Desert in Dunhuang, Gansu province, China. (Photo: Xinhua)
The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province, will take on a new batch of 10 volunteers to serve as docents for 40 days in May and June.
The volunteers, age 23 to 54, were selected from more than 1,200 applicants from 9 to 69 years old worldwide through the WeChat account of the Dunhuang Research Institute.
Selection was based on online assessments and interviews that touched on the applicants' Chinese and English language skills and the feasibility of their strategies to spread Dunhuang culture, according to the institute.
The volunteers will depart for Dunhuang on May 1. They'll be trained with basic knowledge of the Mogao Grottoes, docent responsibilities and Dunhuang cultural research and diffusion before beginning work, the program's organizers said last week.
"The program aims to help people around the world learn about the civilization of Dunhuang and encourage more to join in preserving the legacy, not only at the Mogao Grottoes but in its surrounding environment," said Zhang Xiantang, vice-dean of the institute.
The program, launched in 2018 by the institute, together with the China Dunhuang Grottoes Conservation Research Foundation, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the university's cultural development fund, received around 300 applications last year, organizers said.
The significant increase in applicants in its second year suggests that Dunhuang has great cultural appeal in the international public, Zhang said.
As a renowned treasure trove of ancient murals and sculptures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mogao Grottoes, which are the epitome of Dunhuang culture, present thousand years of Chinese history in various fields, including art, Buddhism and music.
"Dunhuang culture is a blend of Chinese, Indian, Greek, and Islamic culture, which is of great value for research and requires careful preservation. Dunhuang was once a major stop on the ancient Silk Road networking trade routes that connected the East and West," Zhang added.
During their 40 days as docents, the 10 volunteers will accumulate knowledge and resources for projects that will contribute to the promotion of Dunhuang culture.
Lee Hui-ling, 53, from Chinese Taipei is one of the 10 volunteers. She said she hopes to tap into her 25 years of experience as a museum docent in Italy to make online audio books for visitors that compare the aesthetics of murals in Dunhuang with wall paintings from the European Renaissance of the 14th to 16th centuries.
Jiang Yuzhu, 32, from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, will prepare a report on the knowledge of Dunhuang culture based on questionnaires and interviews with visitors, along with research, during the docent program.
Based on the report, Jiang will create a website featuring 1,001 questions regarding Dunhuang culture, as well as an online encyclopedia, said Jiang, who is a specialist at the museum of Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.
Luo Dan, who was also chosen for the docent program, said she was attracted because she was "amazed by the charm of Dunhuang murals".
A graduate in cultural industry management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Luo, from Guizhou province, once served as a volunteer docent at the university's Chengji Gallery for a touring exhibition on Dunhuang mural art.
"I really hope to learn more about Dunhuang culture through the program and spread it to more young people through online courses and public tours," Luo said.