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Introduction

The Buddhist cave temples of Tianlongshan (Heavenly Dragon Mountain) are located in the mountains thirty-six kilometers southwest of Taiyuan city in the central part of Shanxi province. They exist today in a damaged state with so many of the sculptures now missing, that visitors to the caves cannot imagine how they looked in the past. Many of the sculptures from the caves are now in museums around the world. However, though the sculptures may be preserved and displayed, visitors to museums cannot understand them in their original historical, spatial, and religious contexts. For these reasons the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago initiated the Tianlongshan Caves Project in 2013 to pursue research and digital imaging of the caves and their sculptures. The Project seeks to record and archive the sculptures and to compile data that can identify the fragments and their places of origin. In carrying this out, the Project aims to foster better understanding of the sculptural art, the history, and the meaning of the Tianlongshan Caves through creation of this website and through an exhibition of the results of the Project based on digital information.

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