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Experts Restore China's Oldest Handwritten Copy of Koran
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Chinese experts have begun restoring a 700-year-old handwritten copy of the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, in northwest China's Qinghai Province

The restoration began with a detailed scientific analysis of the paper and ink, said Xi Sancai, director of Nanjing Museum’s cultural relics preservation research institute.  

"We will clean up marks and mildew stains, and mend damaged pages by using the most advanced and mature technologies," said Xi, heading up the three-strong restoration team.


The 867-page two-volume set, the oldest of its kind known in China, is written in Arabic and stored in two caskets in Xunhua County’s Jiezi mosque in Xunhua County.


Experts believe it was completed before the 13th Century. Completed in the 13th century, it was brought to China during the Salar people’s migration eastwards from Maracanda, present-day Samarkand in Uzbekistan.


"The books have been seriously eroded and are in danger of rotting," said Ma Weimin, deputy director of the Qinghai Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau, adding that they have been photographed with a digital camera, allowing replicas to be made.


"Local conditions, such as the lack of equipment, limit the work," said Xi. Local people were reluctant to see the books removed from the area but Xi said he was confident of success as the books were not severely damaged.


Xi assured that few chemical materials would be used to protect the books and predicted the work would be completed within a year, using the 444,000 yuan (US$55,000) allocated to the project by the State Cultural Heritage Administration.


The books will be displayed near the mosque in a new exhibition center, built from voluntary donations by local people, totaling four million yuan (US$500,000).





(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2006)

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