Fashion today reflects ancient Dunhuang mural paintings

A mural painting in the Mogao Grottoes (Yang Yanmin/

The thousand-year-old mural paintings in the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, northwest China’s Gansu Province, have had an influence on modern fashion in recent years.

The Dunhuang Research Academy, a national institution responsible for the conservation and research of Dunhuang murals, is making efforts to publicize Dunhuang culture and infuse the mural elements into modern fashion.

Over recent years, the academy has cooperated with the College of Fashion and Design at Donghua University to research costumes depicted in mural paintings. Last year, they held an exhibition of Dunhuang consumes.

In August 2017, the academy founded the Dunhuang Costume Culture Research and Creative Design Center together with other institutes from home and abroad in an attempt to promote Dunhuang costume culture.

“The archives of Dunhuang murals are of great value to the innovation of modern clothes,” said Wang Jinyu, a researcher from the academy.

The murals had witnessed the development of Chinese costumes over the past thousand years, Wang said, adding that some of the modern styles can be traced back to the murals in the grottoes.

For example, in the murals from ancient China’s Tang dynasty (618-907), one appears to be able to see bell-bottoms, which became popular in the 1970s. Even modern clothing materials haven’t changed much since then.

Luo Wenjuan, a guide in the academy, said the half-sleeves from Tang murals in the Mogao Grottoes resemble the T-shirts that girls wear in summer today.

The paintings also recorded many foreign clothes. “In a painting, trousers that came from Persia are a little like overalls nowadays,” said Luo.

Other than Dunhuang-themed clothes, the academy also rolled out music and animation to connect the mural paintings to the modern day.