China's 1,600-Year-Old Dunhuang Frescoes Enter the Digital Age
Tourists are not the only threat to the relics. Caretakers have been working since 1989 with Los Angeles-based Getty Research Institute to preserve 16 large sutras in cave 85, a chamber commissioned in 867 depicting the life stories of King Divi before he reached enlightenment to become the Buddha.
The murals, painted in mineral and plant dye over plaster, have been peeling away from their bedrock because of increasing moisture and mineral salts that crystallize from seeping rain water, Fan said in the April 30 interview.
There are a total of 812 caves along a 1.7 kilometer (1 mile) of cliff face, hewn into the sandstone of the Mingsha Mountains in the Gobi desert. The Mogao caves were designated in 1991 as a World Cultural Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Tourists to Mogao reached 550,000 last year, from about 200,000 in 1998.
``I'm sure we'll easily top the 2006 numbers this year,'' said Fan, 68. ``The numbe