05/18/2014 07:27 am ET Updated May 18, 2014

Outlasting Dynasties, Now Emerging From Soot

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.

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