Afghanistan Buddha Statues Destroyed by Taliban Reimagined as Holograms

buddha
From left, Buddhist statues in Afghanistan: a statue from a Buddhist monastery circa A.D. 700, an undated stone carving of the Dipankara Buddha, a stucco bust of Buddha from the first to second century and the world's largest Buddha, in northern Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley. Afghanistan's Taliban have remained determined to smash all statues in areas under their control. Reuters

The world’s largest standing Buddhas, the Buddhas of Bamiyan, have stood tall and proud in central Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley since the sixth century.

Until March 2001, that is, when Taliban militants toppled both statues with artillery rounds and explosives in a crusade to destroy non-Islamic art in Afghanistan. The statues’ destruction brought down a significant piece of history with them: The area was once a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, saw the emergence of Islam and even survived Genghis Khan’s armies.

But 14 years later, the Buddhas are back: A Chinese couple has projected life-sized holograms of the mighty statues in the cavities where they stood for 1,500 years, reports Khaama Press.

The couple, Janson Yu and Liyan Hu, had been distraught following the statues’ disappearance. So in an attempt to breed creation from destruction, they designed and tested out a projector in their native China that could reimagine the statues’ likenesses. On June 7, the couple brought the contraption to the Bamiyan Valley, where they projected images of the Buddhas in the empty spaces where they once stood, carved out of sandstone cliffs and over 100 feet tall each.

This isn’t the first attempt to raise the Buddhas from their graves. Back in 2005, Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata conceptualized the idea for a laser show that would reimagine the Buddhas, but the project never materialized. Meanwhile, the Afghan government and UNESCO hadn’t come to an agreement about what to do about the Buddhas’ absence; the wound left on the region following the tragedy had been large and raw.

Enter Yu and Hu. The couple is currently filming a documentary and traveling around the world, but to them Bamiyan was a priority. With the government and UNESCO’s permission, the couple hoisted their projector onto scaffolding and screened images of the gargantuan Buddhas in their original homes. According to NDTV, the projector, which the couple said was valued at $120,000, was gifted to the Afghan government following the display.

The Atlantic reports that while the event wasn’t publicized, the crowd of about 150 people and residents seemed moved by the holographic reinterpretation. By all accounts, the show went on well through the night, as did the music.