Interview with Expert - Consultation with Zhong Huang Construction
“Travel broadens our horizon much better than wide-reading,” this is what we have realized after completing this project. Although we have internet services that allow us to obtain information about monument restoration, our hope of understanding this topic emotionally would not be fulfilled by only doing researches on the internet. Fortunately, we were able to contact Mr. Jianfu Wu from Zhong Huang Construction Company, after some discussions and plannings, we arrived at one of the monuments the company was restoring- the Red House in Ximen. We had a glimpse of the mystery of monument restoration.
For this interview, camera, recording pen and stationery are prepared. In order to have an efficient interview with Mr. Wu, we had prepared up to 10 common questions that could not be searched online and that demonstrate the journey that all monument restorers must have before they are able to join the profession.
Below are the questions we had brought up and the responses from Mr.Wu.
(Mr. Wu was looking through the questions we had brought up carefully)
Q1: Why did you involve in the field of monument restoration? What is your expectation?
A: Since wood is the most wild used material in monument restoration and my family business is closely related to wood, we started inputting to the business of monument restoration from Year 2000. After many years of experiences, I hope I could present Taiwan’s restoring methods completely and provide abundant resources for the people who are interested in monument restoration in the future.
Q2: Did you experience any sadness or touching moments when you first joined this business?
A: In the field of monument restoration, it is just like taking a ride on Doraemon’s time machine which brings people back to the old times. I can’t stop myself from imagining of how it was like on the spot I am standing right now. Although I could not judge the methods and materials that were used in the old times, I feel very lucky to be given this opportunity to carry out monument restoration. I hope to combine the methods that were used in the past with the methods that are used in modern days and preserve it for the future generation; I would imagine bringing my grandson to visit the monument I have restored, and this is what really touches me.
Q3: What is your most impressive restoring work since you started this business?
A: The most impressive restoring work would not necessarily based on the size of it but the touching feelings from the people. The restoring work that I am the proudest of is the one located at the Taipei Metro Beimen Station. When you walk out from G14, you could clearly see the twelve show pits of the Taipei Wall’s remainder. When I restore a monument, it is not just about restoring it to the place where it was before, but also how people see your restoring work when them pass by. Thus, the twelve show pits of the Taipei Wall’s remainder at the Taipei Metro Beimen Station is the restoring work that I am most proud of.
Q4: What preparations are required for monument restorations?
A: Preparations for monument restorations are fairly important. Just like what I mentioned about the definition of monuments. Monuments are buildings that possess history, culture, and art; they were built to satisfy people’s needs. Besides the restoration of the monument itself, investigations and researches such as the reason why the monument was built and the background of the conduction of monument by the local government. Taking the Red House Theater as an example, many people might think it was a theater, however, it was actually a supermarket built during the Japanese colonial period. In the next step of preparation, the designer would draw out the design of the monument. The restoration of the monument would be carried out according to the original appearance of the monument after this process is completed, the local government would carry out the public contract work in the search for a construction company like us. All methods of restoring would be written into a plan submitted to the architect and the main organizer for review. After confirming all the work, the second stage would be listing out the materials that are going to be used and submitted to the architect and the local government. Through the quality controlling system, a final check would be conducted.
Q5: What are the requirements or training process for becoming a monument restorer?
A: The business of monument restoration could be divided into two parts. The first part is the person who is in charge of the construction site. The person in charge of the site must have experiences in monument restoration and participate in different college’s courses to obtain a license. The second part is the traditional craftsman. During the annual selection held by the Ministry of Culture, the craftsman would submit their work and restoration experiences. The list of qualified craftsmen will be published on the website of the Ministry of Culture.
Q6: What were some obstacles you faced during monument restoration?
A: Monuments were built to satisfy people’s needs. As time passed by, people’s needs changed. This could be recognized not only in the business of monument restoration but also every business in our society. In fact, the most irresistible factor in every business would always be the “people”. Everyone has his or her own ideas, and everyone could decide what methods, materials and machines he or she will use. As a result, disagreements between people would lead to construction hindrances.
Q7: Would you please describe what difficulties you have encountered when you carry out the different types of monument restorations?
A: The most important part of monument restoration is the “people”. Perhaps for many people, the only difference between temples is they worship different gods. However, for professional monument restoring teams, they are buildings that different distinctly. The feeling the building gives to people depends on the weather, material obtainment and the architect’s mood of the day. Thus, when restoring, we must view every monument as a special work and have ourselves fulfilled with expectations.
Q8: What type of monument is the most difficult to restore - including the reason for it.
A: As time passed by, there are plenty of buildings with different types of styles existed. In Taiwan, the most common type of building is the traditional temple, a particular type of building that requires a complicated building process. Starting from the beginning of the roof cut to the entire temple’s pattern of carving, the whole process is relatively difficult. For instance, the dragon’s horns and scales are carefully shaped by architects, the working procedures, construction methods and components of the dragon’s horns and scales are also the most difficult ones to restore.
Q9: When carrying out monument restorations, were there any mistakes? Why was there a mistake? How was it redeemed?
A: The concept of monument restoration in Taiwan emerged around 1981, the relevant laws and regulations were adjusted as they followed the footsteps of monuments. The 921 Earthquake that happened in 1999 was the biggest turning point, after this frightening event, people urged for building materials that are more rigid for the sake of lowering the damage in case a natural disaster occurs again. As a result, the concept of using reinforced concrete and carbon fiber emerged. However, since all restoration methods and materials must be verified by the local government, and that the construction site has a supervision unit, all things have to be discussed at the construction site in order for decisions. Monuments are irreversible, it could not be reviewed, so people do allow mistakes since it is inevitable.
Q10: What are some follow-ups or maintenance work that must be carried out after restoration?
A: After the restoration work ends, the most important thing would be the follow-ups and maintenance work of the monument. In Taiwan, the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act divides the ownership of monuments into two parts. The local Department of Cultural Affairs owns the monument while the local cultural foundation leases it and carries out daily maintenance plans. These plans would be conducted in order to verify the completion of the monument. If it is found damaged, related units would carry out reinforcements and emergency repair operations in hope of allowing more people to have a look of these cultural heritages that are left by time.
Common Q & As
Our team learned a lot from the field interview with Zhong Huang Construction Company. However, besides the question we raised during the interview, we believe that there are still some shallow questions about monument restoration that exist in our society. Thus, we have listed out 5 common questions the community would probably have about monument restoration, we hope that our answers could allow people to learn more about monument restoration.
Q1: Isn’t the process of monument restoration dangerous?
A: Actually, the process of monument restoration is not dangerous as long as one wears a helmet and be cautious with one’s own safety, such as paying attention to one’s surroundings.
Q2: Does the restored monument have to look exactly the same as the original one?
A: Not really. The reason for restoring monuments is that we hope people in the future could have a chance to look through these cultural heritages, so the restored monument does not have to look exactly the same as the original one. People do accept the fact that sometimes the restored monument may look different to the original one since we may use different materials and the weather may differ to the old times.
Q3: Is the process of monument restoration complicated? How long does it take to restore a monument?
A: The building materials and engineering techniques for each monument would not be the same. The time required to restore each monument may differ since the complexity of each monument are based on their damaged condition and historical background.
Q4: What is the annual income of such monument restoration business?
A: Actually, there isn’t a fixed annual income salary for such monument restoration business. Basically, it depends on how many cases the restoration team have and the complexity of each case.
Q5: How can we learn about the restoration history of a monument?
A: When the restoration team is carrying out monument restoration, its members would record the usage of materials, machines, and staffing during the whole process. This allows restoration teams in the future to have solid information about how the monument was restored.