With the theme of Cave Temple Conservation in the Context of Climate Change, the first International Forum on Cave Temple Conservation was launched in Chongqing Municipality on Aug 19. The event was held in the Baoding Mountains, whose carvings were made during Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) are regarded an important part of the Dazu Rock Carvings World Cultural Heritage Site, which was were listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999.
However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in extreme weather events, and the impact of climate change on carvings is mainly reflected in two aspects: humidity and wind erosion. To protect the rock carvings, not only in Chongqing, but also around the world, heated discussions has triggered among scholars and experts from Germany, Pakistan, Italy and other countries on the protection of cave temple conservation and the mitigation of climate change through international cooperation.
In such a context, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Establishing Friendly Relation and Cooperation between two institutions, the Academy of Dazu Rock Carvings and Museum of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar, was signed.
Dr. Abdul Samad, Director-General of Directorate of Archaeology & Museums, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar, who signed the MoU on behalf of Pakistan, noted that signing the MoU will benefit a wider group outside China and Pakistan.
“In China, we have many areas of cooperation covering economic issues, the Belt and Road Initiative, the CPEC. However, exchanges and cooperation between our two fraternal countries in terms of cultural heritage are still relatively small. I have been to China many times, after watching the Beishan Rock Carvings in Dazu District this time, I presume it was largely influenced by the art of the Gandhara Art in KP. Therefore, we should have more collaboration space in the field of cultural heritage. Furthermore, this rock art deserves to be seen by more international tourists. In addition, I also hope that Pakistan can welcome more Chinese visitors.”
The reporter learned that a small village in Pakistan has similar stone carvings, which resemble to Dazu art carvings. “Pakistan and China are facing similar cultural relics protection challenges, thus cooperation and learning from each other’s experience are essential,” Samad emphasized, “this MoU is by no means just talking on paper, we need to do practical things in all aspects.”
Dazu Rock Carvings has a total of 74 places with more than 50,000 stone statues, most of which are excavated between mountains and on cliffs. Due to many influencing factors such as geology and climate, the protection and restoration of cultural relics here has always been an international difficulty. Located in the high temperature and humidity environment of Chongqing, southwest China, the biggest hidden danger affecting the protection and survival of Dazu Rock Carvings is water. For a long time, water erosion has caused weathering and biological diseases in some carvings. In order to protect precious cultural relics, a number of protection platforms such as the Stone Cultural Relics Protection Research Center, the Dazu Rock Carvings Cultural Relics Hospital, and the Digital Exhibition Center have been built. A group of stone cultural relics protection demonstration projects represented by the rescue protection of the Thousand-handed Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin) statue also contributed a lot.
“Under the cooperation framework of the Memorandum of Understanding, the two parties will exchange experience and share technology, jointly promote the development of cultural protection, and promote the inheritance and common prosperity of cultural heritage,” Jiang Siwei, Director of the Dazu Rock Carvings Research Institute.