Restorers bask in reflected glory as imperial robes go on show
Objects belonging to Empress Dowager Cixi and an imperial concubine of Emperor Qianlong on display at the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. The exhibition will run until November 8. [Photo by Jiang Han/China Daily]
Even from a pretty close distance, the very fine needle in Lou Shuqi's hand can barely be seen, giving the impression that she was using an invisible thread to restore the antique quilt.
The 290-cm-long and 275-cm-wide yellow Dharani Sutra Quilt was unearthed from the tomb of the Empress Dowager Cixi, a legendary female politician who held the reins of power for decades during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Apart from the quilt, some 20 mortuary objects belonging to Cixi and an imperial concubine of Emperor Qianlong are on display at the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province. The exhibition, starting August 8, will last for three months.
Restoration work of the antiques took eight years.
"Restoring textile heritage needs not only a calm mind but also physical strength," says Lou who, over the past 20 years of doing such work, has had to change her reading glasses almost every year.
Lou, a senior restorer and the chief instructor of the restoration project, said the precious textile relics were excavated from the eastern royal tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Zunhua, North China's Hebei Province, some 120 km from Beijing.
The Dharani Sutra Quilt, made in present-day Nanjing, was woven with many patterns and around 25,000 characters, including a pagoda, Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra.
"The design was so delicate and complicated that it was never possible to create such a large quilt without the support of advanced loom technology," says Zhou Yang, director of the museum's technology department, adding that the quilt is of high scientific research value.
Zhou says that Cixi was wrapped in this quilt when she was buried and it is the first time that the precious item is being shown to the public.
"The quilt, which has a golden color embellished with 820 pearls, must have been splendidly shiny at that time. Unfortunately, the pearls were all stolen," she says.
Wang Shujuan, deputy director of the department, says that the restorers left the residual threads that once fastened the pearls to the quilt, hoping visitors will be able to imagine how magnificent and gorgeous it was when it was intact.
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