Monday, 22 May 2017
Tourism and development threaten ancient painted caves in western China
“In the past 100 years, most of the damage has been done by nature, but visits by more tourists will break the original balance inside the caves,” says Wang Xudong, president of Dunhuang Academy, which runs, preserves and restores the site. “Constant entrance and exit changes the temperature and humidity inside the caves. Human bodies also carry microorganisms, and if they start to grow inside the caves, it would be very scary.”
The project has produced guidelines that have been applied to other grottoes across China, as well as principles that have helped the country better manage its heritage sites. It has also spawned a major new exhibition at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles that runs until September and includes full-size replicas of three of the caves.
Others who weren’t seeking relics inflicted their own sorts of damage. In 1870, Muslim rebels turned up at the caves, burning down many of the wooden ladders that gave access. They may also have been responsible for scratching off the faces from some of the paintings.