Piecing together history

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Sun Chengzhuo restores a ceramic bowl at the Shanxi Museum in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.[Photo by Peng Ke'er/China Daily]

Practice makes perfect

Fascinated by the stories his parents told him when he was a child, Sun Chengzhuo wanted to pursue a career in culture and history.

For the 29-year-old, it was a dream come true when he got the opportunity to restore ceramics at the museum in 2013.

Sun's job is divided into three phases that cover cleaning, mending, as well as polishing and coloring. "There's a lot to learn in every step. One needs to study extensively about restoration work and practice continuously to be perfect in the trade," he says.

One of Sun's most memorable experiences was restoring a flask from the Qing Dynasty. "There was an oblique triangular gap in the relic," he recalls.

He found inconsistencies even after he filled it in. "I reviewed every detail for nearly four months and finally realized I was wrong about the flask's shape in the first place."

Challenges include recovering the complex transmutation of colors that were rendered in a kiln. "Perfection doesn't mean everything must look exactly like before," Sun says, adding that risks should be controlled and a principle of minimal interference followed.

"It is the only responsible way to restore cultural relics."

Sun admits that his concepts about restoration work are still evolving with experience. "Repairing them is like repairing history," he says.

In May, the local authorities issued a notice, offering free training to those interested in restoring cultural relics.

Approximately, 600 students will graduate in the discipline from Shanxi University in 2025. They will form a new army of frontline workers who will give historical artifacts a fresh lease of life.

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