Public sees red as Buddhist cliff carvings painted in bright colors
A set of thousand-year-old Buddhist cliff carvings were recently painted in bright colors in Nanjiang County in southwest China's Sichuan Province, drawing wide public criticism and appeals for better preservation of cultural relics from experts.
The paintings were discovered on Monday and posted on Weibo.com. The pictures show the cliff stone carvings, which depict a group of famous Buddhist monks, painted in bright colors, including their clothes, headdress, and even the lotus seat.
An official with the local cultural relics protection bureau confirmed the carvings had been painted.
The official said that an "overly pious" local elderly resident had hired someone to paint the carvings in order to express their gratitude to a deity who had apparently fulfilled their wishes.
Following the furore, the local cultural relics bureau has teamed up with experts from the Sichuan Archeology Academy and the School of Archeology and Museology of Sichuan University to work out a plan to restore the carvings to their original looks.
Experts have condemned the act, calling it a "shame". Due to the dense vegetation covering them, the carvings were not discovered until 2017, when a village cadre accidentally stumbled upon them.
Protective measures were taken by the cultural relics preservation bureau, including the installation of a rain shelter and surveillance equipment.
Bazhong City, where Nanjiang County is located, is known as the "Hometown of Chinese Stone Carvings."
The carvings are believed to be the earliest cliff carvings found in Bazhong to date, and they represent a rare practice that began in the late Northern Wei Dynasty (AD386-534). The discovery of the carvings could contribute to the study of cultural and artistic exchanges between the north and south during different periods.