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A“doctor” who makes cultural relics travel through time

Updated:2020-01-03 11:43:12   XinHua

"It is cold down here! This is a totally different world from the outside!" Tang Yonghong shivered as he entered the technical department in the basement of the Yunnan Provincial Museum. Indeed, the basement was not only colder than the outside by several degrees, but it also received much less visitors.

It was a long room, and it looked just like a handicraft workshop. The table by the entrance was covered with tools. Although it was during the day, several lights were on. Technicians in white or blue gowns were sitting at the table, restoring bronzes.

The technical department where Tang works was established in November 2005. It currently has a staff of nine people, who mainly restore or take preventative measures to protect the cultural relics of the Yunnan Provincial Museum. Sometimes they work for other museums within the province or elsewhere in the country. Since its establishment, the technical department has restored and protected more than 5,000 cultural relics.

According to Tang, before beginning on the restoration of a cultural relic, the technical department has a lot of work to do. This includes taking pictures, weighing and testing. By analysing the composition, the level of oxidation and related issues, the technicians can work out a proper approach to the restoration.

The restoration process is like "walking a tightrope". Technicians must follow such principles as reversibility, minimum intervention and repairing the old as it used to be. In plain terms, technicians should relieve cultural relics of their "illnesses" without subjecting them to an "overzealous treatment". This demands not only great knowledge and skill, but also care, precision and prudence.

"The cultural relics restorers are more than just craftsmen. They must also have good knowledge of science, technology, history and culture," said Mu Rui, who has been engaged in protecting and restoring cultural relics for more than 30 years. "As we work in the here and now, we are holding the past and the future in our hands. While restoring cultural relics, we fulfil the value of life."              

Text and photos from Xinhua; trans-editing by Yunnan Daily 

Keywords:   cultural relics protection