The fifth phase of the Joint Research on the Conservation of the Mural Paintings of the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes is in its second year. Staff of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo was sent to Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes for three weeks from May 8 to conduct the first half of this year’s joint investigation. Investigation that was begun last year was continued at Cave 285, which is considered very important because of the inscriptions of the years 538 and 539 found there and of its traditional Chinese subjects in addition to its Buddhist art. Photographs were taken and analysis using digital microscopes and visible spectroscopy were conducted. Moreover, additional sampling was done not only from the walls of Cave 285 but also from those of Caves 268, 272 and 275, which are considered the earliest extant examples, to determine the period of the caves by radio-carbon dating in a joint study with Nagoya University. Various preparations were also made for the latter half of the joint investigation, which is scheduled for this summer, and for the joint research that will be conducted with the staff of the Dunhuang Academy who will be visiting Japan after autumn. Furthermore, three graduate students went to the Mogao Grottoes from Japan with this investigation team. They were selected from different fields of discipline – namely conservation science, restoration of paintings and management of cultural heritage – as “trainees dispatched to Dunhuang” by public announcement. They will stay in Dunhuang until mid-September and receive guidance from specialists at The Conservation Institute of Dunhuang Academy concerning diverse matters related to the protection of mural paintings. This training is expected to continue for three more years and will open the way for young Japanese specialists, who have little chance to directly study the conservation of mural paintings. We expect them to contribute to conservation in the future both in Japan and overseas.
Photographing in Cave 285 of the Mogao Caves