After a hiatus in spring 2003 due to the SARS epidemic in China, the GCI team returned in August and September to the Mogao grottoes and the Imperial Summer Resort at Chengde in the application of the China Principles at these two sites. The Principles—developed through a collaboration among the State Administration for Cultural Heritage (SACH) in China, the GCI, and the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC)—provide national guidelines for conservation and management of cultural heritage sites in China. The recent work campaign was also the occasion for a renewal of the cooperative agreement between SACH and the GCI in a fifth phase of the collaboration since 1989. Deputy Director-General Zhang Bai signed the new agreement, and Neville Agnew from the GCI initialed it.

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At Mogao, the joint GCI-Dunhuang Academy team undertook grouting of extensive areas of wall painting in Cave 85 to re-adhere the plaster layer of the conglomerate rock into which the cave temples of the site are hewn. GCI staff also made a presentation to the Dunhuang Academy staff on the information management system developed for the project, including the visual representation of quantitative, analytical data. With the rescheduling of the Second Silk Road Conference to the end of June 2004, the Cave 85 project will be in its final stages. The cave is being readied to receive conferees who will be able to view the wall paintings close up from scaffolding. The visitor-carrying-capacity study under the master plan for the site was further developed. Colleagues from the AHC continued work on the visitor management plan.

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At Chengde, the project work focused on architectural conservation planning at the Shuxiang Temple. There were also discussions with staff on the need for completion of the condition assessment in preparation for a specialist seminar in spring 2004 to debate conservation versus restoration as two alternatives to interventions on this significant structure. The Shuxiang Temple is the last unrestored temple of the eight extant Qing temples, and it still retains much of its original fabric and furnishings. The project team members and colleagues from the AHC also participated in an international symposium celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding by the Kangxi emperor of the Chengde Imperial Summer Resort.