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"Dunhuang - Untold Tales, Untold Riches" exhibition unveiled at Heritage Museum (with photos)

     The opening ceremony of "Dunhuang - Untold Tales, Untold Riches", the grand finale of a series of exhibitions presented this year by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, was held today (November 27). Officiating at the opening ceremony was the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam.

     The other officiating guests were the Director of the Dunhuang Academy, Dr Fan Jinshi; the Deputy Director of the General Administration Office, State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Mr Wang Jinhua; Steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Dr Rita Fan; the Chairman of the History Museum Advisory Panel, Mr Stanley Wong; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Ms Michelle Li; and the Museum Director of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Ms Belinda Wong.

     Running from tomorrow (November 28) until March 16 next year, the exhibition is not only the largest of its kind ever held in Hong Kong, but also the largest among all exhibitions ever organised by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, with a total gallery area of 2,300 square metres. Through showcasing some 120 sets of exhibits, the exhibition introduces numerous aspects of Dunhuang culture including religion, art, history and folklore.

     Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mrs Lam said that it is an honour for the Hong Kong Heritage Museum to present this exhibition with the Dunhuang Academy. The exhibition marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Dunhuang Academy and pays tribute to a group of scholars who ventured into the Gobi Desert during the past century to start copying mural images and study and preserve the caves and relics of Dunhuang. Without their dedication and effort, today we may not have the opportunity to understand and appreciate Dunhuang culture.

     Mrs Lam said, "Dunhuang culture contains knowledge that one can never learn in a lifetime, art that will be appreciated for generations and endless interesting stories. Visitors should spend time to enjoy the exhibition in close detail to appreciate the splendour of Dunhuang culture's monumental knowledge and the exquisiteness of its small features."

     Dunhuang was a strategically positioned city on the ancient Silk Road with the Central Plains of China on its east and the western regions on its west, and different cultures and artistic aspects of various dynasties and regions integrated to give the Dunhuang caves a rich and exuberant outlook. The vast content of architecture, murals, painted stucco statues and documents has left behind precious information and has thus been referred to as the "Encyclopaedia of the Middle Ages" and a "Library on the Wall". Among the caves, the Mogao Caves host the most well preserved and most extensive group of rock-cut caves in the Dunhuang region. It is also the most vast extant conglomeration of Buddhist rock-cut temples in the world. In 1987, the Mogao Caves were among the first batch of Chinese sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, reflecting their cultural value.

     The exhibition begins with the origins and history of Dunhuang, and unfolds chronologically to reveal aspects in religion, art, social life, East-West cultural exchange and cultural relics preservation in order to illuminate the magnitude, dissemination and development of Dunhuang culture. The exhibits cover all of the core aspects of Dunhuang grotto art, including replica caves, replica painted stucco statues, Buddhist script items, relics of Dunhuang, and copies of the cave murals produced by the founding pioneers of the National Dunhuang Art Research Institute (a precursor to the Dunhuang Academy), including Mr Chang Shuhong and Mr Duan Wenjie.

     Among the highlight exhibits is a 13-metre-long replica painted stucco statue of the Nirvana Buddha, which was constructed during the 8th and 9th centuries when Dunhuang was under Tibetan rule. The length of the original reclining Buddha is 15.8 metres, making it the largest among all depictions of the Nirvana Buddha at Mogao. The Buddha is portrayed as lying on his right side with a subtly smiling face, reflecting the ultimate realm of enjoying spiritual tranquillity. Another highlight is "Chapter on Universal Gate of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Lotus Sutra", which is the only extant example of an illustrated sutra written in the Tangut script in China. The work is rich in content, with the upper section occupied by illustrations while the lower section is reserved for printed text, thus providing an important historical reference for studying the culture of the Western Xia period.

     The museum has also constructed three significant replica caves. The largest one recreates a representative cave that is from the early Tang dynasty and is one of the very few firmly dated Dunhuang caves. The smallest replica is based on a cave that was constructed in the late Yuan dynasty and is the only extant cave at Dunhuang devoted entirely to Avalokitesvara. The last one recreates a cave constructed during the Northern Liang regime at the end of the Sixteen Kingdoms period and which is one of the earliest extant caves at Mogao. Produced at full scale, these three replica caves show the murals and stucco statues of the caves and allow visitors to experience the charm of Dunhuang culture.

     The exhibition is jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Dunhuang Academy, and co-organised by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Dunhuang Academy. Solely sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, it is one of the exhibitions in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Series. It is also supported by the Commercial Press (Hong Kong) Limited, the Hong Kong Design Institute, the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Lee Wai Lee) and the Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong.

     For details of the exhibition and related programmes, please visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum's website at or call 2180 8188 for enquiries.

Ends/Thursday, November 27, 2014
Issued at HKT 20:11


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