3D printing artworks of statues from Tianlong Mountain Grottoes go display in Taiyuan Museum in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, on Sept 26. [Photo/people.com.cn] 

To show Taiyuan city's latest achievements in the protection of cultural relics, a digital reproduction exhibition of the famous Tianlong Mountain Grottoes opened in Taiyuan Museum in Taiyuan in Shanxi province, on Sept 26.

The exhibition, hosted by the information office of the Taiyuan government and the Taiyuan cultural relics bureau, is expected to last half a year.

Excavated in the Eastern Wei (534-550), Northern Qi (550-577), Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, the Tianlong Mountain Grottoes comprise 25 caves and more than 500 statues of large and small stone Buddha statues, representing the achievements of the Chinese grotto art. 

However in the 1920s, most of the fine cultural relics in the Tianlong Mountain Grottoes were stolen and lost overseas. 

The digital reproduction exhibition is a partnership between Taiyuan Tianlong Mountain Grottoes Museum and the University of Chicago and Taiyuan University of Technology. 

It took the team six years to collect three-dimensional data of more than 100 Buddha statues of the Tianlongshan Grottoes scattered among 27 museums in nine countries around the world – and to use digital restoration technology to return the lost statues to their hometown. 

"It's 3D scanning technology and digital restoration technology allows the long-lost art to reappear in the Tianlong Mountain Grottoes," said Yu Hao, curator of the Taiyuan Tianlong Mountain Grottoes Museum. 

The project is an international joint exhibition program integrating modern multimedia technology with the research on grotto cultural relics protection. 

The digital reproduction exhibition uses 3D projection, digital cave immersive experiences, virtual reality experiences and holographic imaging to demonstrate the natural and cultural landscape of Tianlong Mountain, the history of ancient Jinyang city, original features and artistic features of the various grotto statues – as well as efforts to retrieve lost cultural relics. 

Early this April, Taiyuan started its international moving digital reproduction exhibition of the Tianlong Mountain Grottoes in Saint-Denis, France. 

This made it the first large-scale digital restoration tour of grotto arts in the world.

Officials said it is of great significance for the collection of more information about the lost cultural relics in Tianlong Mountain, promoting Shanxi and even Chinese culture – and carrying out international communications and cooperation over cultural relics.