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       Updated:2018-02-26      Text:Large /  Medium  /  Small  

Gold-paste master Kang Shouguang and his apprentices transform the walls of Daci Temple in Chengdu, Sichuan province into splendid artworks. 

Four unknown gold-paste masters are recreating some of the Buddhist murals lost from the Daci Temple in Chengdu.

In 1056, when the Song Dynasty (960-1279) poets Su Shi and his younger brother Su Zhe traveled to the Daci Temple in Chengdu, Sichuan province, admired the mural works of Tang Dynasty (618-907) artist Lu Lengqie, calling them "sublime". There were once more than 15,500 Buddhist mural artworks held there, but unfortunately none survives today as the temple was destroyed by successive wars.

But now, 961 years later, four unknown gold-paste masters from Datong, Shanxi province, are recreating the murals. The first 4-meter-high Tianlong gold-plaster mural has already been completed. It is hard to believe that the four good-natured artisans were originally farmers.

One of the four, Kang Shouguang, has loved painting since childhood. One of his representative works, a 16-meter-high sculpture of Buddha, is currently China's highest indoor statue.

Gold paste is an ancient art form that is widely used in aristocratic ornaments and Buddhist statues. It is hard to imagine how artisans hammered gold bars into slivers of gold foil as thin as an onion skin, and how they attached them to objects.

The production process involves more than 10 procedures. One gram of gold can be made into about 0.5 square meters of pure gold foil, with a thickness of only 0.12 microns. It is lighter than a feather, thinner than an onion skin and softer than silk. These real gold foils can keep their luster for at least 70 years.

A special glue is needed to create the gold paste. The viscosity of the glue and its thickness are the key to its success. The humidity of the air determines the amount of time it takes to dry.