Dunhuang Art Institute (1944)
The first modern national institution in charge of the conservation and research of the Dunhuang caves, Dunhuang Art Institute, was established in 1944. Chang Shuhong, a painter trained in France in the 1930s, was appointed the director. Most staff members of this institute were artists, who spent most of their time on making copies of the paintings in the caves. Their modern copies of the ancient murals functioned as a way of preservation (they intended to keep the "original" appearances of the murals) and a tool of propaganda (their works have been displayed in the Nationalist capital Nanjing in 1946 and in the Communist capital Beijing in 1951 to stir "patriotism").
This small institute consisted of two units: the archaeological team and the administrative team. Interestingly, there were no archaeologists in this "archaeological team." Some archaeologists, including the most famous Chinese scholars in the field (Xiang Da, Xia Nai and Yan Wenru), did worked in the caves but they all left after they finished their "field work." Only seven artists stayed in the caves when the Communist troops "liberated" Dunhuang in 1949.
Dunhuang Research Institute of Cultural Properties (1950)
The Dunhuang Art Institute, founded by the Nationalist government, was re-named Dunhuang Research Institute of Cultural Properties by the Communist government in 1950. Mr. Chang Shuhong again was appointed the director. A few college graduates were "assigned" to work in the institute in the 1950s and 60s. The main goals of the institute, conservation of the caves and making copies of the murals, continued during this period. Academic research remained at a preliminary level until the end of 1970s when the leadership of the institute was transferred into the hands of Duan Wenjie, an artist-turned scholar, who is more interested in academic research. Some young scholars, including myself, joined the institute, when the systematic study on the caves and manuscripts began in the early 1980s.
Dunhuang Research Academy (1984) To establish a complete and systematic research center of Dunhuang studies, Duan Wenjie launched a campaign to enlarge the research institute at the Mogao Caves. He and his colleagues successfully persuaded the Gansu provisional government to build new offices for the institute at Lanzhou. In 1984, the Dunhuang Research Institute of Cultural Properties was changed into Dunhuang Research Academy, a much larger institution consisting of 10 departments: Institute of Conservation, Institute of Archaeology, Institute of Fine Arts, Institute of Manuscript Studies, Institute of Dance and Music, Information Center (Library), Reception Department, Department of Photography, Editorial Department, and Administrative Office. This large academy has been divided into two main sections, one is based at Lanzhou and the other, at the Mogao Caves.
Chief Research Staff
Duan Wenjie, artist-art historian, Research Fellow, director.
Fan Jinshi, archaeologist, Research Fellow, associate director.
Li Zuixiong, Ph.D. (chemistry), Research Fellow, head of the Institute of Conservation.
Liu Yuquan, painter-archaeologist, Associate Research Fellow, head of the Institute of Archaeology.
Li Zhenpu, painter, Associate Research Fellow, head of the Institute of Fine Arts.
Li Zhenyu, historian, Research Fellow, head of the Institute of Manuscript Studies.
Zhuang Zhuang, musician, Associate Research Fellow, head of the Institute of Music and Dance Studies.
Feng Zhiwen, historian, Associate Research Fellow, head of the Information Center (Library).
Ma Jingchi, administrator, head of the Reception Department.
Wu Jian, photographer, head of the Department of Photography.
Liang Weiying, linguist, Associate Research Fellow, head of the Editorial Department.
Tao Rui, administrator, head of the Administrative Office.
Yang Xiong, Linguist, Associate Research Fellow, Secretary General of the Academic Committee.