Virtual Zen.

Buddha Maitreya and Attendants, Cave 248, Western Wei Dynasty, around 450 AD

Buddha Maitreya and Attendants, Cave 248, Western Wei Dynasty, around 450 AD

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When I read this one a short while back, I thought it likely the only
way I’d see these caves. :^) Although a trek around Kailas sounds
inspiring and a real lifetime opportunity, the reality is a
next-lifetime experience. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for almost-there
technology:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/16/holograms-to-save-buddha-caves.html

Holograms to Save Buddha caves
Dec 17, 2012 12:00 AM EST

Among china’s greatest art treasures are the Buddhist caves near
Dunhuang, an oasis on the fabled Silk Road that once linked China and
Europe. Their ancient frescoes, sculptures, and other relics date as
far back as A.D. 430 and have survived wars, environmental damage,
antiquities hunters, and the chaotic Cultural Revolution. But their
biggest threat today is tourism.

The UNESCO World Heritage site—which includes more than 700 caves,
2,400 clay sculptures, and 150,000 square feet of frescoes—has an
optimal capacity of 3,000 people per day, but up to 8,000 visited the
caves daily during holidays this year. The caves, also known as the
Mogao Grottoes, have fragile ecosystems, and the buildup of humidity
and carbon dioxide from visitors’ breath can lead to flaking and
discoloration of the delicate wall paintings.

In a bid to help preserve the caves, the Dunhuang Academy has settled
on an innovative strategy: digitize them. The academy has been working
with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Northwestern University to
create a digital archive of the caves using a camera with a
billion-pixel resolution. The results will be used in the academy’s
planned $40 million visitor center—slated for completion next
year—which will present virtual tours of the caves to save the real
sites from wear and tear. The scope of the project is daunting. It
takes 20 minutes to record a 30-square-foot fresco, and there are 492
caves with murals inside.

Recently the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., offered a
tantalizing glimpse of the final product. Donning 3-D glasses,
visitors were transported across time and space into a “virtual”
Dunhuang. The exhibit digitally re-created a single grotto, known as
Cave 220, which boasts early Tang paintings from approximately A.D.
642. The 3-D, interactive experience is flooded with vivid color,
entrancing close-up details, and moving images of flying bodhisattvas
riding mythical animals.

One of the most popular features is the “magnifying glass,” which can
zoom in on, say, a zither depicted in a mural. The instrument appears
to pop out of the wall, enlarge, and then rotate in space as zither
music plays in the background. Visitors can also “flip” back and forth
between an intricate Tang-dynasty mural and a later, cruder
Sung-dynasty fresco, which had hidden the original painting until
1943.

To help bring Cave 220’s Tang dancer paintings to life, performers
from the Beijing Dance Academy were filmed by the City University of
Hong Kong’s Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and
Embodiment (ALiVE). They appeared in the Sackler tour dancing as if in
midair, clad in brightly colored Tang period costume. ALiVE’s project
manager Leith Chan said that while he’s become intimately familiar
with the images of Cave 220, he hasn’t been to Dunhuang yet. “I can’t
wait to visit the real thing.”

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Dunhuang Buddhist Caves

Dunhuang Buddhist Caves

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“Truth is the same always. Whoever ponders it will get the same answer. Buddha got it. Patanjali got it. Jesus got it. Mohammed got it. The answer is the same, but the method of working it out may vary this way or that. – Swami Satchidananda

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Buddhist stupas dot the hillside at the Mogao Caves

Buddhist stupas dot the hillside at the Mogao Caves

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“Whether our action is wholesome or unwholesome depends on whether that action or deed arises from a disciplined or undisciplined state of mind. It is felt that a disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering, and in fact it is said that bringing about discipline within one’s mind is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.” – Dalai Lama XIV

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Dunhuang Cave 158: Recumbent Buddha

Dunhuang Cave 158: Recumbent Buddha

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“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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