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Ancient skills face lost as beauty of Buddha fades away

By Zhang Yuchen  (China Daily)

14:16, January 29, 2013

Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), Tibetan religious leader and founder of the Gelugpa school. The 6-meter-high statue of the Buddha in Falun Hall, at the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing, was built in 1924, at the cost of 20,000 silver coins Each silver coin would be roughly equal to 40 yuan ($6.30) today. (Photo/China Daily)

Ancients skills are being lost as beauty of cultural artifacts fades away, reports Zhang Yuchen in Beijing.

Liu Yuming, 77, is on the road again, traveling to one of the many Buddhist temples in northern China. One of the few restoration masters in the country, Liu is visiting the temple to help preserve its cultural relics.

He has restored hundreds of cultural artifacts, and worked on pieces in important heritage sites, such as the Summer Palace and the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing.

"When the master Lama in the Yonghegong Lama Temple wanted to repair its famous Buddha statues more than 10 years ago, I was the only one willing to work on them. No one else wanted to work on such valuable artifacts," Liu said.

It is not only the statues in temples that are in need of care and attention. Half of the nation's 30 million museum items are damaged or their condition is deteriorating, according to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

Yet despite the huge number of cultural relics that need restoration work, there are few qualified restorers and conservation technicians available.

Lack of talent

"Many countries with a rich legacy of cultural relics are already engaging in preventive conservation, but we are still struggling with rescue conservation," said He Haiping, deputy director of restoration and repairing at the Capital Museum in Beijing, "Even though we have made great progress there is still a long way to go."

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