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    Collections From China’s Famed Grottoes Move to Blockchain Database

    The public can access more than 6,500 digital collections of artworks from the Dunhuang and other places.

    China’s top archeology research institute launched a blockchain-based cultural heritage database Tuesday, claiming it to be a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country.

    The Dunhuang Academy, which oversees the famous Mogao Grottoes and other sites, said that more than 6,500 high-definition digital collections of murals, manuscripts, and scrolls from six historical caves can now be browsed and downloaded on its digital library, according to a statement by Chinese tech giant Tencent, which provided technological support for the project.

    The collection includes images from the Mogao Grottoes and five other nationally protected sites under the academy: Western Thousand-Buddha Grottoes, Yulin Caves, Maijishan Grottoes, Bingling Temple, and North Grotto Temple.

    Located in the northwestern province of Gansu, the Mogao Grottoes is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to some of China’s most prestigious Buddhist cultural relics built along the Silk Road. Dunhuang Academy, which made headlines in September for its difficulty in hiring archaeologists, has been pushing the digitization of cultural relics over the past two decades in an attempt to permanently preserve the grottoes’ contents and electronically restore items lost during wartime.

    Along with the blockchain database, the program is operated under a co-creation model for individuals and enterprises to download materials for their own creation. The re-created contents can then be uploaded to an open platform to enrich the database, all of which can be accessed through the smart ledger system.

    The platform also uses blockchain technology to protect the intellectual property of the derivative artworks by keeping traceable records of ownership, creation, authorization, payments, and downloads, according to Tencent. In addition, all authorized use of the materials can be verified, while e-signature technology ensures the security of the agreement process.

    “The platform will fulfill various demands for academic research, cultural exchange, and creative innovation,” Luo Jing, director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration’s science and education department, said during a virtual meeting to launch the initiative Thursday. “The co-creation model will facilitate the effective and sustainable development of digital cultural resources.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: A screenshot shows some of the digital collections from Dunhuang Museum. From Weibo)