Ancient Book Restorers: Preserving the past

History touches people in many different ways.

Reading an ancient book, you may immerse yourself in the culture and wisdom of thousands of years.

Hold it in front of you, and the ancient stories unfold as if an intimate friend were confiding in you.


(Photos: CGTN)

Ancient books carry a profound meaning in China, a country of culture.

Among the pages were the ups and downs from the ages, demonstrating the wisdom and efforts of our ancestors. 

Ancient books are mortal.


As time goes by, they wither away. Torn, moth-eaten and moldy, these books are dying.

"When an ancient book gets sick, it needs a doctor."

Xu Xiaojing is a fourth generation restorer at the China Bookstore.

Since her graduation in 2005, Xu has been working at the China Bookstore. Having grown from an apprentice into one of the best restorers, she'd never do a perfunctory job on any broken books.


Xu Xiaojing.

Before the restoration, she'd discuss the program with her colleagues. "If we chose the wrong paper, the book would become crumpled after a while. It would damage rather than repair it."

"A full heart" is what Xu's master always urges upon her. 

Unbinding, cleaning and repairing; all these processes must be done repetitively and precisely, in order to present the ancient book in its best condition.

"Restoring the books calms me down, and creates a spiritual space of my own. I enjoy it so much, even though I can only repair a few pages a day," says Xu.


Sometimes books may have gone through many restorations. The techniques could be quite different. Xu and her colleagues have to try to understand the intentions of those restorers, inheriting and improving their methods.

It's like communicating with their predecessors as well.


Every ancient book is alive for the restorers. Their mission is to restore the original appearance of the pages while respecting the books and the history, making them last longer.

The job also has an effect on Xu: "The restoration helps me to cultivate stoical character."

Through the healing hands of the restorers, a 1,000-year-old book could last at least another couple of centuries. When the restored books are back on the shelves, there will be a dialogue between us and the generations to come.