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Chang Shana: The Daughter of Dunhuang
Text by Li Shuya Uncredited photos courtesy of Chang Shana

 

As daughter of Chang Shuhong, who was dubbed the “guardian of Dunhuang Grottoes” and founder of China’s Dunhuang studies, Chang Shana has lived a life far from ordinary. Despite lacking a college degree, she served as president of the former Central Academy of Craft Art for 15 years, and definitely not just because of connections of her father.

Chang Shana, 83, talks with China Pictorial. She remains most concerned about protecting and passing on Chinese culture. by Duan Wei

Chang Shana and her parents in Paris, 1933.  Chang Shana with her father and younger brother in a cave of Mogao Grottoes. Chang Shana and her father inspect a copy of Dunhuang art in Nanjing, 1948.

A Life Changed

The name “Shana” is a transliteration of the “Saône” River in France’s Lyon. Chang Shana was born in Lyon in 1931. Her father, Chang Shuhong, was a young Chinese painter studying in France, and her mother, Chen Zhixiu, was her father’s cousin who was later admitted to École nationale sup¨¦rieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA), the distinguished National School of Fine Arts in Paris, to study sculpting.

While growing up in France, Chang Shana began seeing major life changes in 1936. That autumn, at a bookstand by the Seine, Chang Shuhong discovered a picture album about the Dunhuang Grottoes. Soon, upon seeing the abundant silk paintings plundered from Dunhuang on display in the Guimet Museum, he became even more impressed. Her father decided to return to China to explore Dunhuang, a treasure trove of myriad Chinese cultural relics and art. Coincidently, the National Peking School of Fine Arts invited him to serve as a professor, and he accepted the offer instantly.

 

 

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