|A specialist from the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage repairs murals at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, the Tibet autonomous region.(China Daily)|
Delicate work under way in Tibet aims to save ancient murals
Much-needed repairs are under way to preserve exquisite 600-year-old murals at Drepung Monastery in the Tibet autonomous region.
The project, with funding of 6 million yuan ($961,000) allocated by the central government, will save murals covering an area of 1,042 square meters. They were created around the time the monastery was built in 1614 but have not been opened to visitors since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The restoration work follows investment of 60 million yuan from the central government between 2006 and 2010 to reinforce the ancient buildings of the monastery, said Jin Yongchun, an official from the Lhasa bureau of cultural heritage.
The monastery, about 10 km west of Lhasa, was expanded to 250,000 square meters and is the largest monastery for the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Over time, the murals have bulged or become detached from the walls, as traditional pigments, mainly ox gelatin, aged after centuries of oxidization. The damage included murals deteriorating into flakes, along with mud and smoke damage.
"Without immediate action, large areas of the precious relics will fall off," said Jin Yongchun, an ethnic Tibetan who studied archeology at Sichuan University and who has worked at the Lhasa bureau of cultural heritage for 20 years.
After months of preparations, a repair team from the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage began work at the site in early September. It expects to complete the projects in three years.
Zhang Jihong, 32, the team's technical director, arrived in Lhasa in April and is prepared to stay there until the project is completed in 2014.
The team comprises 20 members, all with at least six years' experience in the highly specialized field. They are mostly in their 30s and have young children in their home provinces. Zhang said young people are usually better at adapting to the harsh climate and high altitude on the plateau.
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