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25/09/2013

Dunhuang under new colors

While the ambitious plan to revive the Silk Road (famous travel route for last minute China travel deals ) by building an economic belt hit recent media headlines, dozens of painters are working silently in the gloomy caves of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu Province, once a major stop along the ancient route.

With brushes and mineral pigments, they copy wall paintings stroke by stroke, trying to preserve the Buddhist art made by their ancestors over a millennium dating back to AD 366.

Housing 45,000 square meters of murals and 2,415 painted sculptures, the 492 caves of the Mogao Grottoes were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987.

Starting in 1941, Chinese artists, including Zhang Daqian and Chang Shuhong, moved to Dunhuang (must-see destination for Silk Road tour) with their families and spent years copying and preserving the spectacular relics.

"Such copies can help the paintings endure and display this unmovable art to more people," Wang Xudong, director general of Dunhuang Academy, told the Global Times. The academy, established in 1944, is dedicated to safeguarding the relics in Dunhuang.

Copying the paintings in the caves is an arduous job. From using torches and candles, to kerosene lamps and flashlights, to now fluorescent light, several generations of artists have devoted themselves to this cause.

"Nevertheless, less than 20 caves have been fully copied so far," Wang said, adding that about 40 painters now are working full-time on this Herculean task.

Today the painters can finish their first draft by using images in art studios. But they still need to spend lots of time in the caves to finish off every detail in terms of colors and strokes.

"I thought we did a good job in protecting the grottoes. But when comparing the earliest photos taken in 1908 with images taken today, we find that the artworks today are much more blurred. The relics are deteriorating," Fan Jinshi, president of the Dunhuang Academy, said in a documentary film.

"The daily visitors exceed 6,000 to 7,000 nowadays. But it would be reasonable to restrict this number to 3,000," Fan told the Guangming Daily in August.

People's activities will affect the environment and directly threaten the lifespan of the cultural relics. To limit these side effects to a minimum, people are only allowed to visit under 10 caves each time and each popular China tours is limited to two hours. These restrictions have met with complaints from many tourists.

To counter this, a digital museum offering 3D virtual views of the grottoes is being built near the site. The Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes Visitor Center, which started construction in 2010 with an investment of 300 million yuan ($49 million), is set to open in May 2014.

"However, digital recordings can never replace manual copies. The relics carry the beliefs, culture and techniques of the ancient painters and artisans. Only by being there can the current artists truly feel and understand them," Wang noted.
For more others via China guide.

08:47 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

24/09/2013

Things to do on Hong Kong Island

1. Hong Kong Park Observation Tower

In a mountainous city like HK, you're never at a loss for finding places to give you spectacular views of the metropolis or the bay. Nevertheless, HK is a beautiful city, and all of the opportunities that you might have are worth exploiting. One such opportunity is the observation tower in HK Park, which is not terribly high, but still gives you a good view of the park and the surrounding buildings for your travel to Hong Kong.

2. The Ka Lo Gallery

The Ka Lo Gallery is one of several cultural monuments and institutions inside the Hong Kong Park. It is a small gallery that also has a fancy tea room on the ground floor, for those who feel so inclined as to sample some fine tea. The upstairs of the gallery is a one-room exhibition of pottery and carvings from the various Chinese dynasties. There are wonderful descriptions of what makes each type of pottery unique, as well as the evolution of the art under the various emporers. The centre of the exhibition hall has case after case of stamps - not the mailing kind, but the ones used to sign and seal documents for official purposes. Without a knowledge of Chinese characters, it is rather difficult to understand the beauty of the crafted iconographs, but you can still appreciate the intricate and delicate carvings, as well as the evolution of the manufacture of such implements. It is an option among Hong Kong tourist attractions.

3. Hong Kong Park SARS Memorial

SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, was a rapidly-spreading respiratory illness that claimed the lives of hundreds of people in HK, China, Taiwan and Canada. I realize that it probably doesn't have a huge impact on the memories of many people around the world, but the mention of SARS for people in HK or Toronto evokes a period in our joint history when the cities were gripped by a fear of hospitals and public places, lest people become infected with a horrible illness that appeared to destroy the respiratory tracks and organs of victims. The syndrome was not immediately identified for what it was, and many of the first responders who treated the initial wave of patients succoumbed to the illness as well. In HK, those doctors and nurses who died while fighting SARS are immortalized in a memorial in the HK Park, with busts of the individuals on display in the middle of a reflection garden that is filled with light and hope. It is a fairly secluded part of the green space, perfect for meditation, but not really the best location for a monument that should also try to remind people of the mistakes that were made that allowed SARS to get out of control.

4. Hong Kong Park Open-Air Aviary

The Open-Air Aviary is, by far, the most spectacular aviary and zoological exhibit that I have seen in either Hong Kong or any other place in the world. It is a huge area covered with a large net in which dozens of different species of birds fly free. The birds are all a fairly small size, as they cannot be two large so as not to pose a threat to any of the children or adults who visit the attraction. Still, it is an incredible experience to be amongst so many different beautiful species of fowl, flying about your head and brazenly coming up to the visitors to have Hong Kong tours. The birds are fed by the keepers of the aviary, who leave colour papaya and melon chunks to attract the more timid creatures. This hot spots of fruit provide perfect areas for you to get great shots of the birds as they calmly munch away. There are sign posts throughout the aviary that give information about the various species of bird in the aviary, but it is sometimes hard to use them effectively, as the birds do not stay still in the same area as the description. Nevertheless, it's not the description or the strictly educational aspect of the attraction that is likely to keep you here - it is more the awesome area of colour and sound that you can take part in that will keep you snapping photo after photo.

5. Hong Kong Park Aviary

The Hong Kong Park Aviary is not the best aviary in HK, but luckily it has a nearby brother that tops anything else that I've ever seen. This aviary is probably the older of the two, and is pretty standard in its design. There are plenty of exotic birds that are caged, usually with at least two of each species on display. The organizers of the aviary have provided excellent descriptions of the birds and their habits, including the mating habits and the peculiarities of the species. There are only about 10 or so cages here, as the majority of the park's "collection" of rare and exotic birds are in the other aviary. Nevertheless, this part of the Hong Kong Park is well worth the visit, as it includes many large birds that could not otherwise be displayed in the open-air aviary that is found just beside the traditional one.

If you have plan to visit China, please consider Hong Kong in your affordable China travel packages.

09:19 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

23/09/2013

Top 10 World Heritage in China II

6. The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City (Palace Museum, must-see for last minute China travel deals), a World Heritage site since 1987, imparts a sense of grandeur and wealth, an aura of pomp and majesty that has passed down the ages. This secret city was closed off from the world for 500 years but now its 720,000 square meters of courtyards, pavilions, great halls, gardens and nearly 10,000 rooms are open to all and it has become one of the most popular historical sites in the world.

7.The Great Wall

From the 7th century B.C. through to the 17th century, the Chinese spent more than 2,000 years building the Great Wall, which stretched about 200,000 kilometers in total. However, most parts of the Great Wall have disappeared, except for the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. As one of the seven wonders of the medieval world and the only human artifact visible from out space, it was listed as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Winding up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, the Ming Dynasty Great Wall measures only 8,851.8 kilometers now, from east to west, and has been destroyed by erosion and human development in the surrounding regions. The Great Wall (must-see for China best tours) has been included on the list of 100 endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund.


8. The Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom

The Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom is a World Heritage Site located in Ji’an City, Jilin Province. The site contains archaeological remains of three cities (Wunv Mountain City, Guonei City, and Wandu Mountain City), and 40 identified tombs of Koguryo imperial and noble families.

Koguryo was an influential border ethnic group in northeast China during the Western Han Dynasty (202BC-9AD) and Tang Dynasty (618-907). Built on Wandu Mountain, Wandu Mountain City was one of the typical mountain cities in the early and medium stage of the Koguryo Kingdom. Wandu Mountain City and Guonei City formed the capital of the kingdom, which was a rare sight in ancient history.

Wunv Mountain City is only partly excavated. The remains of the stone city walls of Guonei City are still solid and magnificent. Wandu Mountain City contains many vestiges including a large palace, a watch platform, houses, gates and ponds.

Among the 40 identified tombs of Koguryo Kingdom, 14 are imperial and 26 of nobles. The tombs feature exquisite wall paintings from over 1,000 years ago, but they are still vivid and colorful.

9. The Imperial Palace in Shenyang

The Imperial Palace in Shenyang Located in the center of Shenyang, Liaoning Province, Shenyang Imperial Palace, also known as the Mukden Palace, is the former imperial palace of the early Qing Dynasty of China. It was built in 1625 and the first three Qing emperors lived there from 1625 to 1644. In 2004, it was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site to be an extension of the Forbidden City in Beijing and make contribution to China tourism.

10. The Yungang Grottoes

Located at the southern foot of Wuzhou Mountain 16 kilometers west of Datong, Shanxi Province, the Yungang Grottoes (one of four great grottoes, other three are Longmen, Maijishan and Mogao, the must-see for Silk Road tour) were built against the mountain and extend about 1 kilometer from east to west. The construction of the caves was started under the auspices of the noted monk Tan Yao in 453 and took 50 years to complete. The 53 grottoes include 1,000 niches with about 51,000 statues – a treasure-trove of cave art that combines traditional Chinese art forms with foreign influence, particularly Greek and Indian.

09:28 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)