The Technologies and Conservation of ‘Pengbi Hu Shi’ (Mural and wallpaper) in Yi He Yuan Summer Palace
Minying Wang 王敏英
The traditional craft of mural paintings for interior wall and ceiling decoration ‘Pengbi Hu Shi’ plays an important role in the conservation of old Chinese architecture. ‘Pengbi Hu Shi’ refers to the paper or silk hanging decorations on interior walls and ceilings as well as the crafting to seal gaps in windows and doors in traditional wooden architecture. This old and widespread craft developed its own standards and ‘Biaohu’ methods. It was common in northern China and especially in Qing architecture. It was listed in the ‘Gong Cheng Zuo Fa Ze Li’, guidelines for architectural constructions in the 12th year of Yongzheng Empire. It developed to include the mounting and posting of Chinese painting and calligraphy on interior walls and as decorative ceiling panels. ‘Pengbi Hu Shi’ is a disappearing craft because its methods are being forgotten and its products lost.

Since 1980s conservators at Yi He Yuan Sumer Palace have been conducting intensive researches in ‘Pengbi Hu Shi’. The theories and methods used during the preservation process were the result of more than thirty years of research. They were applied to the conservation of several architectural clusters, taking into account local particularities, solving various problems related to the long-term orientation of mural paintings for interior wall and ceiling decoration. These studies further our understanding of this craft, enabling the production of the corresponding materials, an appreciation of the cultural value of these decorations, and allowing the discovery of once lost conservation methods.


Wang Minying is a senior conservator of the conservation department of Yi He Yuan Summer Palace. She specialises in the conservation of mural, silk, paper and textile work in historic buildings. Wang is also a member of the Chinese Society for the Protection of Cultural Relics, Chinese Conservation Association and China Council for Conservation. Wang has been leading the technology research for ‘Pengbi Hu Shi’ during the conservation work carried out in Pai Yu Palace in Yi He Yuan since 2005. She is a guest lecturer teaching collection management and preservation for the Beijing Landscape Architecture School.

Manufacturing elaborate manuscripts from the Silk Road 絲綢之路上精美的手稿的製作

Renate Nöller 雲妮. 諾勒爾

Manuscripts discovered in Turfan and Dunhuang between 1902 and 1920 show a wide range of ingenuities related to the history of the sites. The choice of special pigments prepared for paint and ink, the kind of writing and drawing characteristic  and the design of the paper, reflect the multicultural background during the periods of prosperity and cultural exchange at sites along the Silk Road. Analyses of the manuscripts reveal the different techniques of their production. The diversity of styles manifested in the selection of the material and its treatment, is looked at more closely in some examples:

  •  paints made out of pigments and their mixtures
  • supports prepared with a layer
  • division of tasks for writing and painting
  • sketched out lines for pictures
  • pinned lines for punching copies
  • prints

The effort expended for the fabrication of diverse manuscripts clearly reflects their usages for different purposes. This concerns not only time consuming technical aspects of preparation but also the use of very costly and rare pigments detected in some unique objects, known to have been traded from far away. Serving as prestige objects, probably exchanged between rulers, these manuscripts are often decorated with a special shining coloration- so even gold leaf was applied- or illuminations and represent excellent works of art.

On other objects, the painting of ornaments combined with writing is supposed to have been a procedure not completed all at once or by one person, but was subdivided into several steps. The use of different material for obtaining the same color gives a hint for this. Also feint lines on papers used as guides for writing can be seen as prefabricated or drawn before the paper was submitted to a scriptorium.

Not only the sharing of tasks but also multiples productions seem to have played an important role. In this way, the spreading of ideas, copies of texts translated also into other languages and scripts could easily take place. The inks used for writing these manuscripts are more common ones. Here costs for production were saved also by reuse of paper, written in two different scripts on the front and back side. For more valuable decorated scripts imitation and multiplication of pictures was completed in a time- saving way by the technique of perforating contour lines. Furthermore printing from carved stone or wooden blocks is a very early technique of large scale reproduction.

Dr.Renate Nöller finished her PhD at the Free University Berlin, Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry (1984). Thesis: ` Production techniques of colors in ceramics´. Workgroup Archaeometry.

Since 2010 at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), workgroup: Analysis of artefacts and cultural assets, German Research Foundation (DFG) - Project: ‘The writing material of the Silk Road cultures in Turfan. Analysis of pigments and inks’. Thematic priority of work: archaeometry- analysis of pigments as related to cultural questions.