Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 8, pp 3079–3088 | Cite as

Variable temperature and moisture conditions in Yungang Grottoes, China, and their impacts on ancient sculptures

  • Xu-Sheng WangEmail author
  • Li Wan
  • Jizhong Huang
  • Wenbing Cao
  • Fei Xu
  • Pei Dong
Original Article


Deterioration of grottoes induced by the negative impacts of the variable temperature and moisture conditions has been an important issue in the conservation of heritage sites in China. In this case study, the spatial distributions and varying patterns of moisture and temperature in the caves of Yungang Grottoes, China, were investigated. The relative air humidity was approximately 100 % in the deep zone of the unsaturated surrounding rocks of the grottoes where the temperature remained almost steady at around 9.4 °C. However, the indoor air temperature, relative humidity, and rock surface temperature in the caves varied significantly because of the active exchange of the air with the outside atmosphere. The condensation water appeared on cave walls in the summer when the dew point in the air was higher than the rock surface temperature. Preliminary assessments with a special collection device indicated that the thickness of the transient condensation water could reach 0.03–0.10 mm on the back wall of a cave. The occurrence of this condensation water is expected to worsen salt deterioration of the sculptures in the grottoes. As revealed by long-term observations, a wooden building in front of a cave can weaken the indoor air temperature fluctuation and reduce the condensation water, and consequently, prevent the negative effects of the microclimate for the sculptures.


Rocks Cave Temperature Moisture Yungang Grottoes 



This study was supported by the Chinese National Key Technology R&D Program (Grant No. 2009BAK53B02). The authors are grateful to Mr. Yan Hongbing and Mr. Ren Jianguang from the Yungang Grottoes Research Institute for their help with the field investigation. The authors are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers whose comments significantly improved this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xu-Sheng Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Li Wan
    • 1
  • Jizhong Huang
    • 2
  • Wenbing Cao
    • 1
  • Fei Xu
    • 1
  • Pei Dong
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Water Resources and EnvironmentChina University of GeosciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Shanxi Culture Relics BureauTaiyuanChina

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