Xinhua Headlines: Protecting Dunhuang's ancient heritage through digital tech-Xinhua

Xinhua Headlines: Protecting Dunhuang's ancient heritage through digital tech

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-07-12 20:30:47

* The naming of an asteroid after Chinese archaeologist Fan Jinshi was awarded for her contribution to protecting the millennium-old Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

* The "Digital Dunhuang" project put forward by Fan has seen the compiling of the digital data collection on 278 caves.

* The project has facilitated virtual access to the treasures for millions of people.

LANZHOU, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The naming of an asteroid after esteemed Chinese archaeologist Fan Jinshi earlier this week has been widely cheered on Chinese social media.

Fan, 85, started to work in Dunhuang in 1963 and made a lifelong career out of protecting and studying the cultural relics in the millennium-old Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dunhuang, in northwest China's Gansu Province.

This aerial photo taken on April 25, 2023 shows the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, northwest China's Gansu Province. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)

The celestial honor was awarded to Fan in recognition of her contribution to the archaeological survey and conservation of Chinese grottoes, including the construction of "Digital Dunhuang," according to a document issued by the International Astronomical Union.

The "Digital Dunhuang" project was put forward in the late 1980s by Fan, then executive deputy dean of the Dunhuang Academy, in the hope of introducing the digital protection of this cultural heritage and preserving the associated data in high fidelity.

By the end of 2022, the Dunhuang Academy had finished compiling the digital data collection on 278 caves, image processing for 164, and the 3D reconstruction of 145 painted sculptures and seven ruins, while delivering a panoramic tour program for 162 caves.

With the help of ever-advancing digital technology, the project has also facilitated virtual access to the treasures for millions of people, without the need to open and access the actual caves.

In 2022, the academy's various online platforms recorded about 400 million visits from 120 countries and regions, said Du Juan, deputy director of the media center of Dunhuang Academy.

Over the years, the institute has continued to explore various modes of cultural protection and promotion, taking advantage of the "Digital Dunhuang" project outcomes.

In 2008, an exhibition featuring a high-fidelity reproduction of a famous mural in Cave 61 from the Mogao Grottoes was presented in Beijing. The replica was based on the digital data of a large mural of more than 40 square meters, which took researchers three months to create, from taking pictures to splicing them in a perfect manner.

Liao Xueting, a marketer from the Dunhuang Academy's digital preservation team, walks past a high-fidelity replica of a mural in Dunhuang, northwest China's Gansu Province, April 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)

Digital images from the project were used to create an immersive 8K high-resolution movie about the grottoes, and in 2014, this was shown for the first time to visitors on a domed screen in the digital display center of Dunhuang.

An online platform was launched in 2016, sharing high-definition images and panoramic views of 30 classic caves from the Mogao Grottoes with a global audience.

In 2020, a mini app of the site was launched on WeChat, giving travelers convenient access to virtual tours and information at their fingertips, registering more than 200 million visits to date.

In 2022, a blockchain-based digital resource-sharing platform went online, making available more than 6,500 archived high-definition digital images showing murals and manuscripts from the Mogao Grottoes and other grotto sites in Dunhuang.

People watch a fulldome digital film at a digital center in Dunhuang, northwest China's Gansu Province, March 14, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)

Despite the digitization project, which has improved the efficiency and accuracy in the cultural protection work, the monitoring and operation of the machines on site requires human labor and wisdom.

Su Bomin, dean of Dunhuang Academy, said that the digitalization project has covered only about half of the caves so far, adding that data collection in the caves is hard work.

The interior is gloomy and cold, with the daily high temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius even in summer, and data-collecting staff need to wear winter coats.

Su said the institute will continue to improve sci-tech innovation and complete the digital archives for each cave, mural and sculpture. (Video reporters: Zhao Danping, Min Jie, Jia Zhao, Zhang Wenjing, Ma Sha; video editors: Zhang Yucheng, Hui Peipei, Zhou Yang) 


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