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Book restorers keep ancient treasures alive

By WANG KAIHAO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-05-23 08:19

A visitor interacts with a virtual reality game about ancient book restoration at the National Library of China in Beijing. WANG KAIHAO/CHINA DAILY

Chen Chao, director of the Shanghai Library, says: "We chose this book to join the project not only because of its importance, but also because the copy had various kinds of 'diseases' — it was damaged by water and bugs and its color was fading.

"It thus offered a perfect case for restorers to try for a comprehensive cure, combining traditional craftsmanship and new technology. Conservation of relics needs to catch up with the times."

Other exhibits include ancient maps of the Yellow River, ink-rubbed bronzewares, and a Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) book written in Tangut script, an extinct language spoken by the Tangut people who once lived in northwestern China.

Several ancient paper-made models of imperial architecture, known as tangyang, are also showcased in the exhibition. According to Chen Hongyan, head of the ancient book department of the national library, these special documents — stereoscopic building blueprints — can offer crucial references for restoration of historical architecture.

Since 2021, 107 restorers of ancient works have attended training sessions within the framework of the joint fund. Ancient Books Traveling Through Time and Space, a documentary featuring these specialists, went online last year, and attracted 34 million views within its first month of release.

"Ancient books are part of the long lineage of Chinese culture and history and demonstrate the vitality of Chinese civilization," says Liu Yuzhu, head of the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation. "Our efforts show that ancient books can still garner enthusiastic feedback from the public today. More creative ways are needed in the future to further protect and bring them alive."

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