Author Topic: Princeton University: Bringing ancient Buddhism to light  (Read 1097 times)

Offline Dharmakara

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Princeton University: Bringing ancient Buddhism to light
« on: November 23, 2014, 09:37:01 pm »
The Mogao Caves in the desert of northwest China tell a story of art and Buddhism that began more than 1,500 years ago. Today, Princeton scholars are playing a key role as part of an international effort to understand this story, which unfolds at the heart of the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road.

The nearly 500 caves collectively called the Mogao Caves — a UNESCO World Heritage site — are carved into cliffs about 15 miles from the oasis town of Dunhuang in Gansu province. At the start of the 20th century the caves were discovered, and over time they revealed a treasure trove of sculptures, manuscripts, painted scrolls and wall paintings ranging in date from the 4th to the 14th centuries. The cave temples preserve about 2,000 Buddhist sculptures, 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 60,000 texts.

In collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy in China, Princeton students and faculty are exploring the significance of the site in history through researching, archiving and sharing information about the caves and their contents. Their work is important to conservation efforts to help preserve the caves and to fill the gaps in knowledge of what has been lost over time, deepening the understanding of Buddhist studies and art history.

James and Lucy Lo traveled to Dunhuang in 1943 and spent 18 months systematically photographing the exteriors and interiors of the caves. They produced an unparalleled set of black-and-white negatives, remarkable for their documentary value as well as their artistic quality. This photograph shows the site just as the Dunhuang Academy was being founded. The exterior walls of many of the cave temples had collapsed, exposing the cave interiors with their wall paintings and stucco statues to the elements. (View of the Mogao Caves circa 1943–44. Photo © Lo Archive)

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Dunhuang Academy, which has been responsible for conducting research, preserving, conserving and protecting the Mogao Caves. This view from May 2014 shows the current façade with gated doors leading into the caves as well as walkways between caves. (Photo by Cary Y. Liu, Princeton University Art Museum)

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