Influenced by them, Li himself is also a mural restorer.

However, to restore murals was not Li's first choice upon graduating from a university in Melbourne, where he studied interior design.

Because of his curiosity and the strong family influence, Li joined the restoration team in 2011 and started with basic work, like removing dust from the murals, injecting adhesives into the relics and re-coloring them.

Li Xiaoyang is restoring the fresco

Li said his grandfather is very strict with him at work. Li Yunhe once lost his temper when Li and other students failed to master some simple techniques, such as making mud and filling the cracks, after four months’ practice.

It was the first time he saw the good-tempered man get angry, Li Xiaoyang recalled.

Li’s grandfather always tells him to treat cultural relics, murals and sculptures the way a doctor treats his patients. The cultural pieces are mute, therefore need to be especially taken care of, Li Yunhe said.

In August 2012, Li Xiaoyang came to Quyang County, Hebei province to restore frescos at a temple with his grandfather.

He said they worked on a 13 meter-tall scaffold exposed to heat and humidity. But nothing could distract him.

It is a challenge for restorers to stand still for a long time at work. For instance, it took Li's team more than 10 days to completely restore only 1.4 square meters of frescos at Pilu Temple in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, which spans 185 square meters with 508 painted figures on the wall.

Fresco restorers working in the Mogao Grottoes

The project kicked off in 2017. Li said it will take at least one year before the project is finally completed, examined and delivered to the temple.

"My grandfather has devoted his life to fresco restoration," Li said, adding that to repair murals takes practice.

Li now runs a workshop. His team has repaired murals across the country. He also adopts new technologies, such as 3D painting, in fresco restoration.

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