A THOUSAND YEARS OF ART IN THREE DAYS
To celebrate International Museum Day 2019 the Ming-Ai (London) Institute organised an overseas field study trip to the famous Dunhuang Cave-Temples in the Gobi desert of Ganyu Province, China.
Led by Dean Chungwen Li and Programme Leader Jane Wang the group had an intense three days; meetings with conservators from the Dunhuang Research Academy who oversee the site and visits to the Dunhuang, Yulin and Xi Qain Fo Caves to see the wonderful deity paintings, artefacts and documents that they had only seen previously online.
The group were hosted by researchers from the Dunhuang Research Academy’s digital department and had privileged access to learn about the challenging restoration and stabilization of the murals and the digitisation programme leading to the important online digital reconstruction of the site.
Central to this trip was the appreciation of the role of Buddhist culture in the creation of a unique cultural and trade crossroads on the Silk Road and the immense cultural value of the preservation of Buddhist art and ritual heritage to Dunhuang.
The cave-temple complex was also a test site for the development of the China Principles, a set of international standards for preserving cultural heritage—not only in terms of physical assets, but also with respect to local traditions, environment, and history. The students were also able to observe the heritage management of the UNESCO site and make comparisons of lodging and cuisine of a uniquely managed Chinese Cultural heritage site with western counterparts.
The group were warmly received by experts from the Dunhuang Research Academy and valuable contacts and information were exchanged as to the teaching of the Ming-Ai MA programme and that of the Dunhuang Research Academy.
Before reaching Dunhuang the students also visited Xi’an, the starting point of the Silk Road in Shanxi Province. This famous ancient capital has been designated as the capital of 13 ancient Chinese dynasties. All left a rich legacy of cultural relics including 314 key cultural relics sites ( 84 under state and provincial protection) and some 120,000 unearthed cultural relics! The students also visited the world famous site of Qin Emperor’s Terra-Cotta Soldiers and Horses and other historical places.
This trip was truly a life-changing for the students both as a learning experience but also one rich in historical and religious significance.