Relics saved from the ravages of time

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, September 21, 2022
Lesley Liu Yuyang (center), head of the University of Hong Kong's Libraries Preservation Centre and Conservation Laboratory, introduces the collections of Luo Zhenfu, an imperial physician in the late Qing Dynasty, to students at the university in November. [Photo/China Daily]

Dedicated conservators piece together the past in Hong Kong

For the past few years, Silas Lee Choi-leung, a 67-year-old retiree in Hong Kong, spent every Wednesday restoring ancient books at a museum in the city, rather than joining his friends for morning tea.

His restoration work was voluntary, and Lee was seldom late or absent.

At 10 am on Wednesdays from 2016 to 2019, he arrived at the Hong Kong Museum of History in Tsim Sha Tsui and headed to the restoration laboratory. Rows of brushes hung from a wall, reference books and bottles of chemicals packed the shelves, and paper scrolls filled a corner of the room.

Lee donned a lab coat, placed tweezers, scissors and an art knife on his work desk, and began his weekly practice of repairing book pages that had yellowed.

He stayed until 5 pm-sometimes 6 pm-and returned the following week to continue any unfinished work. From 2016 to 2019, he helped restore more than 500 paper items.

"To do this work, you must be patient, and you cannot rush. It tests you," Lee said.

From being a layman who simply followed the instructions of professional conservators, Lee gained experience year by year, and learned to repair different types of paper items on his own.

Viewing each restoration project as a "fantastic journey", he traveled between several dynasties when restoring the Twenty-Four Histories, official records covering the earliest dynasty in 3000 BC to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Lee also discovered the beauty of clothes made from paper when handling a book about the Ghost Festival, and he also dealt with posters about life in Hong Kong when it was invaded by the Japanese.

Under his care, stacks of paper items that were torn, holed or which had mold, were cleaned, reassembled and preserved. "After this work, these items look fresh to the reader, and are strong enough to withstand future tests of time," he said.

Lee took part in the volunteer program operated by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, or LCSD, until the plan was suspended in 2019 due to social unrest in Hong Kong and the COVID-19 pandemic.

His work reflected the city's growing interest in and attention paid to conserving cultural relics.

To preserve the 1 million-plus relics in the city, professional conservators and enthusiastic culture lovers using eastern and western techniques continue to hone their skills amid unprecedented challenges.

Their work has become an indispensable part of Hong Kong's ambitious goal to become a hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and rest of the world.

1   2   3   4   5   >  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from