The Dunhuang Museum was an exciting experience, because the museum provided the history and the context for what we were seeing in the ruins the previous couple of days. Most of the development of Dunhuang occurred during the Han Dynasty, when the emperor sent troops and their generals to protect the frontier of China. At that time, Dunhuang and the area around it was the outer edge of the country. The Han general finally defeated the Hsiung Nu raiders from the North.
Following this major victory, trade needed to be controlled and taxes charged. So it stood to reason that Dunhuang occupied a very strategic position in the future success of China. As a matter of fact, the heavy control over the trade and passage through the Silk Road allowed the Han Dynasty relative peace and prosperity. The country advanced in many areas during that time.
After a period of turmoil and disorganization, the Tang Dynasty continued to maintain strong control over the passages. We visited the Mogao Grottoes in the afternoon, and while there are no photos to share the experience, the Buddha sculpture, paintings, and architecture were a clear expression of the flourishing of encounters with the outside world. Trade, language, art, and religion were being introduced, explored, challenged, and absorbed between many cultures during this time (600AD-900AD).
I am posting a few pieces from the museum that I particularly liked and found quite unusual. They seemed to be very robust and expressive, similar to the style of the better known horses of the Tang period. The Photos of Han and Tang (200BC-900AD) Museum pieces, from top, left to right:
1. Celadon plate
2. Pair of Cocks
3. Arabic lettering
4. Bronze Turtle
5. Pair of men pulling a strap
6. Expressive Figure
The new museum itself was surprisingly beautiful and excellent in its presentation of material. It was very thoughtfully and clearly laid out, and spanned everything from early neolithic implements to planning for the future generations. It will be interesting to compare pieces as well as the building with the Arab Museum of the World that I visited in Paris in July. I am inserting a couple of photos to show you how the new building interior courtyard looks. I would highly recommend this museum to anyone intending to visit this area.
1. Slanted Door detail to match building geometry
2. Atrium Roof
3. Interior Courtyard, applying small gridded windows similar to those used in the beacon towers in Gaochang and Jiaohe