The Facts about Dunhuang – The Art Treasures of Dunhuang Series

November 19, 2021

The Art Treasures of Dunhuang is a series of three online lectures organized by Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto and Buddha’s Light International Association of Toronto. Ms. Lee Meiyin, a renowned researcher of Dunhuang Art and Culture, was the first speaker invited to present on Nov 13. Over 260 participants from Canada and Hong Kong attended this special presentation.

Ms. Lee Meiyin’s areas of research include the history, art and costumes of the ethnic minorities of China, Buddhist art, Dunhuang art, silk and embroideries. She is currently a specially appointed research fellow of Dunhuang Academy, and Vice President of the Friends of Dunhuang (Hong Kong). She also serves on the Board of Dunhuang Grottoes Preservation and Research Foundation of China, and as an expert advisor to the public museums of Hong Kong.

Ms. Lee prepared more than 300 pictures for the presentation, explaining its geographical location and historical importance. With each slide, she took the audience on a journey through the sculptures, paintings, murals and architectural monuments inside the grottoes to better understand the history, art and culture of Dunhuang treasures.

To further illustrate the different characteristics between Indian and Chinese art forms and culture, Ms. Lee contrasts India’s Gandhara Buddhist Art with the various murals and Bodhisattva statues in the Dunhuang caves. In order to fully appreciate the Dunhuang art and culture, it can be done only through careful examination of the individual art pieces, scrutinizing the composition, lines, colours, expressions and the amalgamation of the various cultures during that time. These magnificent images exuded the truth of the Dharma.

Since 1948, there have been many conservation efforts at Dunhuang. Famous Chinese painters such as Zhang Daqian had spent time at the caves to copy the paintings and also held exhibitions to raise awareness of the Dunhuang treasures. A lot of people realized the academic value and the importance of preserving and promoting the Dunhuang art, being influenced by the exhibition of Master Zhang’s Dunhuang wall paintings mentioned earlier. These include the first Director of the Dunhuang Research Academy Professor Chang Shuhong who had made a great contribution to the study of Dunhuang. Fortunately, Professor Chang Shuhong and his successors, including Director Duan Wenjie and Director Fan Jinshi have also made significant contributions to Dunhuang culture. These included restoration and stabilization of the paintings and their replica, reinforcement of the caves and cliff face, repairs made to the walkways and installation of security and safety systems.

"Digital Dunhuang" is a project that aims to protect cultural heritage through technology. In 2016, the first phase of the Digital Dunhuang resource database went online. People from all over the world can enjoy high-definition images and panoramic tours of 30 caves on the Digital Dunhuang website. This project is pursuing overall digitization, including the collection, processing and storage of the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes and related cultural relics using advanced science and technology.