Institute acts to protect Yungang Grottoes

( Updated: 2021-11-23

The Yungang Grottoes Research Institute has achieved great results in the protection of the cultural relics of the Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – located in Datong city, North China's Shanxi province – as well as in its studies of the grottoes.

The institute has increased the application of scientific and technological means in the protection of the relics. This has included the No 14 cavern waterproof and dangerous rock mass treatment project and the application of 3D laser scanning technology in the digital copying of the Yungang Grottoes and of their cultural relics.

It has also carried out daily maintenance work on the 5th, 7th and 8th caves in the grottoes – to minimize weathering of the surfaces and prevent the development of fissures and other stone deteriorations and disturbances. 

In May, the Academician Scientific and Technological Innovation Center of Shanxi Cultural Heritage Protection settled in the institute.

The center focuses on mitigating damage and deterioration of stone relics and on weathering treatments, carrying out innovative research, as well as gathering data for the protection of cultural heritage in Shanxi. It also provides support for the institute by recruiting and training innovative scientific and tech professionals, improving independent innovation capabilities, and developing core technologies and standards systems for the protection of cultural relics.

Another cultural relics protection organization – Shanxi Provincial Key Laboratory of Grottoes Protection and Inheritance – was founded in the institute in October.

It focuses on the difficult problems facing the protection of the grottoes' cultural relics. It also looks at building a cultural relics innovation system, for basic research into protecting the cultural relics of sandstone cave temples – as well as key technological research and development, the transformation of scientific and technological achievements and information sharing.

With regards to the studies conducted of the Yungang Grottoes, researchers at the institute have increased the tempo of proceedings by improving various related disciplines and conducting research on the ethnology of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), Yungang iconography, as well as looking into Silk Road culture and ethnic integration.

Books concerning academic research results over the past 30 years and cultural research on decoration of the Yungang Grottoes have been published.

All these efforts have made the Yungang Grottoes a hot destination for tourists, a favorite for experts in cultural relics research and a subject of popular concern for the public.

The 1:1 3D-printed replica of the 3rd cave in the Yungang Grottoes made by the institute – displayed in the city of Qingdao, in East China's Shandong province – has attracted up to 90,000 daily visitors. Similar replicas of the 12th and 18th caves, on show in East China's Zhejiang province and in the national capital Beijing, respectively, have also attracted great interest among the public.

On Oct 12, a national academician forum on research into cultural relic protection and scientific and technological innovation was held in the city of Datong. More than 80 academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences – as well as established experts and scholars who have been working in the field of cultural relic protection – discussed systematic solutions to tech bottlenecks impeding cultural relics protection.

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