BEIJING, Feb. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- A new security system at the Dunhuang grottoes will help protect the famous ancient murals from temperature fluctuations and bats and mice.
The installation will start in March, and the system will monitor the 700 caves of Mogao Grottoes around the clock in Northwest China's Gansu Province, according to sources from the safety department of the Dunhuang Research Institute.
"The infrared alarm equipment will sound if the temperature of the caves changes," said Ma Xueli, head of the safety department of the institute.
Animals like bats and mice have lived in the caves for hundreds of years. "In fact, almost every cave has its 'residents'," said Ma. But the number of the animals has not increased in recent years for lack of food.
Although the animals have not caused great damage to the murals in the caves, they have to be relocated because of the infrared alarm system, said Ma.
The current security and protection system, installed in 1988 at a cost of 1.3 million yuan (about 162,500 U.S. dollars), is outdated.
"More than half of the caves are not protected by the system, including some very precious ones," said Ma.
The new system, which will cost 19 million yuan (about 2.38 million dollars), is expected to complete within two years, according to Ma.
Dating from 336 AD., the Mogao Grottoes, also known as the Caves of 1,000 Buddhas, is listed a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
A total of 735 caves have been found so far and frescos on the inside walls cover an area of 45,000 square meters, and 2,000 colored Buddha statues.