The Monster in the Cave

Last week I went to NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World to see an exhibit called “Echoes of the Past.” This show managed to combine new technology and ancient art. What a great mix!

The ancient art was from the Xiangtangshan (mountain of echoing halls) Buddhist cave temples from the Northern Qi dynasty. The Buddhas, bodhisttvas, disciples, stone walls with inscriptions and giant hands in mudras (specific gestures) are all spectacular — timeless and beautiful beyond any religious or historic significance.

That universal beauty nearly doomed the caves and their contents when, in the early 1900’s photographs began to circulate among French art collectors. Looters hit the caves and, like many stories about short-term gain, the statues and reliefs, or bits and pieces of them, were scattered around the world in a serious long-term loss to China’s historic and artistic heritage.

The people behind this show (from the Sackler in Washington and the University of Chicago) have gathered some of the scattered pieces and displayed in a well-lit room. They are stunning! But in order to give them context and the feeling of a Buddhist cave, they went high-tech with a 3-D digital projection that recreates one of the caves and identifies the locations of some of the pieces on display

It’s wonderfully dark and a little dizzying, but I loved it.

Was there a MONSTER in the cave? Yes! In with the majestic statues of Buddha, there was one wonderful winged monster. Go for the Buddhist cave and discover an ancient monster!

“Echoes” Link


  1. I would love to see that! Sometimes Australia really does seem like a million miles away from all the interesting things in this world. There are compensations of course and I wouldn’t live anywhere else but I wish I had one of those Star Trek transporters. Dial up a location and zap, you’re there. 🙂

    • Candy

      Beam me up Scotty!
      Just imagine the places one could go… Breakfast in Paris, dinner in Sydney with an art show in New York in-between.

  2. Metan

    That sounds like a great exhibit! Can you imagine how wonderful the original find was if the bits left behind were so great? Curse those looters 🙁

    • Candy

      I’ve long been fascinated by the issue of looting ancient treasures. One generations heroic archeologist is another’s looter. One country’s museum treasure trove is another’s stolen goods. I’ve written some, not necessarily good, novels about it.

      Anyway, I’m with you CURSE those looters. Curse them like the curse of the Mummy in the old Boris Karloff films.