Art & culture, GS-1, Uncategorized

Digitising data on ‘stolen’ Buddhist relics

The Hindu

What happened?

  • Chinese authorities are engaged in a major international effort to digitally accumulate information on the priceless cultural treasures of the Buddhist caves in Dunhuang — murals, statues and manuscripts — that were taken away by Western expeditions and ended up mostly in museums of Europe, Asia and the U.S.

Dunhuang Buddhist caves

  • Dunhuang Buddhist caves, housing 2,000 painted sculptures and half a million square feet of wall paintings, are in the Gobi desert, at a major junction of the ancient Silk Road.

Indian Connection

  • Aurel Stein, former principal of Oriental College, Lahore, removed 24 trunks of ancient Buddhist scriptures and five boxes of paintings, embroideries, and other artworks from the Mogao caves, all for a princely sum of £130.
  • The artworks brought by Stein have been deposited in the British Museum, but an impressive collection has also been exhibited at the National Museum at New Delhi.
  • In fact, Stein’s 1913-16 expedition was funded by the government of India, with the understanding that majority of the finds of this excursion would lay the foundation of a new museum in Delhi.

International Dunhuang Project (IDP)

  • The International Dunhuang Project (IDP) is an international collaborative effort to conserve, catalogue and digitise manuscripts, printed texts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and various other archaeological sites at the eastern end of the Silk Road.
  • The project was established by the British Library in 1994.
  • The Dunhuang Academy is a major fulcrum of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP).
  • It aims to unite information on “all these artefacts through the highest quality digital photography by coordinating international teams of conservators, cataloguers and researchers”.
  • The National Museum in New Delhi is a founding member of the IDP.

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