On 22 April 2023, Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), the China Dunhuang Grottoes Conservation Research Foundation, and the Dunhuang·Chinese Succession Special Purposed Fund signed a new partnership agreement at the digital Dunhuang Grottoes exhibition for public benefits - “Dunhuang Aesthetic Connection with the World”, which was hosted on the Beijing campus of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). DCB students, parents, and CEIBS alumni attended the signing ceremony.
The partnership aims at promoting the significant UNESCO World Heritage Dunhuang Grottoes and the associated ancient culture and aesthetics among the younger generation of Dulwich College Beijing. Through the partnership and its programmes, students in DCB will get access to valuable opportunities to appreciate the world’s cultural heritage and learn how to preserve the cultural heritage and assets through advanced digital technologies.
Anthony Coles, DCB’s Head of College, explained, “The Dunhuang Grottoes are an important and significant UNESCO World Heritage Site situated along the Silk Road. The partnership will provide our students with privileged opportunities to explore the beauty of Dunhuang’s arts and will enhance their appreciation of Chinese traditional culture, aesthetics and heritage. They will benefit from this experience and related programmes in the future, gaining a ‘Worldwise’ perspective and building an intercultural linkage between China and the rest of the world as they grow into the leaders of the next generation.”
“The Dunhuang Grottoes is the only existing world cultural heritage that connects the four ancient cultures in the world. With digital technologies, the Dunhuang Grottoes, which has a history of 1650 years, can be presented to the youth in a meticulous and international way. Until today, assets in almost three hundred caverns of the Dunhuang Grottoes have been digitalised, with over 8,800 square meters of wall painting being digitally preserved,” said Dr Wang Hai, Chairman of Dunhuang·Chinese Succession Special Purposed Fund. “The partnership with Dulwich College Beijing signals a milestone in bringing the Dunhuang culture to the next generation and the international audience. We hope that the younger generation with a global vision will further promote the Chinese culture to the world.”
On the day of the event, ten of our own DCB students from Years 8 thru 12 guided families on an exclusive bilingual tour of the art exhibition: Dunhuang Aesthetic Connection with the World.
Our event host Stephanie N shared how, despite having seen Dunhuang for herself, her understanding of Dunhuang’s cultural importance has expanded after volunteering as a guide. “(Explaining and) interpreting the artwork to others was very different from listening to tour guides. This experience has prepared me to become a future global citizen, as DCB and the Dunhuang·Chinese Succession Special Purpose Fund share the same values of bringing Western and Eastern cultures together and conserving and appreciating our existing heritage.”
Another volunteer, Evan Y, shared how he hoped that the students’ efforts helped guests better understand Dunhuang’s significance as a prominent piece of world heritage – something he didn’t really know before volunteering for the event. Now he feels proud that he has a deeper understanding of its importance in Chinese culture and its link to the rest of the world as a cultural heritage.
He gave the grape and pomegranate as an example: “I initially didn’t pay them much attention as grapes are now so common, but they actually originated from the western regions of China. This not only depicts the domestication of grapes but also represents the cross-cultural communication made possible by the Silk Road. Behind every object is a story waiting to be told, representing the great history and culture of Dunhuang.”
Michelle, another DCB student-tour guide, shared that her own personal journey of promoting the Chinese culture began when she started playing the Guzheng instrument at 6 years. Four years later, she initiated the Chinese Cultural Heritage ECA (Extracurricular Activity), where she and the team promoted culturally significant handicrafts to an international audience with no Chinese background.
She credited DCB’s multicultural and “Live Worldwise” philosophy for fostering her international mindset. It provided her with a platform and the encouragement to become more culturally literate. “With my teachers‘ and fellow students’ support, I founded the Minyue Band in Year 11, then became the Cultural Promotion Representative as a Global Citizenship Prefect, which led to this opportunity.”
As an important cultural hub, Dunhuang is also home to murals that depict the essences of the different cultures that have passed through. Michelle expressed her immense admiration for the artisan spirit held commonly by all Dunhuang cultural ambassadors. Be it the cave diggers, the artisans, or the modern researchers, their transtemporal artisan spirit generated the artworks of Dunhuang.
She shared, “These artworks not only depict cultural integration but also connote the Dunhuang ambassador’s common reverence towards religion and their pursuit of perfection. I now believe that the inheritance of the virtue of cultural ambassadors marks the purpose of cultural promotion. The heritage of the Asian spirit inspires me to be more humble when approaching the spread of cultural literacy. In the future, I hope to remain a passion-driven cultural ambassador, traveling further along the road of cultural promotion.”
We would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Wang Hai, Chairman of DunHuang, Chinese Succession Special Purposed Fund, who helped connect DCB and the Dunhuang Foundation, and to the following students for participating in this event: Michelle W, Evan Y, David Z, Circle Y, Ariel W, Ruby Z, Stephanie N, Laura W, Jennifer Z, Mia W, Jojo Z, and Lina L.
We look forward to more opportunities like these that allow our students to gain insights into what we consider not just a local culture but also as part of our world’s cultural heritage.