The “Sacred Buddhist Temple–Silk Road and Yangtze River — Public Exhibition of Dunhuang Mural Paintings” opened on July 15 and will last one month at the exhibition hall on the third floor of Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum. It is open to the public free of charge. A total of 33 classical Dunhuang mural paintings, including the iconic “A Deer of Nine Colors,” have been brought out of dim caves to display the splendid beauty of Dunhuang mural paintings in a zero-distance manner.
The Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, praised as the most valuable cultural discovery in the 20th century, gain a world reputation for colorful mural paintings and lifelike statues. However, in Dunhuang, tourists can only be let into caves that are randomly opened to appreciate mural paintings in the dim torchlight.
New technologies have settled that problem. According to exhibition curator Zeng Xuejun, Dunhuang Academy China and the China Dunhuang Grottoes Conservation Research Foundation have taken advantage of modern digital technologies to replicate representative mural paintings in Dunhuang’s Mogao Caves and Guazhou’s Yulin Caves for this public exhibition.
All these mural paintings have been precisely duplicated through modern digital technologies. “In other words, every exhibit is identical to the original piece, even including the way how the painting fragments. We maintain the original works.”
Meanwhile, the exhibition has solved the problem that tourists cannot clearly see the paintings due to the limited space and dim light in caves. In addition, visitors can stand in front of exhibits to enjoy the fineness and elegance of each painting from its lines, colors, and overall picture.
For many young Chinese, scenes of exquisite painting frames in the cartoon “A Deer of Nine Colors” profoundly impacted them and are still in their minds. Among the exhibits showcased in this exhibition in Chongqing, we can see the mural painting “Jataka of the Deer King” from Mogao Cave 257, which provides creative inspiration for the cartoon “A Deer of Nine Colors.”
According to Zhang Qi, a cave guide at the Cultural Promotion Department of Dunhuang Academy China, Jataka tales embody the theme of sacrificing oneself in rescuing others. Such a genre holds a prominent position in mural paintings. Jataka tales refer to many personal stories of the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni.
In terms of the expressive form, Zhang Qi said the “Jataka of the Deer King” is painted in a rectangular frame and describes tales in sections, making the narrative tale rigorous and vivid.
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