Tibet's first systematic restoration of ancient temple books completed

Publish Time: 2017-12-19 Author: From: China Tibet Online

Early on the morning,  staff of the Tibet Library set off on the 110km journey to Mangre village, Nyimajangra township, Maizhokunggar county, southwest China's Tibet.

On the way, Yangra, a conservator at the Ancient Book Restoration Center of Tibet, sat in the back seat holding ancient books wrapped in protective cloth, as if carrying one's most beloved treasure.

Two hours later, the group of people came to Mangre Temple in Mangre village, Nyimajangra township.

The conservators, Yangra and Tseyang, solemnly handed over the restored ancient books to the temple monks.

It took three years to repair the 232 loose pages of the two ancient books they returned this time.

This is the first systematic repair of ancient temple books since the Tibet Library officially started the ancient book protection project in 2009.

Before 2012, Yangra, who was a administrator of the Tibetan reading room at the Tibet Library, went to the National Library of China in Beijing to learn the art of ancient book restoration from Du Weisheng, the famous ancient book restoration master and intangible cultural heritage representative inheritor, becoming Tibet's first conservator to have specially and systematically studied the art of ancient book restoration.

On September 4, 2014, the Mangre Temple monks sent the precious ancient books that were seriously damaged to the  Ancient Books Restoration Center for repair, and Yangra took on this onerous task.

"When Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra was sent for repair with loose pages, the paper was quite thick and made up of several layers that were stuck together. During repair and after we had unstuck the pages, we discovered that there were about 174 pages, so we defined them as a volume," Yangra told the reporter.

The reporter learned that due to poor preservation at the temple, when another collection was sent for repair, the books have already become "bricks" and the paper texture was very thin. After opening up the pages, the repairmen managed to repair 58 pages, but the rest of the book bricks were severely damaged and would cause further damage if they continued to open them up, so taking into account the value of the ancient cultural relics, it was suggested not to repair them and they were returned to the temple in their original state.

Mangre Temple, founded in the 12th century, is an ancient temple with more than 30 ancient classics and the most important collection is the ancient Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra written from the 13th to the 18th century.

Bai Zhang, an ancient book preservation expert at the Tibet Library, said: "This collection of ancient books are extremely precious ancient literature in Tibet history, with a high cultural relic value and literary reference value. The ancient books have a fine texture that is soft and smooth, and are exquisite when mounted. After several hundreds of years, the writing is as good as new and provides material information for research into the history, culture and linguistics passed on from the second propagation of Buddhism in Mozhu area."

Palbar Tsering, deputy head of the Tibet Library and head of the Ancient Books Preservation Center, said: "The restoration of the ancient books of Mangre Temple is the first external pilot restoration our center has carried out. It is also a substantial step for Tibet's ongoing exploration and research into ancient book restoration work."

The reporter learned that since the establishment of the Tibet Library's Ancient Book Preservation Center, they have carried out a comprehensive and systematic salvage, restoration and utilization of ancient books and endangered books that are included in the national-level and autonomous region-level precious ancient book list.

The successful restoration of the precious ancient Mangre Temple book Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra has laid a solid foundation for pushing preservation and restoration of ancient books to a new level in Tibet.

Editor: Tommy Tan

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