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Stories: Masters in Chongqing Exploring Restoration of Cultural Relics

By JIEYU WANGTAN, KAILONGICHONGQING|Jun 17,2020

June 13 is the Cultural and Natural Heritage Day, iChongqing takes you to the scene of cultural relics restoration to explore the story of cultural relics restoration in Chongqing.

Cotton swabs, embroidery needles, tweezers, wrenches… It may go beyond your thought that these tools are used by cultural relics “doctors” to prolong the life of cultural relics. You can never imagine how careful they are as if treading on thin ice when they restore cultural relics with these tools.

The four museums, including Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing Hongyan Revolutionary History Museum, Dazu Rock Carvings Research Institute, and Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute, restore a wide range of cultural relics from the city’s museum collections, historical revolution relics, grotto temple statues, to the archaeological relics. Gathering these relics restored by the cultural relics “doctors” together is a feast of treasures of Bayu.

On June 5, staff members were cleaning up the deposited dust on the surface of the stone relics with cotton swabs at the site of the restoration of the Thousand Buddha Wall in Little Buddha Bay of the Dazu Rock Carvings.

The Dazu Stone Carvings is the only World Heritage Site in Chongqing. On June 5, the temperature at Little Buddha Bay was close to 30℃. The Jingmu Tower at the entrance of Buddha Bay is a solid stone tower of the Song Dynasty, 7 meters high, which is now tightly wrapped by scaffolds. On the working platform around the tower, the staff was “bathing” the stone tower.

“After completing the desalination process, we need to repair the cracks of the tower body and strengthen the severely weathered rocks to extend the life of the stone tower.” Zhang Ke, technical director of Little Buddha Bay’s conservation and repair project, said that restorers are meticulous about the restoration of any cultural relics because they are non-renewable treasures.

On June 2, a staff member at Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum was restoring the ancient painting and calligraphy.

On June 2, Zhou Likun, a painting, and calligraphy restorer at Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, and his colleagues worked together to finish the peeling off of a “real face portrait” of the Qing Dynasty. The “life” of ancient calligraphy and paintings depends on a layer of supporting paper at the back of the painting heart. The painting restoration generally requires to remove the supporting paper after it is cleaned up to restore and fully color the painting heart.

To avoid cracks in the painting heart, the staff covered the cleaned painting core with a layer of wet towels. Several hours later, the two staff held their breath and slowly uncovered the supporting paper. “It will take a month or two to restore an ordinary painting and calligraphy.” Zhou Likun said, “When our restored paintings and calligraphy are displayed and loved by the visitors, we will feel very proud and worthy.”

On May 27, a staff member of Chongqing Hongyan Revolutionary History Museum was restoring the Commemorative Book of Mr. Zou Taofen’s Death.

Most of the cultural relics restored by Chongqing Hongyan Revolutionary History Museum are the letters and remains of martyrs. Recently, the master restorer Cheng Lian and two apprentices are restoring the Commemorative Book of Mr. Zou Taofen’s Death, which was once read by martyr Cheng Qianmou. This nearly 80-year-old commemorative book has 50 pages, most of which have suffered from moth-eaten and microbial diseases.

Cheng Lian puts one of the pages on the copy board, holds a line drawing pen, applies a thin layer of paste around the hole, and then pastes it on a suitable paper. A piece of A3 paper has dozens of holes. It will take several days to fill these holes.

On May 13, a staff member was restoring a bronze ware in the Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute.

On May 13, a staff member was restoring an iron boiler of the Han Dynasty in the Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute.

In recent years, many districts and counties in Chongqing have newly built museums, and Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute had restored some of the museum collections before exhibited. Recently, Ye Lin, deputy director of cultural relics restoration and protection center at the institute, is guiding the restorers to restore the bronzeware and ironware unearthed in Yunyang, Fengdu, and other places. A 32 cm high iron boiler of the Han Dynasty was rusty and in shreds. The staff spliced the fragments with epoxy resin adhesive and restored the shape of the iron boiler.

“While cultural relics revive after the restoration, the visitors can further truly understand and feel the history and culture of Chongqing.” Ye Lin hoped that more knowledgeable and enthusiastic young people would join the effort and make more Bayu cultural relics full of vitality.

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