In this week’s episode, Hannah starts the painstaking task of dry cleaning the embroidery to remove any particulate soiling from the object.
The embroidery dates from China’s Tang dynasty (AD 618–907). It depicts the Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak – in Buddhist tradition a favourite retreat of the Buddha and his disciples, located in what is now north-east India.
It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943) who, while exploring the many caves at Dunhuang, discovered a walled up cave. Behind this wall was a library full of manuscripts paintings and textiles, including this astonishing embroidery.
The tapestry is part of a collection donated to the British Museum by the archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943).