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Restoration of Aerzhai Grottoes achieves new progress

Updated: Nov 8, 2023 Print
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An exterior view of the Aerzhai Grottoes. [Photo/WeChat account of Ordos Culture and Tourism]

Thirteen caves with murals were restored last month as part of a project to recondition the famous Aerzhai Grottoes, according to the latest information released by the Aerzhai Grottoes Research Institute. The renovated area spans 298.57 square meters.

The Aerzhai Grottoes are located in Otog Banner of Ordos city, in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The site is also known as the "Grassland Dunhuang" in reference to the World Heritage Site in North China housing the Mogao Caves, a complex of hundreds of Buddhist grottoes featuring murals and statues from the fourth to 14th centuries.

The Aerzhai Grottoes comprises 65 caves and 22 relief stone towers, with 41 of the caves well preserved. The painted murals show scenes of yurts, people riding and shooting, hunting, and funeral customs.


Restoration work is underway at the Aerzhai Grottoes. [Photo/WeChat account of Ordos Culture and Tourism]

These are the only grottoes in China's grassland area and a treasure trove of Buddhist art integrating architecture, cliff carvings, murals and sculptures.

"This restoration project is mainly to repair the murals which have been suffering from surface pollution as well as cracking and curling paint," said the director of the Aerzhai Grottoes Research Institute.

The murals were mainly painted during the Western Xia (1038-1227) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. Due to the area's harsh natural conditions, they are in danger of disappearing; the restoration work's goal is to delay this and hopefully achieve their long-term preservation.

In 2024, the restoration work will be continued.

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