On September 6, Tencent and Dunhuang Research Institute unveiled Acoustic Animation (声动画语) within the newly revamped Traveling in Dunhuang (云游敦煌) WeChat Mini Program

Centered on the Mogao Caves, Dunhuang’s UNESCO-recognized cultural attraction, the initiative uses sound and dynamic animation to contextualize the ancient Buddhist murals within the 156th grotto. Users can click through different chapters for an immersive tour of the paintings, and learn about life in the Song and Tang dynasties.

What happened?

Tencent x Dunhuang Research Institute NFTs

Tencent and Dunhuang Research Institute’s first collectible “Digital Sponsor” NFTs were limited to an edition of 9,999. Image: Traveling in Dunhuang WeChat Mini Program

In time for China’s 9/9 Charity Day on September 9, a quiz was also held on the platform to raise funds for the Dunhuang Grottoes Conservation Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of the cave and its murals. All challenge participants had the opportunity to win one of 9,999 limited edition Dunhuang “Digital Sponsor” NFTs — the first non-profit tokens to be offered by Tencent and Dunhuang Research Institute.

The NFTs, which were all issued within a day, were minted on Tencent’s own government-authorized blockchain, Zxinchain. Unlike traditional NFT trades, winners of the Dunhuang NFTs had to verify their real names and could not remain anonymous.

What is the Traveling in Dunhuang WeChat Mini Program?

The Traveling in Dunhuang Mini Program features virtual explorations of the paintings in the Mogao grottos, Dunhuang Research Institute’s latest initiatives and programs, and merchandise for purchase. Images: Traveling in Dunhuang WeChat Mini Program

Created and run by the Dunhuang Research Institute, the Mini Program spotlights the paintings and sculptures that reside in the Mogao Caves through animations, videos, and virtual exhibitions. Additional sections are dedicated to information on preservation efforts and e-commerce. 

Since launching in February 2020, the Mini Program has received more than 44 million views and undergone upgrades to boost its interactive multimedia offerings (this latest revamp is its third iteration).

Why it matters

Alongside Chinese tech companies Baidu and Alibaba, Tencent has entered the NFT space despite the country’s aggressive measures against cryptocurrency. In August, it launched Magic Core, a NFT trading app that functions on Zxinchain, using private network protocols and fiat gateways. 

Focused on charity and cultural preservation, the Dunhuang NFTs differ from Tencent’s commercial pursuits in the crypto sphere and might soften the leading view of NFTs as profit-making investments. As suggested by their name, “Digital Sponsor,” these tokens are intended to convert audiences into participants in cultural heritage and the conservation thereof, in turn making historical artifacts newly appealing to a younger generation of consumers. 

Notably, this is hardly the first time Tencent and the Dunhuang Research Institute have sought to modernize the murals in the Mogao Caves — for one, in 2020, they collaborated to transform the paintings into virtual fashion — and it won’t be the last. In a statement, Li Hang, General Manager of Marketing and Public Relations at Tencent, said, “Looking ahead, through the integration of new technologies and culture, we will carry out more innovative explorations in the public welfare sector, opening up more possibilities for the protection of cultural heritage.”

What Dunhuang Research Institute said

“These NFTs, which are infused with traditional art and culture, are our gift back to the supporters of the grotto preservation efforts and participants in the 9/9 Charity Day. It also raises the cultural threshold of NFTs and sets a new benchmark within the industry.” — Spokesperson for Dunhuang Research Institute

Translated by Min Chen


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