With almost five hundred caves still in existence, the Mogao cave complex at Dunhuang presents about one thousand years of stylistic and iconographic development. Around the turn of the 20th century, a hidden cache filled with manuscripts and paintings was discovered in a previously walled up chamber, now known as Cave 17. Explorer and archaeologist Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943) purchased many of these materials during his visits to Dunhuang in 1907 and 1914.
In 1941, the prolific Chinese painter Zhang Daqian (1899–1983) ventured to the Dunhuang caves, where he created meticulous copies of the famous wall murals on silk and paper. Zhang’s sojourn in Dunhuang elevated his status and he was regarded as one of the finest painters of his generation.
This lecture takes a closer look at two paintings from Cave 17 that are currently displayed in the Treasures of the World from the British Museum exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore. Circumscribing the paintings and the murals in the Dunhuang caves are the adventures of these two legendary figures, Zhang Daqian and Marc Aurel Stein.
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