An expert in the preservation of cultural relics, Ma Yanru, 59, is hard at work restoring an iron sword from the Han Dynasty, that dates back over 2,000 years.
Peering into a microscope, Ma finds gold threads intertwined on the sword and wood grains on the scabbard. She concludes that the grains suggest the material came from a broadleaf forest.
Ma said a lot of information could be gleaned from the Han sword, which has a very high historical value as it was one of the best cold weapons in ancient China.
"Whether it is the Chinese culture or cultures from the rest of the world, all cultural inheritance can be made possible through the preservation of material things," Ma said.
"When you see a stuff, it reminds you of people relating to it, and that drives you to explore into the life of ancient people and their culture."
"With these material things, you can verify your assumptions and find answers," Ma added.
Ma is one of many cultural relic restoration experts in China – the cradle of one of the world's oldest civilizations and a country that stresses the significance of protecting cultural and natural heritage.
An old Chinese proverb goes, "All things in the world have their laws for survival and development, but they know how to preserve their roots."
President Xi Jinping has echoed this sentiment, often emphasizing the importance of protecting cultural heritage. He believes that the longevity of Chinese civilization is due to this fundamental understanding of one's roots.
Over the past 10 years, China has made notable progress in protecting artifacts.
By the end of 2021, there were 108 million sets of state-owned movable cultural relics and about 767,000 immovable ones in the country, according to Rao Quan, vice minister of culture and tourism, adding that the total number of world heritage sites in China has reached 56, ranking second in the world.
Steady progress has also been made in protecting intangible cultural heritage. To date, China boasts 42 items on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list, the most in the world, according to a national conference on cultural relics held last July.
Major projects for protecting cultural relics associated with the Great Wall, the Grand Canal and others have been completed, and tens of thousands of valuable curated or excavated cultural relics have been restored, it was announced at the conference.
Noting that China's fine traditional culture is the crystallization of the wisdom of Chinese civilization, the report delivered by Xi at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stressed that China will do more to protect cultural artifacts and heritage and better protect and preserve historical and cultural heritage in the course of urban and rural development.