My life as a cultural relics restorer in the Mogao Grottoes

By Peng Yukai, Liu Ning, Zhao Chen, Lv Qiang, Wu Chaolan (People's Daily Online) 10:34, December 06, 2021

Liu Tao, a cultural relics conservation expert at Dunhuang Academy, has been restoring the murals and sculptures of the Mogao Grottoes for more than 35 years. Liu compares his job to that of a doctor, diagnosing the culprits that caused the dilapidation and finding ways to treat them.

For Liu, undertaking a conservation project is like holding a conversation with cultural relics from thousands of years ago. "We grasp the beauty and culture of these exquisite murals while restoring them," said Liu. "Then we pass on their value to future generations through our finished work."

Usually Liu and his colleagues have to stay in caves for nearly seven hours a day to do their work. Compared to office jobs, the working environment for this profession is very demanding, as the temperature in the dark caves is much lower than the outside. Even in the scorching summer, Liu has to wear a padded jacket when he is inside the caves. Despite this, Liu feels lucky to do this job.

"Not everyone has the chance to restore these thousand-year-old cultural relics. It is laborious and challenging, but it gives me a strong sense of accomplishment," said Liu. "When I appreciate the murals we restored, I feel that our efforts have paid off."

Inspired by his father, Liu's son fell in love with Dunhuang culture and became an art restorer. "We can only repair a small fraction of this cultural vault. The grand conservation project takes a long time and needs generations of effort," said Liu.

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Liang Jun)


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