Dunhuang, an oasis on the ancient Silk Road in northern China, is known for its caves containing some of the world’s finest examples of Buddhist art, created over a period of 1000 years. Millions visit this UNESCO world heritage site each year.
“We are honoured to have been chosen as London’s temporary home for one of these extraordinary caves” – Dr Khaled Azzam, Director of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts
From 16 May – 15 June 2017, The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, in Shoreditch, is exhibiting a life-size, exquisitely hand-painted replica of one of the most beautiful Dunhuang caves, Mogao Cave 3. These caves form an enormous complex of temples – of which the Mogao Grottoes are the most famous. They were elaborate, beautifully painted and used as places of meditation, worship and pilgrimage from the 4th to 14th centuries. Desert sand sealed up many of these caves, but in 1900 a treasure trove of 50,000 manuscripts, hidden since the 11th century, was discovered in one of the caves, recording a vibrant history of cultural, scientific and spiritual exchange. Precious manuscripts, prints and textiles from the Dunhuang caves are now preserved by the International Dunhuang Project in collections around the world.
Dr Khaled Azzam, Director of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, says: “We are honoured to have been chosen as London’s temporary home for one of these extraordinary caves. We hope Londoners and anyone visiting London will take this rare opportunity to see close-up, these exquisite examples of some of the world’s earliest Buddhist artwork – just as pilgrims, traders and worshippers would have made when they stopped at this crucial junction on the ancient Silk Road. We are immensely grateful to the Dunhuang Research Academy and to the Dunhuang Culture Promotion Foundation for paying us this honour.”
The actual cave is now so fragile it is closed to all visitors. Considered the most important of the ten late-Yuan dynasty caves, Mogao Cave 3 is the only one entirely devoted to the Avalokitesvara Sutra. The exhibition will also feature replicas of other cave murals, sculptures and manuscripts.
The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts is also hosting nine practical art courses relating to the paintings in the Dunhuang caves. These include learning traditional mural techniques and making vibrant pigments by grinding mineral rocks. The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts is also hosting nine practical art courses relating to the paintings in the Dunhuang caves. These include learning traditional mural techniques and making vibrant pigments by grinding mineral rocks.
The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts was founded in 2004 by HRH The Prince of Wales to teach the theory and practice of the world’s traditional arts at post-graduate level. Based in Shoreditch, London, its education programmes now extend far beyond the UK, introducing new generations to traditional arts and crafts through practical courses, lectures, research degrees and community-based projects. The Prince’s School is recognised for its academic and research excellence, its high standards of practical skill and craftsmanship, and for its open and holistic philosophy.
The Dunhuang Research Academy was established by the Chinese government in 1943 as the Dunhuang Art Institute. Today, the Dunhuang Research Academy is a national institution responsible for the conservation, management and research of the Mogao Grottoes (a world cultural heritage site at Dunhuang), the Yulin Grottoes (a nationally protected key cultural heritage site at Guazhou), and the Western Thousand-Buddha Grottoes at Dunhuang.
Scholars and artists have made detailed records and replicas of the artworks and manuscripts found in the region. The Academy’s extensive, painstaking work conserving the cliff surface and the caves, and producing digital tours of their contents for visitors, is making these extraordinary historic testimonies informative and accessible for present and future generations.
Visit Exhibition, free admission: 16 May – 15 June 2017