Li Yunhe is working on restoring murals
On Jan 18, Li Yunhe, an 86-year-old fresco art restorer with Dunhuang Academy, was named by the All-China Federation of Trade Union as a "craftsman of great power".
Li, 86, is the oldest among the 10 people awarded, whose expertise varies from geological surveys, electrical welding, oil drilling and other fields. The awards were based on seven months of both public online voting, and offline voting by a group of experts.
It took Li five years of learning and practicing to master all the steps and basic skills in painting and carving.
When Li Yunhe traveled from his hometown in Shandong province to visit his uncle who worked with the restoration team of Dunhuang's Mogao Grottoes in 1956, he was offered a job that very few people in China had done before.
During the visit, he met Chang Shuhong, who later became the first director of the Dunhuang Academy, and Chang persuaded the young man to stay and join his team as a fresco art restorer.
From then on, Li, who always wears blue overalls, started his daily routine getting in and out of the caves with a torch in his hand and a toolbox strapped to his back, which contains injectors, rubber suction tubes and other necessary items to protect the murals. His job responsibilities include "curing" typical mural diseases such as flaking, detachment and blisters.
Over the past six decades, Li, who has gradually grown into a top expert in the field, has repaired over 4,000 square meters of area covered by the murals inside the caves and more than 500 sculptures. He has also pioneered several methods in the protection of relics.
His long-term passion for mural restoration has also influenced his family.
While Li has spent more than 60 years illustrating the spirit of a real craftsman, his grandson Li Xiaoyang, who joined Dunhuang Academy after graduating from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia in 2011, is carrying his work forward.
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