In the 1950s and 60s, most Chinese relic restorers began to fuse tradition into modernity in repairing cultural antiques. In southwest China’s Yunnan province, however, such integration was initiated much later in the 1980s, when Mu Rui, a graduated chemistry major back then, kicked off her career at Yunnan Provincial Museum.
So far, Mu has worked in the Yunnan museum for 37 years, becoming an authority in the field of relic restoration. She repaired a diversity of relics, involving bronze ware, stone vessels, pottery, jades, horns, carpentry, bamboo ware, and textiles.
Relics ‘doctor’ in the museum
At 3:00 pm, the exhibition halls of Yunnan Provincial Museum see visitors coming and going, while the relic-repairing room remains quiet. Various tools lie on the worktable: a grinding stone, a mini file, a scalpel, a stone-carving knife, an alcohol burner, medical swabs and others. Having taken out an unfinished bronze ware from a temporary storage room, Mu Rui sat down at the desk and started repairing work. It is a sculpture in the shape of a human. With the bronze relic in her hand, Mu needs to clear the dust and dirt on it.