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Tibetan Fresco Repair in Full Swing

The maintenance project of ruined frescoes in three major monasteries in Lhasa, the capital of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region is making headway with more than 1,000 square meters of the relics already repaired.

Li Zuixiong, vice-president of the Dunhuang Academy of China, said that the project has been proceeding as planned, carefully restoring the frescoes to their original style.

Ruined wall paintings in the Potala Palace, Tibet's holiest shrine, have been repaired and the renovation of those at Sagya Lamasery -- which contains numerous rare religious relics -- is well in progress, said Li, who is also leading the restoration project.

Also due for repair is the Norbug Linkha Park, the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas.

More than 5,000 square meters of wall paintings require repair after being damaged by wind, rain and worms.

The maintenance project is a part of a scheme to save the time-honored relics, which was launched on June 26, 2002 with 330 million yuan (US$ 40 million) from the central government.

The project is expected to last five years. The old walls will be reinforced and some ruined palaces will be restored to their original appearance.

This is second time the Potala Palace is renovated on such a large scale. The palace is a unique and spectacular landmark in Lhasa. The palace was first renovated from 1989 to 1995 at a cost of 50 million yuan (US$ 6 million).

For Tibetans, to visit the palace is the greatest event in their life time.

Another project to repair important relics is being launched in Tibet.

A group of Chinese scientists will travel to Russia in October to begin a Sino-Russian project to repair cultural relics belonging to the Xixia Kingdom (1038-1227) of ancient China.

Group leader Chen Yuning, the dean of Ningxia University, said five Chinese archaeologists would join their Russian counterparts to work out a detailed plan on the repair of 1,500 relics collected by the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg.

The program is to be completed within three years and its budget of 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) would be covered by the Chinese side, Chen said.

According to their agreement, the Chinese scientists will have sole responsibility for the repair work and be granted full access to the Russian collection. As a reward for this, China will get a whole set of replicas free of charge.

In addition, related research reports must be published in both Chinese and Russian.

Established by the Dangxiang ethnic group, part of the Qiang minority, in the eastern section of the ancient Silk Road, the feudal kingdom's territory overlaps with today's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and parts of Gansu, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia.

Interest in the ancient society was sparked in 1908, when Russian explorers stumbled across a tomb site belonging to the kingdom. Using 40 camels, they shipped their findings to Russia.

Statistics revealed that about 80 per cent of the world's Xixia cultural relics are now stored in Russia; only 10 per cent remain in China.

(China Daily August 23, 2004)

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