In 2015, an earthquake caused serious damage to the ancient Hanuman Dhoka palace in Kathmandu. Six months after the quake, a team of engineers from the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage (CACH) led by Guo Qianru arrived in Nepal’s capital to begin work on restoring the structures that had been badly damaged in the natural disaster.
Whilst work is ongoing, the team are confident that the buildings will be fully restored in an orderly fashion. Last year, Guo told reporters, “Restoration work on the palace is moving smoothly, and we expect to finish it within the deadline”. The project in Kathmandu is being conducted jointly by Chinese experts who have gained valuable knowledge in how to efficiently and sustainably restore structures that have been partly destroyed in natural disasters, alongside Nepalese carpenters and craftsmen who are intimately familiar with the history and cultural significance of the Hanuman Dhoka palace.
The skills of Chinese restoration experts are increasingly in demand throughout multiple countries that seek to restore important monuments and sites to their former glory. The restoration of Cambodia’s Angkor continues to be a lengthy but ultimately rewarding project in which Chinese engineers work with local historians and architects to physically rehabilitate multiple ancient structures in the ancient Khmer capital.
Modern Chinese building technologies allow for the restoration of ancient structures to be conducted in manners more efficient and cost effective than older methods allowed. At the same time, by incorporating modern Chinese methods with ancient customs of local people who care deeply about their monuments, the projects in Nepal and Cambodia continue to progress on a win-win basis that combines the best of ancient craftsmanship with today’s innovation.
With the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris partly destroyed by fire, many are already asking how best to proceed with the monument’s restoration. As Notre Dame is France’s top tourist attraction there are clear cultural and economic incentives to restore the structure as soon as possible. Because of this, Chinese reconstruction experts may have a vital role to play in helping Paris to restore its prized monument.
There is already a precedent for Chinese-French cooperation in such projects. In 2017 a team of Chinese and French engineers began cooperating to restore Gongshutang in the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an that was first erected during the Great Ming.
Chinese and French collaborative efforts in the process of restoring old structures can therefore be put to use in Paris as much of the world seeks the successful restoration of Notre Dame. Just as the joint Chinese-Nepalese project in Kathmandu occurred at a time when bilateral ties between the two countries were rapidly accelerating, as more and more European countries look to join the Belt and Road initiative, pooling expertise to restore a European cultural monument and major tourist attraction can help to enhance growing ties between China and multiple European countries.