In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, two giant Buddha statues that had been carved out of sandstone cliffs in Afghanistan during the 6th century. But for 16 hours this past weekend, the Buddhas returned in the form of projected 3D holograms, standing in their original spots overlooking the Bamiyan Valley.

The projections—which were the brainchild of Chinese couple Janson Yu and Liyan Hu—cost $120,000 to create. And because the Bamiyan Valley is on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the projector’s use had to be pre-approved by UNESCO and the Afghan government.

The event brought out more than 150 people, celebrating the Buddhas' brief return and memorializing the real Buddhas’ absence. A YouTube video from China Central Television (CCTV+) quotes one Bamiyan resident who said, “This cannot fill the empty space of [the Buddha], but it’s something that reminds us that it is not dead.”

According to CCTV+, the couple donated the equipment "to [the] local department of cultural relics protection,” which will “reproduce the images” of the 115 foot and 174 foot statues every year in March. 

[h/t i09]