The wooden articles restoration room

Animal colleagues.

Chinese people have been using wood as construction material for a long time.

Wooden houses, wooden tables, chairs, beds, and wooden tools.

And wooden statues.

This statue was made about 800 years ago.

Parts of the fingers are missing.

They are restored, using similar material.

And then coloured to make them look as close to the original as possible.

The first coat of paint is applied.

Then a manicure.

When the statue was first delivered to this room, it was missing two of its fingers and part of its lip.

Restorers have to make educated guesses about the hand gesture and colouring.

Many of the younger staff who work at the conservation and restoration department are graduates from tertiary institutes like Central Academy of Fine Arts, or Tsinghua University.

They have to master woodcraft.

And sometimes cooking skills—making fish glue.

This is where they work.

The palace cat pays a visit.

One added perk of working here: fruits.


Some of the trees were planted by their teachers, and others were planted by people who lived here during the Ming and Qing Dynasties a few hundred years ago.

This is the lacquerware room.

The staff receive visits from their foreign counterparts.

This belonged to Emperor Qianlong. Used by him to store his literary works.

Emperor Qianlong composed over 40,000 poems.

Each box contains about 10,000 poems.

The surface contains over numerous layers of lacquer.

The boxes are in relatively good condition.

But this is not.

It looks like a big piece of wood (I thought it was the lid of a coffin . . .)

But it’s actually a musical instrument.

瑟 Se

An ancient zither already in existence during the Spring and Autumn period about 2,500 years ago.

Se used to be a musical instrument used in the palace.

Lacquer produced from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree.

Exposed to the sun, the lacquer turns translucent.

Staff have to wear gloves in handling the lacquer, as touching it directly might lead to allergic reactions.

The inlay team.

They are working on restoring missing inlays on a wooden chest filled with exotic designs.

It’s called 黄花梨百宝嵌番人进宝图顶箱柜.

Fragrant rosewood chest with a hundred treasure inlays, a tribute from the barbarians.

“Barbarians” was an ancient term referring to ethnic minorities and foreigners.

Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties practiced a tribute system, with a set of strict procedure (how to kneel, kowtow, and how to exit etc.).

In exchange for the tribute gifts, the imperial court would present gifts in return, typically silk fabrics, china, gold, and silver, which were much more valuable than the tributes received.

Trying to restore the missing pieces is like working with a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Very few such artefacts remain in the world.

It’s price?


A Qing Dynasty screen with similar inlay techniques was sold for 20 million RMB in 2018.

image source

A small pen holder like this, was sold for 50 million RMB in 2012.

image source

The textile room.

It looks more like a high-tech lab.

Staff who work in the room cannot wear makeup, or nail polish, or perfume.

The air conditioning is switched off.

Such strict working environment is to help ensure that no unknown chemical substance gets onto the surface of these textiles and causes damage.

This is part of decoration on a palace lantern.

It has turned completely black.


To be continued . . .

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