The Art History Newsletter

Dunhuang Caves Endangered

by | 18 January 2007 | Asia, Conservation

The official China Daily writes on efforts to save frescoes and statues in the Dunhuang Mogao Caves: “Artisans began working on the caves in the Mingsha Mountain in AD 366, or 1,641 years ago. The more than 3,000 Buddha statues and the frescoes that together can add up to 30 kilometers are a treasure trove for archeologists and art historians. UNESCO listed the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes as a world heritage site in 1987. The people, no doubt, have spread their fame farther and wider, but they unwittingly began damaging them, too. Add to that increased farming and grazing and sudden urban expansion and you have a recipe for disaster at least for fragile heritage sites like the caves. Irrigation, grazing and urbanization depleted the underground water reserve. Diversion of water sources for irrigation and everyday use created a shortage above ground. The result: drier weather and intensified desertification. To reverse the situation, the authorities and the people are taking measures to improve the environment and control the number of visitors.”