Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang

Where: Sackler Gallery

When: through December 9, 2013

This fantastic exhibit is only running through tomorrow, so run down to the Mall to see this before it leaves for Hong Kong.  Unlike most exhibits, you need a ticket for this show.  They're free of charge and available at the information desk in the Sackler lobby.  You gather there at the appointed time, and get a brief overview of the Chinese caves that you'll see reproduced in a tent in the Sackler garden.  The idea of using caves as places of worship began in India, where Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves can be found.  The trade between India and China brought the practice to China, where hundreds of caves were decorated with Buddhist paintings and statues.

The years have taken their toll on the caves, and visitors are now only allowed in a few of the caves at a time, in order to preserve what art remains.  Scholars from a university in the area have taken incredibly high-quality photographs of the caves and these have been made into part of a multimedia display involving animation, music, recoloring of part of the paintings and more.

Trying to describe this experience is difficult - you really have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.  Luckily for those not able to see it this weekend, the Sackler is trying to bring this back to its collection permanently; I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be successful.

Verdict:  If the idea of combining antiquities with 21st century technology is appealing, don't miss this show.

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