President Xi Jinping has long been captivated by the historical and cultural significance of Dunhuang, a city located in an oasis at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert and a major stop on the ancient Silk Road. Dunhuang is home to the renowned Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring 735 caves with over 2,000 sculptures and 45,000 square meters of murals.
During his visit to Gansu in 2019, President Xi finally fulfilled his long-cherished wish to explore the millennium-old grottoes. Despite his previous inability to visit, Xi had developed a deep emotional connection to the cultural relics of Dunhuang. He recited the achievements of Dunhuang expert Jiang Liangfu during an academic discussion in 2005 and encouraged the development of Dunhuang studies as a state leader in 2009.
For Xi, Dunhuang represents more than just history. He sees it as an important hub of Eastern and Western cultures and a symbol of past interactions along the Silk Road. It aligns with Xi’s vision to revive and expand cooperation along the ancient Silk Road routes through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed in 2013.
Xi’s commitment to the preservation of Dunhuang’s cultural relics is evident in his support for archaeologist Fan Jinshi. In 2019, he presented her with the national honorary title of outstanding contributor to cultural-relic protection. Xi emphasizes the importance of focusing on the protection of world cultural heritage over tourism and economic benefits. Advanced technologies have been employed to safeguard the priceless treasures of the Mogao Grottoes, including the establishment of a weathering mechanism study laboratory.
In his visit to the Library Cave, where numerous cultural relics were unearthed, Xi lamented the loss of around 40,000 pieces to various countries. He believes that a strong country can foster cultural prosperity, and has urged the Dunhuang Academy to digitally share its resources with the world. Thanks to advanced digital technology, a virtual duplication of the Library Cave is now accessible to the public, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the culture of Dunhuang.
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