China to restore murals of largest Taoist temple

The restoration of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) murals in Yongle Palace, the largest Taoist temple in China, will be launched in 2020, local authorities said Saturday.

Yongle Palace, built during the Yuan Dynasty, is located in Ruicheng County of Yuncheng, a city in north China's Shanxi Province. The total area of murals preserved there spans more than 1,005 square meters.

Among numerous mural paintings in the palace, the paintings of "Heavenly Court (Chaoyuan Tu)," known as "Oriental Gallery," is the best known. The 97-meter-long and 4.4-meter-high piece of art depicts 290 Taoist figures.

Workers have completed the digital collection of the murals, monitored and analyzed the surrounding temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels before the restoration, said Xi Jiulong, head of the Shanxi Yongle Palace mural preservation research institute.

"The restoration will involve cleaning the bird droppings, dust and spider webs on the surface, and repairing the damages," Xi said. "The original style and color of the murals shall be ensured."

Now, the local government is striving to build Yongle Palace into a first-class tourist attraction within five years. The restoration of murals is one of the necessary steps.

The restoration is expected to be completed in three years, Xi said.

The original "Heavenly Court" was stolen in Shanxi Province in the early 20th century and lost overseas. In 1936, Canadians purchased it from Japan. The painting is now exhibited in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada.

(Cover image: A replica painting of "Heavenly Court (Chaoyuan Tu)" as showcased by the Taiyuan Art Museum in Shanxi Province, October 10, 2018. /VCG Photo)

(With input from Xinhua News Agency)