【Feature 136】Wake up cultural relics

  During the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, Henan Museum is hard to find a ticket.

In Cao Jin's impression, such a scene has been staged several times this year.

  During the Spring Festival, the creative dance "Tang Palace Night Banquet" became popular.

The show uses modern stage art techniques to bring a large number of cultural relics onto the stage. While creating a wonderful stage effect, it also makes the source of the cultural relics—the Henan Museum unexpectedly popular.

  For many years, the women who have occupied the corner of history books, the lotus and crane square pots, the "Tang Palace Night Banquet" the musicians and girls prototype music and dance figurines... Visitors who come to see the true cultural relics make this new "treasure" museum lively like never before .

  However, as a person who "resurrected" cultural relics, Cao Jin and her more than 20 colleagues were not changed by the excitement in a small building hidden behind the majestic exhibition hall.

They still face the artifacts day after day, relying on years of experience, state of mind and increasingly advanced technology to figure out the minds of craftsmen hundreds of thousands of years ago, and reshape the past glory.

No choice but to be slow

  The 47-year-old Du An was sitting in front of the restoration stage. The bronze statue with a cover on the stage had been examined by him for a long time.

  After a while, Duan would slowly turn the chassis to change the angle of observation, and occasionally pick up the scalpel and lightly tap the surface of the utensil with the tip of the knife—there were several powder-blue rusts.

Apart from this, his burly body has almost no other movements.

  "It may be powdery rust. Some people call it the'cancer' in bronzes." After a long while, Du An said a word.

  The slow working mode is the daily routine of Du An, deputy director of the Cultural Protection Center of Henan Museum.

This is also the first “rule” of cultural relic restoration he learned from an Italian teacher 25 years ago.

  In 1996, my country and Italy jointly organized a cultural relic restoration training course, and the trainees were selected from the cultural preservation practitioners.

Du An, who had just graduated from a museum major and worked in the restoration room of the Henan Museum, was sent by the hospital to take the exam. "The result was really passed."

  In China, the restoration of cultural relics is an ancient craft that began in the Spring and Autumn Period.

After more than 2,000 years of inheritance, until the 1990s, the restoration of cultural relics in my country has always emphasized experience rather than theory. "In the past, masters repaired cultural relics and pursued sound visual effects such as cultural relics’ colors, patterns, and texture. It may change or cover up the craftsmanship and information carried by the cultural relics themselves." Duan said.

  It is also a large cultural relics country. At that time, Italy had begun to use scientific methods to guide the restoration of cultural relics.

Before starting the restoration work, it is necessary to make a comprehensive assessment of the cultural relics based on the preservation status and archaeological background, and then conduct material experiments and restoration experiments according to the disease conditions of the cultural relics in order to achieve the restoration that can best maintain the original condition.

  Cooperative training is carried out in Xi'an.

Not long after the class started, Du An retreated in his heart.

"Holding a knife and scraping all morning, it seems that nothing has changed." Duan, who is in his early 20s, is an active person. The monotony and inefficiency of cultural relic restoration made him feel like sitting on pins and needles in the early stages of training.

  If you choose to repair cultural relics, you choose to fall behind in time.

Cao Jin, who specializes in painting and calligraphy restoration, has experienced this truth from the first day of his career.

  Brushes, writing brushes, tweezers, paste...every tool used in the restoration of calligraphy and painting does not seem to have much "technical content", but you must be able to use these small things to skillfully deal with paper artifacts that are as thin as cicada wings. It will take 5 years.

  For 17 years in the industry, Cao Jin has restored only more than 200 paintings and calligraphy, which is considered "very fast" in the industry.

Insect-eaten, rat-bite, acidification, aging...Because it is an organic matter, there may be multiple diseases in painting and calligraphy artifacts at the same time.

After the artificial restoration is over, they must be allowed to dry and level naturally at a suitable temperature and humidity, which will take several months at any time.

"If you want to get a calligraphy and painting with a good restoration effect, you have no choice but to'take it slowly.'" Cao Jin said.

  Duan also "has no choice."

The 18 classmates in the class came from all over the country. They studied and lived together, and they also secretly competed and competed together.

"I'm here on behalf of the province of cultural relics, but I can't afford to be ashamed." From the beginning, I forced myself to sit for 10 minutes, to half an hour, an hour, and then the whole day passed without knowing it, Duan's heart Finally gradually calmed down and slowed down.

  It was like passing an additional test, the rust was scraped off, the broken pieces were spliced, the craftsman’s ideas thousands of years ago were restored, and the cultural relics began to reveal their true identity to this young man.

At the end of the two-year off-the-job training, Du An and his classmates used Western restoration techniques, supplemented by oriental aesthetics, to complete the restoration of the Xizhou Ge and Ji Dading unearthed a few years earlier.

  That huge bronze ware has left him deep in his memory. "After two years of hard training in martial arts, it finally came in handy."

At the end of the practice, it is "feeling"

  "Teacher Cao, come here." Hearing Zhang Yihan's call for help, Cao Jin knew that the little girl was in trouble.

  Sure enough, a small hole broke in the rice paper on the console.

This day was the first time that the 27-year-old Zhang Yihan started the calligraphy restoration work. Cao Jin asked her to try to "support Lingzi".

  The so-called "Ayako" is a kind of silk fabric that is thinner than satin; "Ayako" is to apply paste on the Ayako, and then paste a piece of rice paper on it for use when mounting calligraphy and painting.

"The placement should be flat, the movements should be light, and the air between the Lingzi and the rice paper should be drained clean." Zhang Yihan reviewed the key points of the method Cao Jin taught her, "I just used a little bit more force when brushing the rice paper..."

  "Tuo Lingzi" is just a basic skill in the restoration of calligraphy and painting.

It is also a supporting paper, and most of the paintings and calligraphy works in the collection are accompanied by a protective rice paper, which is called "fate paper" in the industry.

Paper cultural relics are sensitive to the environment, and every certain number of years, the "life paper" also needs to be repaired.

  "'Mingzhi' is closely connected with the original work, and some are almost integrated. If you are not careful, the cultural relics will be irreversibly damaged." After Cao Jin finished this sentence, he held his breath and carefully wrinkled the folds with tweezers. The rice paper was flattened again, leaving only a small crack that is almost invisible.

Zhang Yihan breathed a sigh of relief when Ayako was still usable, and at the same time secretly rejoiced, "Fortunately, this is not a cultural relic."

  In August last year, Zhang Yihan entered the painting and calligraphy restoration room of the Cultural Protection Center and became Cao Jin's apprentice.

At first, she was mainly responsible for shooting the image data of the paintings and calligraphy to be restored, recording the damage, using instruments to detect their pH, paper thickness, size, etc., and then creating restoration files for the cultural relics.

  What surprised this post-90s girl is that while advanced information technology has been widely used in the restoration of cultural relics, many "old" operations that have been passed down for many years have not been abandoned.

For example, until now, the paste used in the painting and calligraphy restoration room is still made entirely by hand.

  "Why not use a machine to stir?" Facing Zhang Yihan's question, Cao Jin explained that it is still difficult for the current machine to judge whether the paste has reached the most suitable consistency and coagulation degree. "This should be confirmed by the feeling on your hand."

  "By feeling", almost every young restorer will hear these three words like "metaphysics" repeatedly from his master.

Du An's apprentice Xu Yijie is no exception.

  In Duan's laboratory, there are several instruments used for grinding, polishing, and cutting, and Xu Yijie can use each of them handily.

But when it comes to "simple" tasks like "scraping rust", she still has to seek guidance from her master.

  "Which piece is harmful rust, which piece is harmless rust, it's all based on feelings." Xu Yijie, who was born in 1997, was half naughty and half helpless. He has repaired more than 60 cultural relics in more than three years of work, but Xu Yijie has obviously not repaired "feeling" yet.

  Feeling comes from millions of repetitions.

For more than 20 years, Duan will carry out preparatory work for every cultural relic handed over to him: taking pictures, measuring dimensions, drawing, sampling, formulating analysis plans, conducting analysis tests and restoration experiments, and formulating restoration plans. Submit the plan for approval.

When it comes to the formal restoration process, it is commonplace to only clean up rust the size of a fingernail in a day.

  In this way, Duan has completed the restoration of more than 1,000 cultural relics.

"At the end of the practice, isn't it just'feeling'?"

  After joining the industry for less than a year, Zhang Yihan's practical "first show" almost naturally ended in failure.

However, this young man who has been used to fast and convenient since childhood is not discouraged, "It seems that it belongs to me, and I have to continue practicing."

One point less is not good, one more point is not good

  Recently, the "frequent visitor" on Duan's workbench is a water container in the Spring and Autumn Period, and its local disease needs to be repaired again.

  Through the opening of the opening of the bath, you can see several rivets embedded in the inner wall of the vessel.

"In the early years, there was no suitable adhesive, and the masters could only use riveting to weld the bronze fragments. This was the best effect that could be achieved at that time." Duan explained.

  In March of this year, a large number of high-tech equipment was used in the site excavations at the Sanxingdui site in Sichuan, which made the onlookers marvel at the perfect collision of history and modernity.

In fact, in the field of cultural relics restoration, similar technologies have long been an extension of the hands and eyes of restoration workers.

  The lotus and crane square pot among the treasures of the nine major town halls of Henan Museum is called "the most beautiful bronze ware in the East" because of its exquisite craftsmanship and delicate and novel decoration. It is different from the heavy and solemn style of most bronzes.

In the past many years, Du An and his colleagues have been troubled by the difficulty of finding out the internal conditions of the Lotus Square Pot, and "relevant repair work is simply impossible to start."

  The introduction of X-ray flaw detectors solved this problem.

Duan said that now, just by taking a few X-rays, you can not only get a glimpse of the "injuries" of the cultural relics, but also obtain information on the internal structure and craftsmanship of the cultural relics that are vital to the restoration.

  Today, Henan Museum has metallographic microscopes, ion chromatography analyzers, composition analyzers and other equipment.

In 2018, the museum also cooperated with a domestic manufacturing company to develop a special laser cleaning instrument.

In the past, the places in the cultural relics that were difficult to reach and could not be cleaned by humans could rely on it to achieve good cleaning results.

  Even the restoration of calligraphy and painting, which is known as the "most reliant on feeling", will reach perfect cooperation with technology from time to time.

  Once, a heavy-colored silk painting covered with stains was presented to Cao Jin.

How to remove the stains without damaging the color of the paintings, Cao Jin had a hard time.

After asking for help, Cao Jin found a glue made of new materials.

First use it to fix the silk painting, then wash off the stains with water at a suitable temperature, and finally remove the glue. "The color of the thick ink really hasn't changed at all."

  Like doctors treating the "old sick", Du An has been monitoring the lotus and crane square pot for more than ten years.

Although compared with the past, there is less and less rust and dirt on the bronzes, but as long as you get close enough, the traces of restoration on the cultural relics are still clearly visible.

  This is not beyond what Duan and his peers can do: while technological advancement makes "seamlessness" possible, restoration of cultural relics deliberately avoids "perfection."

  "Since the end of the last century,'keep intact' and'repairable' have become important principles in the industry." Duan said that in order to make cultural relics neither "one point less" nor "one point more", repairs are now being used. Most of the materials are different from the raw materials of the cultural relics. When adhering the fragments of the cultural relics, adhesives based on organic ingredients are also selected.

  Duan used the epoxy resin for bonding bronzes as an example. Compared with direct welding, the epoxy resin will age after about half a century, so it needs to be re-bonded. "But even after hundreds of years, the People can also distinguish which are the original appearance of the cultural relics and which are the repairs of the predecessors."

  Although it is possible to perform more detailed restorations, Duan does not intend to remove the rivets on the inner wall of the Wanziwa bath. “When the cultural relics have been restored, this has become an experience of it. As long as the restoration does not cause obvious damage, The effect of pollution is to preserve history.”

I can’t afford to wait while there is no one

  Unlike Xu Yijie, who was born in a science class, Zhang Yihan became a monk halfway through his home to do cultural relic restoration.

  In 2016, Zhang Yihan graduated from computer major and was admitted to the Information Management Office of Henan Museum, responsible for technical work such as three-dimensional scanning of cultural relics.

Due to work reasons, Zhang Yihan often comes into contact with cultural relics and also sees the contrast images before and after the restoration of the cultural relics in the courtyard. This makes her admire and curious about the mysterious restorers behind the cultural relics, "they awakened the cultural relics."

  In August 2020, Henan Museum launched an internal competition, and Zhang Yihan passed the assessment and "transferred" to work at the Cultural Relics Protection Center.

  "This is a rare case." Shan Xiaoming, director of the Henan Museum's Cultural Relics Protection Center, exclaimed, "The restoration of cultural relics is still too short of people."

  A skilled bronze restorer can restore about 20 artifacts each year.

A skilled calligraphy and painting restorer, this data is about 12 pieces.

At present, there are 6 calligraphy and painting restorers in the Cultural Protection Center. “Only the paper cultural relics in the courtyard, we can't finish repairing in a lifetime.” Cao Jin said.

  Nationwide, there are only more than 2,000 restoration engineers working on cultural relics, but there are tens of millions of ancient cultural relics in my country that need to be restored.

  The restoration of cultural relics cannot fight speed, but some cultural relics can't afford to wait.

  Historically, Henan was an important iron smelting center in my country, but ironware has rarely been displayed in any museum in the province.

"It's too late to repair." Shan Xiaoming said that iron is a kind of lively metal. Once unearthed, it becomes very sensitive and fragile. Some have turned into powder before being sent to the excavation site.

  From the 2016 documentary "I repaired cultural relics in the Forbidden City" to the "wake up" of Sanxingdui this year, the cultural protection industry, which has been unpopular for many years, has attracted more and more attention.

"But it's one thing to watch the excitement, and it's another to participate in it," Shan Xiaoming said frankly.

  With the change of cultural relic restoration concepts and the development of technology, a qualified young restorer must not only receive the training of traditional "teacher and apprentice", but also master interdisciplinary professional knowledge such as chemistry, physics, materials science, and art history. .

"Even if the conditions are met, if you can't bear loneliness and can't bear the hardship, it's still difficult to go far on this road." Cao Jin said.

  In recent years, with the support of the Henan Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics, Henan Museum has undertaken the investigation of the preservation of iron cultural relics in the province, and the iron repair technology and hardware conditions in the hospital have been significantly improved.

  A few months ago, the Cultural Protection Center of the hospital received a batch of iron objects from the China Navigation Museum, which were initially judged to be artillery and other objects on ships sunk during the naval battle.

As a result of being soaked in water for a long time, the iron cannon was rusty and almost completely unrecognizable.

  "It's all repaired and will be sent to the exhibition soon." After working overtime to rescue this batch of ironware, Du An, whose personality has already become calm, has a rare expression of joy on his face.

  Yu Jiaxi