Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes — A Metaverse of Grottoes Spanning a Thousand Years

Dec 01, 2021

by Alen




"I TT has a dream, that is to see it as soon as possible before Dunhuang is weathered!"


In order to realize TT's dream and to leave our intern Maomao a pink memory before she left, we take a journey to Dunhuang.


It's also a coincidence that during the journey in Dunhuang, Alipay released a Dunhuang-themed Alipay cover NFT. Those who are familiar with us must know that we focused on Metaverse at the beginning of the year. Although it is a coincidence, it also has a taste of fate.


The famous Fudan University Philosophy Professor Wang Defeng's once said: "People over 40 years old are not talent if they don't believe in fate," I think it's true. In addition, I also had some impressions about NFT and Metaverse when I was traveling in Dunhuang. It is of course necessary to record this article.


Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes---A Metaverse of Grottoes Spanning a Thousand Years


The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, according to legend, was in the second year of the Qin Dynasty. A monk named Le Zun wandered to Dunhuang at this time. The sun was shining on the Sanwei Mountain. The monk vowed to practice here and he carved the first grotto of Mogao Grottoes among the cliffs of Sanwei Mountain. At that time, during the Northern Wei, Western Wei, and Northern Zhou Dynasties, the rulers believed in Buddhism. In addition to monks, a large number of princes and nobles also supported the digging of caves and the construction of Buddha statues. Since then, through the Sixteen Kingdoms, Northern Dynasties, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and other countries, there are 735 caves, 45,000 square meters of murals, 2415 clay sculptures, commonly known as the "Thousand Buddha Caves", and there are five in total. With more than 10,000 ancient cultural relics, it is the largest and most abundant Buddhist art site in the world.


An immersive blind box experience with 8 consecutive draws at a time


The itinerary to visit Mogao Grottoes is an immersive blind box experience with 8 consecutive draws guaranteed.


There are a total of 735 caves in Mogao Grottoes. However, due to the later man-made destruction and years of devastation, the integrity has been severely damaged and cannot bear more tourism resources. Therefore, although Mogao Grottoes has the reputation of "Museum on the Wall", but It did not go to elect for 5A-level scenic spots, in order to maintain a restrained balance between protecting the scenic spots and displaying the history and culture of Mogao Grottoes to the outside world. In this balance, Mogao Grottoes only release 66 grottoes and 12 routes. Each route will randomly select 8 grottoes to visit. The grottoes that are open every day are randomly arranged according to the flow of people and opening hours. The Great Buddha Hall with 9-story pagoda in Cave 96. So we kindly call this tour arrangement a guaranteed 8 blind box tour. Mogao Grottoes will also regularly release new card pools. For example, before July 2020, the depth of the blind box of the grottoes was only 40. Now the depth of 66 caves is gradually opened following the assessment of experts, and It is said that there are special cave ponds.



(I highly recommend "Seeing Dunhuang" here, which far exceeds our expectations, especially the final scene, which really shows the scenes of different dynasties in a boxed history.)






Each blind box is an immersive cultural experience across time and space


The grottoes of Mogao Grottoes span from Rome to India in space, and from the pre-Qin to Yuan dynasties in time, and have a history of thousands of years. After more than a thousand years, the architectural styles, colored sculptures, and murals of the caves have become a chronicle of art and social culture. Different dynasties, different social features, different beliefs, and different regional and national cultures have all gathered in Mogao. cave. You can feel the gaze and communication from different time and space.


Although there are only 8 consecutive draws at a time, and the tour guide is very mean of the light of the flashlight, in these 8 grottoes, we can see the prototype of the familiar story of the nine-colored deer, the three Buddhas of different dynasties, and the classics. Even in a short tour, you can distinguish the styles of different dynasties: the exquisite, delicate, and smart expressions of the Sui and Tang dynasties; the Song and Yuan dynasties imitated the Sui and Tang dynasties, but the skills are slightly immature; the poor quality of cultural output after the southerners’ invasion ; if you see soul statues with imbalanced proportions, stiff expressions, and earthy colors, they must have been arbitrarily repaired by Wang Yuanlu in the Qing Dynasty.






The so-called immersion is the intersection of the details of different senses. Here, you can feel the artisan painters of the past dynasties and the same stage that transcend time and space, and condense the content they want to express. The grottoes are connected by the cliffs at the eastern foot of Mingsha Mountain, as if they were in a Metaverse that spanned a thousand years.


What makes Mogao Grottoes achieve this effect is the UGC ecology brought about by its thousands of years of sustainability and the consensus formation of coincidence.




Stone may be people's perception of eternity at that time, so its culture is expressed in the form of colored sculptures and murals, and it is preserved in the form of "front tunnel, rear cave" through the grotto.




The formation of Mogao Grottoes was an accident in necessity and an inevitable phenomenon arising from the social background at that time. AD 366 was the period before the Eastern Jin dynasty . Additionally the Silk Road was constantly developing, and Buddhism entered the Central Plains along the Silk Road.


On the other hand, during the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, there were constant wars and social turmoil, and the people were uneasy, and there was a huge demand for religious beliefs. Therefore, during this period, Buddhism was promoted not long after it was introduced to the Central Plains, and there began to be Buddhist monks from the Central Plains who went to the Western Regions to seek Scripture and Dharma, and translated Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures. Dunhuang, which is located in the throat, has naturally become a key hub of Buddhist culture. Another important coincidence is the geology and landforms of Dunhuang. It is a rocky mountain formed on the edge of the desert and Gobi that can be dug into caves. The cliffs are also considered to be a match between the human world and the heavens, in religious beliefs and life. Has a unique role. Buddhist monks first practiced in wooden temples, and later evolved into grotto temples. In the 4th century AD, grotto temples were popular in South Asia. That is to say, the method of grotto construction was also introduced to China through the Silk Road. Exploration and invention.


All of the above have allowed Mogao Grottoes to reach a multi-angle and multi-party consensus in terms of geographic environment, religious needs, and architectural technology.


The consensus brings about the UGC (or PGC) ecology:


What really created the glory of Mogao Grottoes is the UGC system of its grotto supporters. During the heyday of the culture of the Hexi Corridor, a large number of social talents were concentrated, which created the needs for propaganda to dig caves. At that time, many high-ranking officials who believed in Buddhism went to Dunhuang to take up positions and dig large Buddhist caves, just like the current KOL changing ape and punk avatars on Twitter. After that, they did their best and set an example for local people from all walks of life. , Believing in Buddhism, digging caves has become a smash hit social fashion. Those who funded the excavation of the grottoes are called patrons. Almost all the caves have portraits of patrons. They are the masters of these grottoes, bringing together all classes of society at that time, such as local officials soldiers, monks, people and ethnic minorities, etc. For religious, political, propaganda, or recording purposes, they funded the excavation by the skilled craftsmen at that time. Some of the craftsmen were willing to gather in Dunhuang for subsistence, or for artistic or religious pursuits. Create in an environment. Together, they constituted the UGC ecology of Mogao Grottoes, which has been passed down to this day.


Prospering here, the same Mogao Grottoes has finally reached the decline of consensus and continued falsification


The weakening of consensus:


As the Central Plains gradually lost its political dominance over the Western Regions and Central Asia, the Maritime Silk Road rose, and the land-based Silk Road lost its advantages in scale and gradually declined. The Mogao Grottoes ceased to be built and gradually disappeared from the Yuan Dynasty. In the field of vision.


Persistent falsification:


Stones and paints, even if they use anti-corrosion materials, they still can't resist the ravages of time and man-made destruction. After thousands of years, Mogao Grottoes have also become overwhelmed. This is the situation that Tony wants to experience as soon as possible at the beginning of the article.


Of course, modern people will try their best to continue this past. If it is said that the ancient people’s knowledge of eternal technology is carved on stone, then digitization is a means of continuation of modern technology. Dunhuang Research Institute and other institutions have adopted digitization and ARVR. , Picture quality restoration and other technical means, so that we can see the beauty of Dunhuang. However, digital storage is not enough. Blockchain technology is the eternal technological cognition of this generation.


If blockchain technology is the contemporary "stone", what will these "stones" leave for future generations?


Just as currency needs to be accompanied by force, the output and influence of culture cannot be without the assistance of finance and power. The grottoes we can see now are inseparable from the sponsorship of the rich and powerful people at that time. The religion, aesthetics, and scriptures reflected are also the mainstream expressions of the rich and powerful at that time.


NFT is a combination of smart contracts and information. Information can eventually be expanded into culture. Smart contracts can be expanded into defi and dao, which is extended to finance and power. Therefore, NFT can be regarded as a combination of culture, finance and power. The speculative nature of NFT can not only carry on cultural inheritance, but also better carry out cultural export and even aggression.


If the supporters represent the dignitaries in history, leaving behind the statues, sculpture, and religions we see today, what kind of cultural form will the NFT, which naturally combines finance and power, leave to future generations? If religious needs link the ecology of ancient UCG supporters and craftsmen with the cliff stones, the "Dunhuang version of the public chain" has been created. So what kind of consensus can link creators and producers around the world and build a contemporary "Dunhuang Prosperous Age"?


It is worth thinking about.


Perception and fusion


All the above associations that put Dunhuang and Metaverse together, there is suspicion that everything is a nail with a hammer, and it is true. For me, who deeply believes that Metaverse is the future, "because I believe, so see" has penetrated into my heart, and everything can be "metabolized".


But for most people, "believe because you see it" is the mainstream.


Increasing perception is an important step in the large-scale promotion of Metaverse


Increased perception is divided into two lines: traditional and crypto


I really like the words "technical visualization" mentioned by Mr. Wu Xiao of Pure White Technology. The purpose of visualization is to increase the perception of technology and allow people to better understand technology.


  • The movie "Ready Player One" brings the possibility of metaverse into the mind, and it has become the best commentary to explain the metaverse.


  • The Travis Scott virtual concert in Fortnite, let people experience that they can still watch the concert while controlling their avatar to jump around on the star


  • gather.town makes people experience that the seemingly meaningless simulation meeting format of the original RPG maker +zoom is actually quite good.


  • "The Sims" and "Animal Crossing" make people feel the possibility of avatar in second life


  • Facebook Oculus 2 makes people feel that consumer-level VR is coming (watching beautiful girls playing Beat Saber is the best!)


  • Roblox allows people to see that the metaverse is truly beginning to be sought after by capital


It is conceivable that the best way to promote metaverse for traditional audiences is to wait for the popularization of consumer ARVR hardware products represented by Facebook or Apple, as well as the maturity of cloud computing, 5g and other supporting technologies, so that more people can really perceive it. The world like the number one player appeared.


Crypto-the perceptibility of openness and changes in production relations

If the tradition is to rely on technological progress to let people perceive the metaverse, crypto is more to let people enter the metaverse through the perception of openness and production relations.


Open metaverse:


Imagine that you took a dog to decentraland and walked the dog in the morning. Passing by a gallery, it was an exhibition of one-stroke painter Sinclair. When you saw a lovely painting, click in and jump to opensea to buy it and receive one. Exclusive poap (proof of "here to visit"), keep going.



After walking for a while, the dog suddenly barked twice to remind you that someone is stealing your "crops", these crops are not ordinary crops, they refer to the mine of defi. Since a new game similar to Happy Farm was released recently, all defi users have moved the LP into it for visual mining. Since then, defi assets can not only generate interest, but are buried in the vegetable field in the game, but also It can harvest NFTs of various crops, and even produce NFTs of different animals.


You quickly quit decentraland and go to Happy Farm to drive away the robot stealing vegetables. You boasted that your pet dog is really smart, and you fed him some newly bought "Hash Power Dog Food NFT". Think of it, this dog is actually just a static image NFT that you bought last year, but because the community is so good, people continue to develop it, gradually changing from a static image to a 3d file that can be moved by bones, and since RCT came out After the AI-enabled NFT function, anyone can buy computing power to train their NFT with AI, so this dog has gradually evolved from a static picture to a chat that can even predict whether your mine has been stolen. Robot smart pet dog. The "Hash Power Dog Food NFT" just fed can also make it smarter.


Just after receiving the food, you received a friend’s invitation to play. Recently, you and your friend are addicted to a game called depokemon, a game similar to pokemon, but it can allow characters in other different games or projects to fight together. You agree to the battle request and enter the game. You choose the pet dog you just fed the dog food to play, and the opponent plays the zombie character in Cryptopunk. You think you want to be cold, but remember that you just hit an artifact from another blockchain game "dark forest" the day before yesterday, and today it happened that the depokemon game was updated to support other chain game props to buff pets in the game.  You installed the artifact, defeated your friends, achieved the system achievement of 100 victories, and obtained a "key NFT". Having this key proves that you are a "high play user" and you will be eligible to participate in this year's event. VIP post-meeting event in the game sub-venue of Devcon.


After the battle, you are tired, you go back to your virtual home, hang the newly bought Sinclair painting on the wall, and enjoy it quietly.


Some of the above-mentioned open experiences of the inter-universal interoperability of different meta-universes can already be experienced in decentraland and crypto voxel. So even if their picture quality and technology are still immature compared to traditional ones, this kind of open perception is very important.


Perception of changes in production relations:


Crypto and NFT's changes in production relations are more difficult to perceive, but they are indeed happening.


  • Here, any creative person can mint their work into NFT and connect with fans in a programmable way.


  • Here, anyone with a vision and common goal can initiate and organize a Dao and low-cost active practice.
  • Here, you can play to earn, don’t worry about the danger of centralization, play equipment in games across borders to make money, and even play to earn leading game Axie infinity has supported a group of Filipinos, and one month’s income has been reached. 20 million dollars.


If we say that Crypto essentially plays the role of united front, BTC has activated and connected the potential of decentralists and mining machines for the first time enlightenment, and Ethereum has further activated smart contract developers and graphics computing power. The potential of filecoin, filecoin activates the potential of storage. Cryptos with different mechanisms will eventually activate all sleeping energy and store it monetarily. The Crypto in the field of NFT and Metaverse activates the potential of production creators.


The intersection of tradition and crypto, reality and virtuality

The perception brought about by the iteration of traditional technology, and the perception of social relationship changes brought about by innovation in the crypto field, will eventually converge and merge. In addition, reality and virtuality are also merging. The ar game represented by pokemon go allows us to see the future of the integration of reality and virtual games. An AR sports game called HADO combines real-life competition.




The future Metaverse will inevitably be a great fusion of reality and virtuality, tradition and Crypto.


All in all, in the face of a new future brought about by changes in the macro environment and the resonance of multiple technologies, don’t try to understand it, feel it.


TENET – The 5 Things That Made The 2020 Movie So Confusing! – Martin's Press


Therefore, in the second half of the year, we will focus on feelings and try to let more people come into contact with the concept of Metaverse.