it was Buddhism. One of the greatest legacies from that time is the murals, in the Grottoes of Qiuci, another name for the ancient kingdom of Kucha. 

In today’s episode, reporter Han Bin takes us to see the paintings and what’s being done to restore them.

Entering an ancient kingdom, the paintings reveal a lost oasis on the Silk Road. For the past 18 years, Ye Mei has been investigating their secrets.

“I’ve always been curious to study how murals drawn some 2,000 years ago, have survived to this day. How can we better protect them to extend their survival in the future?” said Ye Mei, director of Institute of Qiuci Grottoes Protection.

Ye Mei told us the grottoes house the cultural achievements of the region’s ancient ethnic groups.

They show that ancient civilization was built on the integration of the dominant Buddhist culture with several other religious cultures.

The murals are rich and diverse in content. But time and the elements have taken their toll. And the actual number of grottoes and murals is still a mystery.

Ye said, “Qiuci was a very inclusive and prosperous society. It was a key hub of the ancient Silk Road, a key melting pot for different cultures. These characteristics are fully reflected in the paintings. Like this figure: he’s a high-ranking nobleman, with short hair, a half-length robe, and a small sword.”

For a long time, Qiuci was the most populous oasis in the Tarim Basin. The Qiuci Grottoes are the most famous Buddhist art site in Xinjiang. The influence of the different civilizations from the West and the East were profound. The glory enjoyed over one thousand years ago still lingers today. Continue reading

Caves declared open for photographers

020161010230233Source: Xinhua | October 11, 2016, Tuesday

MORE than 100 photographers from China and overseas gathered at the Mogao Caves in northwest China’s Gansu Province yesterday to be allowed in to take pictures for the first time.

The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand-Buddha Caves, are one of the largest and best-preserved sites of Buddhist art.

The Dunhuang Academy, the authority in charge of research, protection and management at the site, is sponsoring a six-day photographic event, in conjunction with the provincial literature and art circles federation, with the aim of demonstrating the art and historical richness of the caves.

Five caves dating to different historical periods will be open to photographers though the academy will retain the copyright of all photos, which will be reviewed and selected by experts with the results published on the official websites of the academy and the provincial photographers’ association.

Wang Xudong, the academy’s head, said: “Hopefully more people will understand the caves by photographing and joining the army that protects the precious cultural relics.”

The 1,600-year-old Mogao Caves feature a huge collection of Buddhist artworks — more than 2,000 sculptures and 45,000 square meters of frescoes in 735 caves carved along a cliff. It was China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1987.


Talk – Buddhist Art in Dunhuang and the Silk Road in China

Sep 05, 2016
(07:00 PM )

India Habitat Centre (IHC)
Lodhi Road , Delhi

Buddhist Art in Dunhuang and the Silk Road in China Speaker: Dr.Anu Jindal, Artist-Art Historian, shares insights of a recent visit to the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, a UNESCO world heritage site, on the edge of the Gobi desert. Prof. Lokesh Chandra, President, ICCR, will throw light on the Dunhuang artefacts. Chair: Suresh Jindal, filmmaker & writer, will make introductory remarks on Buddhism.


China’s ancient Buddhist grottoes face a new threat — tourists

In a Mogao cave, lit by the flashlight of a guide, a Buddha statue surrounded by disciples dating from the Tang Dynasty. Dunhuang grotto art is a combination of architecture, painted sculpture and murals. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

In a Mogao cave, lit by the flashlight of a guide, a Buddha statue surrounded by disciples dating from the Tang Dynasty. Dunhuang grotto art is a combination of architecture, painted sculpture and murals. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

Washington Post
By Simon Denyer May 16

At the heart of the ancient Silk Road, on the edge of the Gobi Desert, lies a centuries-old place of pilgrimage: hundreds of caves hewn from a sandstone cliff containing some of the most exquisite Buddhist frescoes and figures in the world.

Abandoned for centuries, the Mogao Grottoes somehow survived everything that nature and man could throw at them, including earthquakes, floods and sandstorms. Marauding Muslim rebels, plundering European explorers and White Russian soldiers all left their mark. Rampaging Red Guards were turned away at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution.

Today, the caves outside Dunhuang, in western China, enjoy a new stature, at the heart of Communist China’s efforts to revitalize and rebuild the Silk Road as a testament to its growing power in Asia. They also stand as a symbol of Sino-American cooperation in China’s cultural preservation, thanks to pioneering work by the Getty Conservation Institute.

But the fragile wall paintings, some of which date to the 4th century and show stories from Buddha’s life and visions of the afterlife, face another threat — from a new army of tourists and the lure of profit.

“In the past 100 years, most of the damage has been done by nature, but visits by more tourists will break the original balance inside the caves,” said Wang Xudong, president of Dunhuang Academy, which runs, preserves and restores the site. “Constant entrance and exit changes the temperature and humidity inside the caves. Human bodies also carry micro­organisms, and if they start to grow inside the caves, it would be very scary.”

A couple pose during a wedding photo shoot in front of the nine-story tower built around cave 96. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

A couple pose during a wedding photo shoot in front of the nine-story tower built around cave 96. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

Tourists visit the Crescent Lake, one of Dunhuang’s major tourist sites along with the Mogao caves. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

Tourists visit the Crescent Lake, one of Dunhuang’s major tourist sites along with the Mogao caves. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)

A couple pose during a wedding photo shoot in front of the nine-story tower built around cave 96. (Gilles Sabrié/For The Washington Post)
More than 1.1 million tourists visited the caves in 2015, a rise of 40 percent in just a year and a roughly 20-fold jump in the past two decades.
Continue reading