The Program for Capacity Building along the Silk Road: Historical Buildings Course

Practical on-site training

 The second half of the course on the conservation of historical buildings, a part of the “Program for Capacity Building along the Silk Road,” which is a joint project with the China National Institute of Cultural Heritage, was conducted from early April at Kumbum (Ta’er) Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Qinghai province. While last year’s program focused on restoration theory and measurement survey, this year’s course focused on practicing the actual flow of work, from drawing up conservation management plan to basic design and detailed design. In addition, by giving an outline of the restoration system unique to Japan, in which survey, design and on-site control are undertaken by the same person, we sought to offer an opportunity for Chinese trainees to think about the meaning of conservation that often relies on given manuals.
 Lectures from the Japanese side, which sent 5 lecturers in succession, were completed at the end of May and were followed by lectures from the Chinese side, which continued until the end of July. The twelve trainees have been working hard in their respective fields, but the course has also shed light on various issues. First, although both Japan and China have traditions of wooden constructions and Chinese characters, there are significant unexpected differences between Chinese and Japanese architecture. Thus there was often trouble communicating because of differences in terminology and views on restoration. Second, since restoration work was already in progress at many parts of the monastery, on-site practice could be conducted only on a part of the work site. As such, there was no choice but to change the building used for practice in cases when we could not reach an agreement with the monastery, who wanted the restoration to be done quickly. We really felt the necessity of making sufficient consultation at the planning stage for both curriculum and operation.

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