256-china-caves
The network of 236 sandstone caves extend over an area of two to three kilometres in the vast, sparsely-populated autonomous Xinjiang region of China, along the ancient Silk Road

Urgent conservation work is needed to save a series of caves in northwest China containing ancient murals by Buddhist monks, which are threatened with destruction from the forces of nature.

The network of 236 sandstone caves extend over an area of two to three kilometres in the vast, sparsely-populated autonomous Xinjiang region of China, along the ancient Silk Road. The caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks and used as temples between the third and the eighth centuries, and are lined with murals providing a rich picture of early Buddhist culture.

The caves, known locally as Kezer, are prone to deterioration, particularly from moisture, because of their geological composition, which includes many soluble salts. Although the region is very dry, any rainwater could have “distastrous consequences”, according to Giorgio Bonsanti, an expert in wall painting preservation. He told our sister paper, Il Giornale dell’Arte, “the signs of progressive decay, which in the long term would turn everything to sand, are dramatically evident.”

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Hannah McGivern
The Art Newspaper

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