The Dunhuang Research Institute is cooperating with its counterparts at home and abroad to introduce a program called "Digital Dunhuang" aiming at permanently preventing the world heritage site from damage.
"Digital Dunhuang" has two primary functions. One is to turn all the Buddhist caves, frescos, painted sculptures and other cultural relics at Mogao Grottoes into digital images. The other is to digitize documents, data and research results on Dunhuang in various parts of the world into electronic archives.
The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang has 735 caves housing murals covering a total area of more than 45 square kilometers, displaying Buddhas, stories, fairy tales, the history of Buddhism, tales of sutras, decorative patterns, and human figures. It also holds 2,000 painted sculptures and 50,000 documents, but these murals, painted sculptures and documents have been eroded to various extents.
Starting from 1998, the Dunhuang Research Institute combined efforts with the US' Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust to start digital shooting of the Dunhuang caves, or virtual caves. They have finished the measurement, shooting and compilation of 22caves and completed the cyber viewing schemes for another 42 caves.