DKU scholars forge links with researchers protecting China’s ancient Mogao Grottoes | Duke Kunshan University

DKU scholars forge links with researchers protecting China’s ancient Mogao Grottoes

June 24, 2021

Leading academics from Duke Kunshan University (DKU) visited the Dunhuang Research Academy in northwest China’s Gansu province in June to discuss research and teaching collaboration in the fields of Chinese history, archaeology and art.

The academy is a national institution responsible for the management and protection of the Mogao Grottoes, a World Heritage Site housing Buddhist art dating back as early as the fourth century.

Led by Scott MacEachern, vice chancellor for academic affairs, the delegation from DKU joined academy director Shengliang Zhao and his team on June 5 for a tour of the ancient site, taking in its large collection of statues and mural paintings.


Duke Kunshan scholars and staff meet with experts from the Dunhuang Research Academy on June 5, 2021. Photo / Dunhuang Research Academy

The group also visited the academy’s Digital Exhibition Center to watch “Millennium Mogao,” a documentary film on the grottoes’ long history, and “Dream Buddhism Palace,” a 3D experience in which interiors and artifacts are displayed on a large dome screen.

Later, scholars from both institutions presented their research and discussed potential areas of collaboration.
 Taking part from DKU were James Miller, professor of humanities, associate dean of interdisciplinary strategy and co-director of the Humanities Research Center; Kolleen Guy, associate professor of humanities and chair of the Division of Arts and Humanities; and religious studies scholars Tommaso Tesei and Ben Van Overmeire. Zairong Xiang, assistant professor of comparative literature and associate director of art, and Kent Cao, assistant professor of art and archaeology, joined the discussion online.


From left: Tommaso Tesei, Ben Van Overmeire, Scott MacEachern, James Miller and Kolleen Guy visit the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province

“The Mogao Grottoes are of great historical, cultural and artistic value, and the Dunhuang Research Academy has made remarkable efforts to preserve and study the caves,” said MacEachern, a professor of archaeology. “As DKU is committed to preserving cultural diversity and promoting exchanges across civilizations, we hope this meeting is the start of extensive collaboration that will benefit our faculty and students, and the wider world.”

During the visit, Zhao stressed the importance of interdisciplinary research in the preservation of cultural relics, in historical and religious studies, and in the promotion of traditional culture. He introduced his academy’s mission and its progress in international exchanges and cooperation in recent years, and said he hopes his team can make joint efforts with DKU in research and heritage preservation for all humanity.