Yungang Grottoes: changed to Fanfan

China Newsweek reporter/Xu Pengyuan

Published in the 2023th issue of China Newsweek magazine on April 4, 3

There is a small hillside on the east side of the first cave of Yungang Grottoes, which is mostly inaccessible and quite quiet. There is now a rock shaped like a mountain peak, and in front of the stone is a black tombstone with two lines engraved on it: "The mountain stream is always noisy, and the vast sea is never noisy."

This is the tomb of the famous archaeologist Su Bai, who died in Beijing in 2018 and where his ashes were buried three years later. Hang Kan, the director of the Yungang Research Institute and a student of Su Bai, told China Newsweek: "At that time, many of the places where Mr. Su worked wondered if he could be buried there. Later, his children decided to be buried in Yungang, because his cave temple research began in Yungang, several of his masterpieces are about Yungang, and his first national cave temple archaeology training course was also in Yungang. ”

In 1942, Su Bai, who was still studying at university, was deeply attracted by the magnificent cliff carved Buddha in Yungang during a holiday trip. In 1947, he was also in the cataloguing work of the Peking University Library, and when sorting out rare books, he stumbled upon the "Dajin Xijing Wuzhou Mountain Rebuilt the Great Grotto Temple Stele" - this is a text written during the reign of the Jin Dynasty in 1147, recording the history and reconstruction of the Yungang Grottoes, the original stele has long been destroyed, and the rubbings no longer exist, this inscription was copied in the late Yuan "Xiejin Zhi", but it was not published, and the text of "Xiejin Zhi" was copied when the "Yongle Dian" was compiled in the early Ming Dynasty, and it was later destroyed in the Battle of Gengzi, Fortunately, Miao Quansun's manuscript during the Guangxu period preserved this part.

In 1950, following the footsteps of the Yanbei Cultural Relics Survey Group, Su Bai went to the Yungang Grottoes to conduct a field investigation. In the following year, combined with the existing archaeological achievements, he wrote the first draft of "< Dajin Xijing Wuzhou Mountain Rebuilt the Great Cave Temple Stele > Proofreading", which was repeatedly revised and published in the first issue of Peking University Journal of Humanities in 1956. This article reconstructs the chronology of the Yungang Grottoes and the later history of their construction.

In the following decades, Subai always maintained his attention and research on the Yungang Grottoes, and successively published articles such as "Yungang Grottoes Phased Trial", "The Agglomeration of Pingcheng Strength and the Formation and Development of the "Yungang Model", etc., which not only comprehensively elaborated the artistic characteristics and historical background of the Yungang Grottoes, but also delimited the phases of the caves according to the grotto shape, statue content and style, and also put forward the theory of "Yungang Model", which established the key significance of Yungang in the history of Chinese cave temples in one fell swoop.

On a deeper level, Su Bai's research also opened a new stage in the study of the Yungang Grottoes. As Hang Kan said, "In the past, my research was more inclined to art history and art history, but Mr. Su mainly did his research from the perspective of archaeology." ”

Truly magnificent, the world wants

In the history of Chinese cave temples, Yungang is not actually the first.

From the third century BC to the ancient Indian Mauryan dynasty Ashoka Ashoka adopted Buddhism as the state religion, until the rise of Buddha statues in the first century AD, and then developed cave temples. During the Han Dynasty, Buddhism was introduced to China via the Silk Road, and the art of cave statues also gradually took root in today's Xinjiang region with the endless flow of camel bells. The Kizil Caves, excavated around the third century, are the earliest large cave complexes in China.

After Kyzil, the grottoes entered the hinterland of the Central Plains along the Hexi Corridor. During the Tang Dynasty, the emperor twice entered Shu to avoid disasters, the political and economic center of gravity once moved south, and the fire of the caves spread to Bashu and even Tibet. "We generally divide the [Chinese] grottoes into four regions, Xinjiang, the northern part of the Central Plains, and the southern region – mainly the present-day Sichuan Chongqing, but also Jiangsu and Zhejiang and Tibet." Hang Kan said.

According to the statistics of the national special survey of cave temples carried out in 2021, there are nearly 6000,<> cave temples and cliff statues preserved in China. In such a large scale, Yungang ranks among the four major grottoes and is famous not only because it is the first large grotto complex to appear east of Xinjiang, but also because it is also the first royal grotto excavated in the capital, but also because its large and small Buddha statues show the evolution of the northern nomads in the Central Origin and the Western Elephant Law Sinicization. The emergence of the Yungang Grottoes has brought the Chinese cave temples into a new stage, so Su Bai pointed out in the article "The Agglomeration of Pingcheng's Strength and the Formation and Development of the "Yungang Model", "From the Wanfotang Grottoes in Liaoning in the east to the Northern Wei Grottoes in Shaanxi, Gansu and Ningxia in the west, there are all traces of the Yungang model, and even the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes at the western end of the Hexi Corridor in the distance and with a history of cave opening earlier than Yungang are no exception." The breadth of influence of the Yungang Grottoes and the duration of their influence are unmatched by any other grotto. ”

In 398, Tuoba Jue defeated Later Yan and entered the Central Plains, with his capital at Pingcheng (present-day Datong, Shanxi), officially proclaimed emperor. He was a good old man and also read Buddhist scriptures, and once issued an edict to build stupas, Buddhist halls, lecture halls and zen rooms for Shamen in the capital, and also invited Zhao Jun Shamen Fa Guo to Jingshi "to think that the Taoist people are unified and the monks are taken care of." "After Emperor Tuoba of the Ming Yuan Dynasty came to the throne, he still practiced Buddhism and Buddhism, set up Buddha statues from the capital to various places, and ordered Shamen to "apply folk customs". When Emperor Taiwu Tuoba Tao came to power, he destroyed Northern Liang, which had developed Buddhism, many pagodas and temples, and countless monks and craftsmen, so that Liangzhou Buddhism spread eastward, and Northern Wei Buddhism ushered in a prosperous period.

Although the first abolition of Buddhism occurred in Chinese history after Tuoba Tao unified the north, as soon as the Wencheng Emperor Tuoba Hufu ascended the throne, he issued an edict to restore the Dharma, and Buddhism developed with greater momentum. "'The forbidden law that helps the king, the goodness of benevolence and wisdom'." He saw the ruling side of Buddhism. Hang Kan said that since the Northern Wei Dynasty was a regime established by the Xianbei people, it was inevitable to use religion to rule the Central Plains to a certain extent.

During the abolition of Buddhism by Emperor Taiwu, monks were either brutally killed or saved their lives, but a monk with a famous name always wore a legal uniform and strictly adhered to his faith. After the restoration of the law, Tanyao was appointed Shamen Tong, and he immediately proposed to Emperor Wencheng to carve Buddha in caves, and after receiving permission, in 460 AD, he led a group of masonry to smash the first hammer of excavating the caves at Mount Wuzhou, more than <> miles west of Pingcheng.

The "Weishu Shi Lao Zhi" records that Tanyao "opened five caves, one Buddha statue was built, 16 feet tall, 20 feet second, carved with qiwei, crowned in the first life." This is what later generations called the Five Caves of Tanyao. Nowadays, the academic community has organized these five caves as caves <>~<>, which are located on the east side of the western area of the entire grotto, where the natural cliffs are higher and the workload of chopping mountains is small, which is the most conducive area for excavation.

The overall concept and design of the five caves came from Tanyao himself, who came from Liangzhou and was familiar with the shape of the Buddha Shadow Caves in the Western Regions, so he used the old examples as a reference and integrated them into his own imagination. Despite this, the five caves still retain a clear exotic atmosphere, and the shadow of Gandhara art can be seen: for example, the iconic Cave 20 "Open-air Buddha", with towering meat buns, long eyebrows and thin eyes, high nose and deep eyes, upturned corners of the mouth, and beards, rich in Western ethnic characteristics, reflecting the Greek traces preserved in Indian Buddha image art; The clothing is also similar to the Indian Buddhist costume style, with monk branches inside, beads and honeysuckle ornaments on the edges of the armpits, a cassock on the outside, and a right shoulder, which is engraved with heavy clothing patterns, like imitation woolen clothing. For another example, the ten disciples on the east side of the main Buddha in Cave 18 have high noses and deep eyes, curly hair, backward foreheads, prominent cheekbones, and obvious jaws, all of which are typical Western faces. In terms of cave shape, these five caves are all large elephant caves, semi-circular horseshoe-shaped, dome roofs, obviously influenced by the Indian worship cave branch.

After the dawn, the excavation did not stop. From 465 to 494, five groups of twin caves and several smaller caves were excavated in the central and eastern parts. At this time, the plan of the caves was mostly square, with a front chamber and some central tower pillars. The cave is mostly carved flat, and the niches have upper and lower heavy niches, left and right symmetrical and roof-shaped niches. The subject matter of the statue was diverse, the number of large images decreased, and the ranks of secular providers began to appear.

This was the most prosperous period of the Yungang Grottoes, showing the magnificent momentum described by Yun Daoyuan in the "Notes on the Classic of Water": "The stone is hewn to open the mountain, because of the rock structure, it is really strong, and the world wants it." The mountain hall water hall, the smoke temple look at each other. This was also the period when the trend of localization began to be reflected in cave statues with the gradual sinicization of the Northern Wei Dynasty: for example, the statue of the bodhisattva on the west wall of the south wall of the window in the back room of Cave 8 began to show the facial features of the Han people, with a small and round nose, flat eye sockets, and a rich face; Cave 12, known as the "Music Cave", among the many musical instruments held by the tricks, there are both the five strings of the turtle, the vertical flute of West Asia and Persia, the Van Bei of Tianzhu, the humble Qiang flute, karmic drum, hujia, pipa, etc., as well as the zither of the Central Plains, pan flute, horizontal flute, qin, etc., and these dancing and flying tricks basically have no obvious gender characteristics, which is very different from the image of men and women flying in India; The costumes are also gradually sinicized, the Buddha statue in Cave 5 has been dressed in a clothed belt style Buddhist costume, and Cave 6 imitates the Han-style royal and aristocratic crown to create a new costume, the outer garment is a wide-sleeved Han-style robe, the cuffs are wide and long to the knees, the placket is left, the neckline is open to the chest, embellished with ribbons, and the bottom is a long skirt, the hem is loose and flowing, hanging to the ankle, and the pleats overlap; The shape of the grotto began to absorb the characteristics of Han architecture, and the façade such as Caves 9 and 10, which "six wooden buildings on the front", first appeared imitation wooden eaves and roof-shaped niches. In addition, according to Hang Kan explained to China Newsweek, "including Buddhist stories and the layout of decorative patterns, [also] it is very reminiscent of the composition of Han portrait stones."

In 494, Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to Luoyang, and the Yungang Grottoes, which had been excavated for 34 years, ended as a royal project. But the folk are still carving into the western cliffs, adding many small and medium-sized caves that are not grouped. The carvings of these caves are more elaborate, the lintels and tents are becoming more and more intricate, and the folds on the lower parts of the statue clothes are increasingly overlapping; The statue is more delicate, the Buddha has a thin neck and shoulders, and his expression is ethereal, and the bodhisattva is handsome and arrogant, which is completely in line with Chinese's imagination of the gods. At this point, the historical process of changing early Chinese Buddhist art into Xia was also completed.

However, with the move of the capital, the Yungang Grottoes gradually declined, and after the Northern Wei Dynasty, the successive dynasties only focused on repairs. There was the Tang generation, due to the influence of many factors, Yungang did not have any major projects; Major works during the Liaojin period were limited to large-scale refurbishment; By the Ming Dynasty, the grottoes were almost deserted and the temple buildings were burned down; In the eighth year of the Shunzhi reign of the Qing Dynasty, the wooden eaves and temples were rebuilt, and the Kangxi Emperor also gave the Yungang Temple a plaque "solemn law", and the grotto was also repaired during the Qianlong period.

"Datong is located in the agro-pastoral zone, and its ecology is fragile and cannot withstand large consumption. After moving the capital, nature is no longer so prosperous. And to open caves, especially large grottoes, must have an economic foundation. Hang Kan said that there are multiple factors behind the decline of the Yungang Grottoes: "On the other hand, beliefs in different periods will have different forms, and after the Song Dynasty, Buddhism has become more folk and secular, and the state no longer regards cave opening statues as a means of condensing social consensus." In addition, by the time of the Liao Dynasty, there was no place to open caves, so statues like those chiseled in Cave 11 in the Liao Dynasty could only use unfinished walls. ”

Rediscovery in the modern sense

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Yungang, which had experienced thousands of years of vicissitudes, was desolate and dilapidated, the one-kilometer-long cave group was separated by the ruins of the previous military fort, the eastern cave collapsed and decayed, the western cave was occupied by residential houses and stables, and the stone Buddha ancient temple in the central part was alone, with few pilgrims, and was no longer a Qing cultivation resort where everyone was flocking to the crowd. It was not until 1902, when a Japanese doctor of engineering named Tadashi Ito accidentally set foot in it, that Yunoka was rediscovered in the modern sense.

The previous year, Ito Tadashi led a Japanese delegation to the Forbidden City in Beijing for two months to investigate and map. This time back to China, at the same time as traveling, he learned from the mouth of the local prefecture that there was a cave temple in the suburbs more than 30 miles west of the city, so he immediately borrowed the county record to find relevant notes. The next day, before dawn, he set out for Yungang, and when the magnificent ruins appeared before him, he was "overjoyed, dancing and overwhelmed." Back in Beijing, he wrote this journey as "Yungang Travels", and a few years later, he published "Northern Qing Dynasty Architecture Survey Report" and "Yungang Cave Temple in the West of China", which pushed the ruins of Yungang to the vision of overseas academic circles.

After Ito Tadata, groups of Japanese scholars such as Omura Nishiya, Matsumoto Saburō, Kinoshita Sutaro, Kimura Hachi, Tokiwa Daijo, and Sekino Sada, went straight to Yunoka. The French sinologist Sha Yi and the Swedish scholar Xi Longren also visited Yungang and left the earliest investigation and photographic materials for the grottoes. As a result, Yungang Grottoes became famous and became a major visiting place for the world of architecture and fine arts.

From 1938 to 1944, scholars Toshio Nagahiro and Kiyoichi Mizuno of the Japan Institute of Oriental Culture (the predecessor of the Institute of Humanities and Sciences at Kyoto University) conducted a comprehensive survey, recording, and actual measurement of the Yungang Grottoes, and excavated some architectural ruins in front of and around the caves. Over the course of seven years, they acquired a wealth of valuable first-hand information, including photographs, rubbings and hand-drawn measurements. After 1945, Nagano and others terminated their investigation of the Yungang Grottoes and began to compile materials and reports. From 1951 to 1956, they published 16 volumes and 32 volumes, Yungang Grottoes: An Archaeological Survey of Buddhist Cave Monasteries in Northern China in the Fifth Century AD, which became the most comprehensive and systematic investigation of the Yungang Grottoes for a long time thereafter.

  当然,在云冈石窟逐渐成为一门显学的过程中,也不乏中国学者的身影。1919年,史学家陈垣就发表了一篇题为《记大同武州山石窟寺》的文章,对云冈石窟的历史进行了考证,11年后他又发表《云冈石窟寺的译经与刘孝标》,首次论及云冈的译经活动;1926年,陈万里撰文《云岗石窟小纪》;1929年,叶恭绰写作《大同云冈石刻毁失记》,呼吁对石窟加以保护;1933年,梁思成、林徽因、刘敦桢一行考察云冈,并撰写了《云冈石窟中所表现的北魏建筑》,从建筑专业角度阐释了云冈石窟的价值,同年,顾颉刚也编辑了《云冈造像史料》;1936年,周一良发表《云冈石佛小记》 ,大同学者白志慊出版《大同云冈石窟寺记》……只是由于种种原因,这些中国学者的研究虽然具有一定的开拓性,但未能建构出足够全面而精细的理论系统。因此与许多古迹研究相似的是,云冈在中国,云冈研究却在海外。

Therefore, when Su Bai overturned the periodization and methodology of Japanese scholars in 1978 with a "Theory of Yungang Grottoes Periodization", and redefined the three periods of Yungang Grottoes and the corresponding shape and image characteristics, fundamentally rewriting the basis of Yungang research, the Japanese academic community naturally could not follow it. In 1980 and 1981, Toshio Nagahiro published two articles, "The Yungang Periodization Theory of the Su Bai Clan" and "The Mystery of the Yungang Grottoes", which fiercely refuted Su Bai's research and even questioned the authenticity of the documents used.

Therefore, in 1982, Su Bai specially published the article "The Discovery and Research of the Great Cave Temple Stele Rebuilt by the Great Golden West Jingwu Mountain >< - Discussing Some Questions About the Yungang Grottoes with Professor Toshio Nagahiro of Japan" to answer Changguang's doubts and explain the authenticity of the "Daikin Xijing Wuzhou Mountain Rebuilt Great Cave Temple Stele". In the face of rigorous argumentation, Toshio Nagahiro finally admitted: "From the philological point of view, Professor Su Bai's reasoning should be correct, so the periodization theory is also logical. ”

So far, the archaeology of Chinese cave temples represented by Su Bai has become an important force in the field of Yungang research in the world that cannot be ignored and cannot be bypassed. Archaeologist Xu Pingfang has a sentence to evaluate the pioneering significance of Su Bai: "The era of Chinese cave temple research represented by Professor Changguang has ended, and the Chinese cave temple archaeology founded by Chinese historical archaeologists represented by Mr. Su Bai has been established." "

Search, rescue and preventive protection

After years of accumulation, China has now become an important town for Yungang studies. In 2019, the <>-volume "Complete Works of Yungang Grottoes" was published, becoming the most complete and authoritative image genealogy of Yungang Grottoes to date.

In this collection, in addition to the panoramic display of the carvings of all the cave groups, the value is particularly outstanding in the disclosure and combing of previous archaeological results. Many of these achievements come from excavations and research in just fifty years. Wang Yanqing, director of the History and Ethnic Integration Research Center of the Yungang Research Institute, told China Newsweek that in addition to the archaeological survey conducted by Toshio Nagahiro and Kiyoichi Mizuno in the thirties and forties, there were a total of four large-scale excavations around the Yungang Grottoes.

In 1972 and 1973, in conjunction with the reinforcement of the grottoes, the forecourt and the platform above the antechamber of Caves 9 and 10 were cleaned.

In 1987, during the repair and reinforcement project, archaeological excavations were carried out in front of some attached small caves in front of the small valley west on the east side of the summit of Cave 5, and the ruins of a Liao Dynasty hall were cleared, containing the remains of the ground stove, the remains of the monk's house and the remains of the pool.

From 1992 to 1993, in conjunction with the Eighth Five-Year Plan, a comprehensive cleanup of the ground in front of the cave was carried out. Among them, Cave 3, which is the largest cave in Yungang and one of the large caves that stopped construction in the middle of the way, found the unfinished rock floor left by the excavated grottoes in the Northern Wei Dynasty, the ground and foundation of the cave in front of the cave sorted out in the Tang Dynasty, and the rammed earth pillar foundation of the temple building remains built in the Jin Dynasty, and was rated as "Top Ten National Archaeological New Discoveries in 1993".

In 2008, the first roof excavation was carried out in parallel with the water seepage prevention project. Second excavation in 2010. In 2011, another Northern Wei Liaojin Pagoda-style monastery site was discovered at the top of Caves 5-6, as well as a Liaojin Foundry Workshop, including the remains of a casting shaft and an iron melting furnace. This is the most complete preserved foundry workshop in the Liaojin period in China, which is of great value for the study of "Tiangong Kaiwu" and the history of metallurgical casting, as well as the "lost wax casting method" of Song Liaojin, so it was awarded "2011 National Top Ten Archaeological New Discoveries".

From these journeys, it is not difficult to see that each archaeology is accompanied by the conservation of the caves. This is a major feature of cave archaeology, because excavations are inevitably destructive, and the thousand-year-old caves are so fragile that they can only be followed by some work to protect.

This may change a little in the future. On the one hand, the technology of archaeology and conservation will be constantly updated, and more importantly, the awareness of the cave heritage is undergoing a fundamental transformation. In February 2021, the Yungang Research Institute, which specializes in the protection, research and management of the Yungang Grottoes, was established, and President Hang Kan said: "In the past, protection was the most important function, so many places were called cultural management offices and cultural preservation offices. One of the great changes in the establishment of the Institute is that both protection and research are emphasized, and even research should be placed in a very prominent position. ”

Different from underground sites such as tombs, cave archaeology needs to take into account both field archaeology and cave archaeology, and all archaeological discoveries are related to the cave itself. Therefore, Hang Kan also emphasized: "In the past, we basically focused on the cave itself, but now we need to consider the landscape of the Yungang Grottoes at different times in combination with excavations." ”

"We are trying to restore all the movements of people from different eras here and further explore the mysteries of the Yungang Grottoes." But opportunities and challenges coexist, Wang Yanqing told China Newsweek, because the Yungang Grottoes have been in frequent activities since they were excavated, so the strata are seriously damaged, compared with the slightly better preserved Yungang Grottoes mountaintop Buddhist monastery site, the cave site is seriously damaged, and the preparation of archaeological reports is very difficult.

Although all artifacts have a life cycle, grottoes exposed to the natural environment face more threats and are more difficult to resist than small artifacts that can create microenvironments for protection. Sun Bo, a staff member of the Stone Cultural Relics Protection Center of the Yungang Research Institute, told China Newsweek that in addition to man-made damage, the unstable factors affecting the grottoes mainly involve three categories: "One is physical, originally the mountain was a whole, and later the craftsmen hollowed it out, and it was unstable from the structural point of view; One is chemical, such as atmospheric dust, precipitation; One is biological, such as some animals nesting in caves, some small animals climbing on Buddha statues, and some tree root splitting. ”

Among them, water damage is the most severe test. Atmospheric precipitation will cause direct erosion of the outer walls of the caves, and will penetrate through the mountain for many days, and may cause groundwater to rise; A large amount of condensate will occur alternately between wet and dry caused by temperature changes inside and outside the cave; Components such as salt and alkali in the water also accelerate the weathering of the grotto. Moreover, the destructive power of water damage does not only stop on the surface of the Buddha statue, but also affects the entire rock mass.

Therefore, since the State Council announced that the Yungang Grottoes are national key cultural relics protection units in 1961, the relevant maintenance and repair work has always been highly valued. In the 1960s, in view of the common problems of cracks, collapse and spalling of stone carvings, it was the first to use bolt pulling, epoxy resin grout bonding and traditional reinforcement technology in caves 1 and 2. In 1973, Zhou Enlai put forward the goal of repairing the grotto in three years, and then a large-scale rescue and reinforcement project was launched, which basically solved the problem of the stability of the cave and maintained the original appearance of the grotto to the greatest extent; In the 1990s, the "Eighth Five-Year Plan" protection project achieved initial results by reducing and hardening the ground in front of the caves, building protective eaves of caves 7 and 8 and waterproof drainage facilities on the top of the mountain, and the waterproof project was launched in 2002, which took five years to solve the serious water seepage problem in the western caves. Since 2012, the reinforcement of dangerous rocks in Wuhua Cave, the restoration of color plastic murals, the display of ground carving sites, and the construction of protective eaves have been completed one after another.

In the process, protection has also been gradually deepened, from salvage to preventive. In 1999, Yungang Grottoes began to be declared a World Heritage Site, and the following year, the demolition and relocation of the buildings and construction square in front of the mountain gate began. With the successful application in 2001, the comprehensive management of the surrounding environment was more comprehensively carried out, not only relocating a town and six villages nearby, but also building more than 5,<> square meters of supporting buildings and settings, creating a new closed scenic spot.

One of the most representative is the rerouting of National Highway 109. National Highway 109 was once the only highway leading to Yungang in Datong City, and as the famous "coal capital", coal trucks also drove outside the province endlessly. The road is only 350 meters away from the grotto, and a large amount of soot dust is attached to the grotto, covering the Buddha statue with a "black robe", and the vibration caused by the truck full of coal also affects the stability of the rock mass. In 1998, the 109-kilometer-long Yungang section of National Highway 26 was rerouted to eradicate the problem with an investment of 2 million yuan.

Small-scale diseases in the grotto statues and surrounding decorative carvings are also the key to affecting the value of cultural relics, but due to their small size, they are not easy to attract attention in large-scale projects. Since 2015, Yungang has successively completed the daily maintenance of the outer walls of the 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 13th and western caves, which has curbed the development of small diseases.

In the last two decades, conservation and research have also taken the tech express. Since 2003, Yungang has carried out digital collection and modeling of the grottoes through a combination of close-up photogrammetry, handheld 2030D laser scanning and station <>D laser scanning, and plans to achieve full digital coverage by <>, which is now half completed.

He Yong, a staff member of the Digital Protection Center of Yungang Research Institute, told China Newsweek that as early as the 2003s and 2005s of last century, some photogrammetry experiments of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development had been tried in Yungang, but due to various reasons, the effect was not satisfactory. "The real start [of digital acquisition] was in 2017, when laser scanning technology was officially introduced into the antiquities industry. By 3, the first elevation of a Chinese cave temple had been completed. In 2018, we completed the reproduction of the West Back Room of Cave 12, which was the world's first successful reproduction of immovable large-scale cultural relics; In 18, Caves 2020 and <> completed removable replicas. In <>, we built China's first advanced computing center in the field of cave temples. ”

He Yong said that the next step is to "build a digital cloud gang and provide information, network and intelligent support for the protection and governance, construction and development of Yungang", including sharing cultural relics with archaeologists and providing monitoring data for cultural protection personnel. Sun Bo also said that for the protection of large-scale heritage such as Yungang Grottoes, digitalization will help to understand the diseases in the caves in a more three-dimensional way and provide a scientific basis for evaluating the effectiveness of governance: "The ideal cave protection is divided into four stages. The first stage is salvage, the second stage is scientific, the third stage is simulation, and the fourth stage is artistic. We are now in the second phase and hope that more fields, more disciplines, and more people will participate. ”

Worldwide, however, heritage conservation remains a difficult problem for which no best answer has been found. All the attempts and efforts are only to try to extend the life cycle of cultural relics, but they cannot completely stop their demise. This is especially true for grottoes that are already fragile and will still face the wind and rain at all times. "But that's the charm of protection." Sun Bo said: "In many cases, we compare cultural relics to an old man, which is alive, and compare ourselves to a doctor, all we can do is extend its lifespan." ”

China Newsweek, Issue 2023, 12

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