China is building a national research center on wall paintings protection in Dunhuang on the ancient Silk Road, which experts believe will help better safeguard China's cultural heritage.
The National Engineering Research Center for Conservation of Ancient Wall Paintings, plans for which were unveiled Thursday at the Dunhuang Academy in northwest China's Gansu Province, would take three years to complete and would cost 34 million yuan (about 5 million U.S. dollars), Su Bomin, chief of the protection institute of Dunhuang Academy, said Friday.
The academy, in Dunhuang City, is an institute specializing in the protection of grottos and the restoration of murals and cultural relics.
Of China's 38 sites on the World Heritage List, 11 have ancient murals. Dunhuang, a booming town on the ancient Silk Road, is home to more than 800 grottos that are at least 1,600 years old.
The Mogao grottos, known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, were added to the World Heritage List in 1987. Altogether 735 caves have been found and frescos on the inside walls cover an area of 45,000 square meters.
China boasts a large number of ancient murals, but many of them have suffered damage because of natural erosion, human activities and the lack of systematic protection.
Su said the new center would play an important part in helping provide information on two major protection issues relating to ancient murals that have baffled Chinese conservators: the links between the natural environment and degradation of paintings, and how the negative impact of modern engineering measures on original murals can be limited, said Su, who will be the center's deputy chief.
The investment will be provided by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Gansu provincial government and the academy, Su said.
The center's 80 staff will cooperate with domestic research institutes such as Lanzhou and Zhejiang Universities on research, and will also invite experts from foreign organizations on exchange programs.