In a museum in Taiyuan, China, 10 3D printed Buddha statues with various shapes are on display. "I often climb Tianlong Mountain, and I am curious every time I see those empty grottoes, and today I finally know what it really looks like." Tai Mei, a citizen of Taiyuan who visited here, said that these replicas have been on display for some time, and the originals are all statues of Taiyuan Tianlong Mountain Grottoes. These statues have been lost overseas because of being stolen, and today they have finally "returned to their homeland" with advanced digital technology.
The Tianlong Mountain Grottoes were excavated from 534 to 1566. It lasted for more than 1,000 years, with 32 grottoes and more than 500 statues. It mainly reflects the outstanding achievements of the grotto art in the Southern and Northern Dynasties to Sui and Tang Dynasties. The statue art of the Oriental Caves plays an important role.
In the 1920s, the Tianlong Mountain Grottoes were hacked on a large scale, and more than 150 fine pieces are known to have flowed around the world. "At present, they are scattered in the hands of nearly 30 museums and individuals in 9 countries, including the United States, Japan, and Italy," said Yu Zheng, director of the Tianlongshan Grottoes Museum.
Yu Yan has worked in Tianlong Mountain for more than 20 years, and every time I see those incomplete grottoes, I feel very sad. "Fortunately, 3D scanning and 3D printing have been used for the protection and restoration of cultural relics, which has made it possible for the statues of Tianlongshan Grottoes lost overseas to return to the motherland through digital restoration," he said.
Since 2014, the Tianlongshan Grottoes Museum in Taiyuan City has reached an agreement with the University of Chicago and Taiyuan University of Technology to jointly develop a digital restoration project for the Tianlongshan Grottoes. Yu Yu revealed that the project has collected more than 100 3D data of Tianlong Mountain statues and realized digital restoration of 11 major caves.
With advanced digital technology, these Tianlong Mountain statues that have been lost overseas have completed a full range of virtual integration with their original environment, thus successfully restoring the original appearance of the Tianlong Mountain Grottoes before being stolen. The Tianlongshan Grottoes Museum in Taiyuan City has also built a digital exhibition hall and conducted digital restoration tours internationally.
"Now Tianlongshan Grottoes are only reunited in digital scenes. We will continue to 3D print other images that have been scanned back into three-dimensional data, and look forward to achieving physical integration in the future," Yu said.