Tibet to restore ancient frescos

Authorities in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region will soon start to restore a group of valuable frescos that have been exposed to more than 500 years of deterioration.

The massive repair job on the frescos gracing the three-meter-high walls of the Qoide Monastery in Gonggar County, Shannan Prefecture, is expected to be launched in November, according to Gesang, deputy director of the monastery’s management committee.

It is expected that the project, funded by the regional government, will cost over 6 million yuan (977,400 U.S. dollars), Gesang said.

A renowned Tibetan artist spent 14 years creating the paintings after the monastery was established in 1464. The painter was the founder of mKhyen-brtse style, a mainstream Tibetan traditional painting school which is famed for its landscapes drawn with dark mineral pigments.

Suffering significant natural deterioration, the delicate paintings have cracked, with their colors fading or changed, according to Qamba Cering, deputy head of Shannan Prefecture’s cultural heritage bureau.

In addition, there has also been significant damage caused by humans that has stained the paintings’ surface layer, Qamba Cering said.

“The repairers are required to stick to the works’ original style. They will first experiment with restoration techniques on several pieces, and then apply them to all the frescos if the measures prove feasible,” he explained.

The Qoide Monastery, which is a prominent temple for Tibetan Buddhism’s Sakya Sect, now preserves the vast majority of mKhyen-brtse-style wall paintings in Tibet as their painter was born and raised in a village near the monastery, said Gesang.

Among all the paintings in the temple, one depicting “six great divisions in the Wheel of Dharma” is the most valuable because of the unique subject it features, Gesang said. “Traditionally, it’s images of Buddhas that dominate Tibetan frescos.”

In March, a revamp of the Qoide Monastery with an investment of more than 8 million yuan kicked off in preparation for the frescos’ restoration, according to Gesang.

After the restoration work is completed, more efforts will be made to improve the monastery’s fire equipment and sewage discharge facilities, as well as its surrounding environment, the official said.

“Hopefully, the precious frescos will reopen to the public in two to three years,” he added.

source: Xinhua, 15 July 2013

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