Katherine TSIANG 蔣人和
University of Chicago 芝加哥大學
The Tianlongshan Caves Project and Exhibition Plan: Dispersed Sculptures, Digital Archiving, and Cave Reconstruction
The Tianlongshan Caves Project-Introduction
The Buddhist cave shrines of Tianlongshan were carved from the mountainside outside of Taiyuan City, Shanxi province, mostly from the sixth through eighth century. In recent history they have been seriously damaged when their sculptural contents were first recognized for their aesthetic value and dispersed through the international art market. Since 2014 the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago has collected wide-ranging information and images of the sculptures and caves. A small work team has traveled around the globe to photograph and conduct 3D scanning of about one hundred sculptures and has created a website as database that brings together historical information, old photographs, and digital photographs and 3D models of the sculptures. This is searchable by cave numbers, museum locations, sculptural figure types, and other criteria and viewable with interactive 3D displays.
More than 150 sculptures known from publications have been attributed to the Tianlongshan caves. The sculptures taken from the caves now are located in museums around the world where their original significance as religious images in the context of a cave temples and religious practice is lost. The former locations of many of these sculptures can now be confirmed with the current research and collected information. In addition the project will work with collaborators in China to conduct 3D scanning of the caves. This will enable us to create digital reconstruction of caves based on the scanned 3D data that could be shown in museum galleries together with the sculptures.
Exhibition Concepts and Goals of Digital Installations
The next step in the Tianlongshan Caves Project is to design a special museum exhibition that makes innovative use of contemporary technology. The goal is to devise new ways to create museum installations that offer an engaging, informative, and in some cases, interactive experience for a general museum audience. In both intimate and large-scale digital displays, the installations will create virtual spaces inside of galleries that offer new ways to view works of sculptural art even in the absence of the actual works of art and to experience the spaces of cave temples. The digital displays will allow the visitor to the exhibition various ways to survey the Tianlongshan caves site environment and observe the art and architecture of the Buddhist caves. It will show the caves in their current condition and reconstruct their former appearance with the digital restoration of the missing sculptures in the caves. The exhibition can digitally transport the sculptures from their current museum locations and reunite them with their former groups of religious images in cave contexts. This will enable visitors to understand the historical appearance and religious meaning of Tianlongshan as well as the consequences of the destruction of the caves in recent history.