Hong Kong Book Fair

Ancient Mogao Grottoes murals get 3-D projection treatment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 9:12am

A 3-D depiction of one of China's most famous Buddhist cave sites yesterday drew mixed reactions from visitors, depending on whether or not they had seen the original.

The 360-degree panoramic projection of the Mogao Grottoes, located at a historic trade and cultural crossroads on the ancient Silk Road, was officially launched at the Hong Kong Book Fair yesterday.

Organisers say the theatre uses pioneering virtual reality technology to give a true-to-life experience of being inside the 1,000-year-old cave temples at Dunhuang in the northwestern Gansu province .

But visitor Cham Chung-kwong, who had been to the real grottoes, complained he did not have enough time to view the 3-D murals properly. "It was not particularly impressive, and the 3-D technology was unrealistic. But if you've never been to the real thing, I think you would find it quite special."

Kathy Ko, 9, who had not seen the real thing, said she enjoyed the experience, describing it as a rare chance to "see the Mogao Grottoes in person".

"The production was made with heart," she said. "The thing looked very real and it was beautiful."

The project was initiated by a group of artists and scientists at City University, who said they hoped to "demonstrate a new sustainable approach to preserve the cave experience, as both human breath and rising humidity damage the murals".

The technology allows visitors to zoom into particular elements, and is supposed to bring back the original bright colours of the paintings that have faded over the years.

The Dunhuang Academy, which administers more than 700 caves at the Unesco world heritage site, opens only a few caves at a time to visitors, who view the carved and painted walls using torches.

The Hong Kong exhibit includes Cave 220, which is permanently closed to visitors.

Nearly 4,000 reservations for the display have already been confirmed by online registration, but a third of the tickets are still available for walk-in visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sun Hung Kai Properties sponsored the project.