China: With air pollution damaging antiquities across country, officials fight back at Yungang Grottoes WH site

DATONG, China — The colossal Buddhist statues in the cliffside caves outside this northern Chinese city, carved from golden sandstone by Turkic-speaking nomad conquerors in the fifth and sixth centuries, were so covered in coal dust that when visitors blew on them, black clouds rose up.

Called the Yungang Grottoes, the relics had survived the rise and fall of dynasties, modern wars and the Cultural Revolution. But the scourge of a more prosperous China — industrial pollution — had been eating away at the sandstone.

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