Enquiry into the colours of the MoGao murals at DunHuang from the Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties period


  • Elza Tantcheva-Burdge
  • Zhaohua Lei
  • Vien Cheung University of Leeds, UK




DunHuang murals, Colour appearance, Chinese culture, Wuxing, Ancient Chinese art


In 1961 the site of the MoGao cave temples was recognised as one of the State Priority Protected Sites by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and was put under the protection of the national laws including the Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics. To a great extent, this was a result of the work of the DunHuang Academy, which was established in 1944 for research into and preservation of the site. In 1987 UNESCO added the MoGao Caves to its protected World Heritage Sites as one of intrinsic unmatched historic value to humanity. In the following year, the Getty Conservation Institute became involved in an international collaborative project aimed at furthering research into the site and expanding its conservation programme. The present paper enquires into the appearance of colours used in the representational system of the murals from periods of the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and the Five Dynasties (907-960 AD). The selected periods demarcate the golden era in the history of the MoGao temple complex. The historically grounded enquiry aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the DunHuang murals as emblematic of Chinese civilisation and increasing awareness of them amongst a non-Chinese speaking audience. The use of colour will be discussed in the context of the traditional ‘five colour system’.


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How to Cite

“Enquiry into the colours of the MoGao murals at DunHuang from the Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties period” (2023) Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 15(01), pp. 57–68. doi:10.23738/CCSJ.150108.