A two-year project to protect a 1,400-year-old fresco in the heart of the Taklamakan, China's largest desert, has been completed by Chinese and Japanese experts.

The fresco of Buddhist tales was painted on the earthen walls of the Dandanulike Temple in the south of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Discovered in 30 pieces by a Sino-Japanese archaeology group in October 2002, it is believed to date back to the Tang Dynasty of the late seventh century.

Most of the fresco had survived, but experts believe parts had been stolen and some taken by a Swiss botanist in the 1920s, as his name card and a dozen sheets of a German language newspaper were found at the site.

The remainder had been damaged by wind and sand, according to Tie Fude, a researcher with the Chinese National Museum.

Temperatures ranging from minus 30 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius had exacerbated the deterioration.

Twenty experts from the Japanese University of Buddhism, the Xinjiang Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the National Museum were involved in repairing and reinforcing the ten square meters of fresco.

The Dandanulike Ruins were discovered by Swedish explorer Sven Hedin in 1896, and relics have turned up in foreign museums, including the Museum fur Indische Kunst in Berlin and the British Museum in London.

The rehabilitated fresco will be exhibited in the Xinjiang Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

Source: Xinhua