Overseas returnee reproduces ancient
instruments in Dunhuang, bringing history to life
An overseas returnee in northwest China has given the ancient musical instruments depicted on the murals in Mogao Caves a new life and passed down the traditional Chinese culture.Pipa (lute), Konghou (ancient Chinese harp), Huqin, and Bili (wind instrument), an orchestra of long-lost ancient musical instruments brought the grandeur melody more than 1,000 years ago to the audience of the third Silk Road Cultural Expo held in Dunhuang, an ancient city of northwest China's Gansu Province last September.And such amazing achiemvement was made real by Ma Chenghu, an overseas returnee now also the general manager of Gansu Silk Road Cultural Creativity Mart Corp, along with his team."The instrument on my hand is the so-called rebound pipa which was depicted on the murals in Dunhuang. Among the restored instruments, we have found a particularly special one which is called 'lacy Ruan'. its image was only found in Mogao Caves' No.220 cave and it was shaped like flower pedals. Another very characteristic instrument will be Thunder God Drum from cave No.349, and you need to stand in the middle of it, using both your hands and feet to beat it. You can feel it sounds different when you hit its different parts," said Ma.The world-renown Mogao Caves in Gansu's Dunhuang City, first constructed in 366AD, represents the great achievement of Buddhist art from the fourth to the fourteenth century, and have been listed as world heritage by UNESCO. However, the music-playing scenes depicted on the murals have vanished in hundreds of years of history, without any relic left in kind.Graduated from a British university in 2014, Ma switched the focus of his cultural communication career to the Mogao Caves in his hometown. A total of 240 wall paintings in the caves are depicted with music-playing scenes, with more than 4,000 pieces of ancient musical instruments on them.Ma hit upon the idea to figure out ways of reproducing the instruments, and let them make sound, so that people can learn about them more directly, and savor the charm of Mogao Caves from an additional perspective."We studied Dunhuang's culture, including these musical instruments, and I thought that even ancient people could think of and made those things already. Now we have highly developed science and technologies, we should make good use of our advantages, and pass down these cultural heritages, " Ma said.Over the years, Ma and his team traveled to many places across China and found about 30 craftsmen who are good at making traditional Chinese musical instruments. Lots of efforts have been made and they finally managed to reproduce 245 pieces of ancient musical instruments in 97 kinds covering almost all varieties drawn on the murals. These thousand-year-old oriental tunes even strike a responsive chord among Western audience.Ma said that his endeavor to restore ancient Chinese musical instrument has filled him with more confidence on Chinese culture, and he would develop more creative products which are more practical and closer to life."I think we have made some contributions to spreading Dunhuang's culture," said Wu Ting, a staff member of the company.