Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Monday, July 07, 2008
Buddha's Caves

The New York Times had a fabulous article in their Travel/Culture section this weekend on the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang, China.

I was lucky enough to visit this cultural treasure on my trip to China last year, although I have to admit, I had never heard of them prior to my visit. Having now seen them, I realize that I may have been lucky enough to have seen one of the great wonders of the world in person for the last time.

It was hard for me to document my visit to the caves since you cannot take photos, there are only 10-12 caves open to the public at any given time, they have no lighting, everything is done by flashlight, and often you can't even enter the cave completely. Despite all these conservation tactics, they are still deteriorating.

This article describes the caves in marvelous detail, and the slide show is magnificent. I bought the Getty Museum coffee table book describing the caves and their history just after I learned we were going to get to see them, and I was not disappointed.

I'm not sure why this cultural heritage sight has not gained more universal renown outside of China, but believe me, it's one of the most spectacular records of religious significance on earth and deserves preservation and academic study.

There are now talks of providing virtual museum access to the caves from a remote location using a multi media approach, which, in many ways would be visually superior to what I actually saw, and frankly, our docent's thick, Chinese accent made it hard to understand the narrative at each cave.

While virtual reality may resolve or delay the deterioration issue, there is no virtual reality for awe when you see something this magnificent in situ......
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:04 PM  
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