CityU Presents: Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang

In China, Travel & Food on April 12, 2012 by KSA Asia

Grottoes? Hong Kong? A journey and revisit for Kit Sinclair, Director, KSA Asia.

A few days ago, I went to a fantastic visual animation of the Dun Huang grottoes that I saw in 1982 in Sinjiang. The City University has a new Creative Media Centre and worked with DunHuang Academy and a Hong Kong group called Friends of DunHuang to create an interactive 360 degree visualization of Cave 220 using virtual reality technology.

I felt like I was in the cave. I didn’t need all the animation stuff they did but actually it was really useful in telling the story of the cave and explains the detail that we would otherwise miss.  I wore 3-D glasses for the 40 minute show and talk and had my own interpreter as the show was in Cantonese. They allowed only 20 people into the show at a time (It was in a room about 20 feet in diameter) and you could only book for yourself…so I went on my own.

Apparently a number of people went who had been to the caves 20 and 30 years ago.  I found my diary that records that Jennifer and I visited caves 16 and 17 where manuscripts were found and a few other caves which I didn’t identify. Apparently we had the briefing after we’d been to the caves so were only told in hindsight what we’d seen. Seems to me we wondered in the desert and admired a couple of gorgeous carpenters sawing logs into boards….anyway, that is an aside.

The tour guide used a pointer to enlarge certain aspects of the paintings and told the story. The animation was done by bringing forward details like the musical instruments or the canopies over the Buddha’s head or the dancing divas across the bottom.

Best thing I have seen in ages, so innovative. And I have only just been the the Imperial Palace Museum in Taipei with all those wonderful treasures from China which the Kuomingtang took with them…and that was pretty spectacular. There is always more to see!

Pure Land - Inside the Mogoa Grottoes at Dunhuang
Credit: Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong and City University

The followng text is from the pamphlet. A big thanks to City University of Hong Kong and Dunhuang Academy for sharing this wonderful exhibit with the people of Hong Kong.

“The Grottoes brings to life the story painted as a single composition on the north wall of the Cave 220, known as Bhaisajyaguru’s Eastern Paradise. The detailed mural depicts the paradise Eastern Pure Land of the Medicine Buddha, Bhaisajyaguru. It shows the seven forms or emanations that Bhaisajyaguru can assume as a healer.

“They stand in a row on lotus platforms with a lotus pool below and, as in the painting opposite, a group of musicians accompanying dancers. The Bhaisajyaguru sutra tells of the twelve great vows of the Buddha, relating to the provision of food, drink, clothing, medicine, and spiritual aids. Devotees were encouraged to light lamps in worship and this is depicted in this painting to either side of the musicians and in the altar with lamps between the dancers.

Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang Pure Land immerses visitors in the quintessential heritage of hundreds of Buddhist grotto temples, an art treasury abounding with murals, statues and architectural monuments. This UNESCO World Heritage site, also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas is located at Dunhuang a small town in northwestern China, an oasis in the Gobi desert. It was a gateway to and from China on the ancient Silk Road, which carried trade between China, western Asia and India from the 2nd century BC until the 14th century AD for over 1000 years.


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