Making rubbings for tablet inscriptions is a craft with a history of over 1,000 years in China, invented as a way to copy documents even before the art of printing.
Upgrading the traditional rubbing craft which can only be applied to flat surface, Li Renqing, born in 1963 in Xinyang of Central China's Henan province, has been working for a whole life on rubbings of high relief cultural relics, making the once impossible task a mature craft.
Different from flat rubbings, high relief rubbings require the craftsman to cut the xuan paper into pieces according to the convex and concave of the sculpture, and then splice hundreds of pieces of paper together to reproduce the artwork.
Such a craft can not only copy unmovable cultural relics in equal size, but can also record cracks and erosion on them, providing correct information for the observation and protection of cultural relics.
Over the past years, Li's rubbings have been preserved in numerous research and protection projects such as the imperial mausoleum of Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Songshan mountain stone carvings and Gongyi grotto temple, and have provided precious data for China's application for world heritage list.
Nowadays, Li tries to make colorful rubbings on the basis of the original ones, which gives his rubbings a new life.
"Our creative colorful high relief rubbings are very popular in the Europe, which I think can in a way promote the traditional Chinese culture," said Li Renqing.
In 2016, a training institute was set up in his name at the national center for the preservation and conservation of ancient books.
As an inheritor for the provincial-level intangible cultural heritage, Li now has his two sons and two daughters-in-law to pass down the craft. He has also accepted five apprentices and given lectures for hundreds of students.
"With the time goes on, carvings gradually fade away and lots of cultural relics need to be protected. This work can't be done in one or two generations," Li said, "I wish I can better pass down the craft, and record the history for the later generations."