Sat, Oct 20, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Treat relics as elderly patients: museum restorers

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

“We must truly care for our relics, and seek to pass on to our successors the techniques and experiences of how we repair and conserve ancient texts, for such is our responsibility,” National Palace Museum restorer Lai Ching-chung (賴清忠) says.

Featured in a short video released by the General Association of Chinese Culture on Thursday last week, Lai said that restorers should see the ancient relics and texts that pass through their hands as elderly patients and handle them with the appropriate care.

Both Lai and his mentor, Lin Mao-sheng (林茂生), said that the relics have a life of their own and should be treated, not as simple as inanimate objects, but rather like people.

Lin, who retired in 2001, said restoration is not simply about making the objects whole again.

“The ancient relics, once restored, should remain ancient,” he said.

While you should carefully apply glue and paper to holes in ancient texts so that the manuscript retains its original thickness, allowing people to enjoy the texts without any obvious signs of restoration, you should not forget to leave your “mark,” allowing others to know where restorations have been made, he said.

These signs allow future restorers to know where restorations have been made and using which technique, and they would be able to use that knowledge to aid their work, Lin said.

“Learning this trade [restoration of relics] requires time. While strictly speaking there are not many procedures, the restorer cannot appreciate their calling without age and experience,” Lin said.

“I truly believe that our forebears were smart, as they knew the methods of restoration they employed would not necessarily be ours, and they sought to make our jobs easier by leaving marks and other tell-tale signs,” Lai said.

Lai said he believes it is the responsibility of all restorers to pass down complete and continually updated knowledge to future generations, which allows for the art of restoration to be continually changing, yet continually updated and renewed.

Though the habits and techniques of each restorer differ, they all share the same view that relics should be cherished and cared for, Lai said.

Lai, who started at the museum in 1974, was the last to go through the apprenticeship system for restorers.

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