Asian Arts | Program Overview | Baiya Mural Conservation | Palpung Architecture Project
How You Can Help | Project Personnel | About CERS
| About KAF

1995: Bathing the Gods | 1996: Whacking the Gods | 1997: Monastery Repaired
| 1997: Accounting Practices
1998: Day in the Life | 1998: Conservation Complete
| 1998: Baiya Revived  | 1999: Art Report

China Exploration & Research Society
and Kham Aid Foundation  

Baiya Monastery Repaired and Ready for The Final Step
Field Report, November, 1997
 by Pamela Logan  

In 1996 Baiya Monastery's murals were detached from their underlying damaged walls, removed from the upper atrium of the temple and placed in storage elsewhere in the monastery to await new walls. The more extensive murals on Baiya's first floor were in good condition and well-protected, so we were able to leave them in situ and go ahead with repair of the monastery's roof and upper interior walls beginning in the autumn of 1996.   Before major construction could begin, the first floor murals were protected with layers of cotton, canvas, and timber.  The heavy work of removing the old roof and walls, and putting new ones on, needed to be accomplished during the winter, when dry weather minimizes risk of exposure to dampness. The deadline imposed on the construction was not set by human beings, but by the inevitability of heavy rains arriving in the spring.

Meanwhile Palpung monastery, which had been thought to be in relatively good condition, was experiencing a serious collapse of one portion of the building. This shows that our intervention at Baiya was indeed justin the nick of time, for the condition of the wood at Baiya was far more serious than at Palpung. A collapsed building can be repaired, but if Baiya's murals had been lost there would have been no replacing them.

By May the most important work at Baiya was done, the new roof was on, and the first floor murals were safe. Also replaced was the dark band that appears outside, just under the roof (see photos below). Virtually all the repairs were done using local materials--timber, stone, and clay--and according to traditional Tibetan techniques. It would take spring and summer to complete many finishing touches such as exterior decorative paint and new stone steps.  The photos below show aspects of traditional Tibetan construction in the Dege region.


rotten wood
A workman removing old beams from Baiya's roof finds the job a snap, owing to the rotten condition of the wood.
Raising a new column
March, 1997, workers raise new pillars in the main temple to support the new roof.  (The wood of the original pillars was too much weakened by water and rot to be preserved). In the background, white cloth and a wall of logs protects the first floor murals from mishap.


preparing be-cha to put in Baiya
Workers prepare tamarisk branches (be-cha) that will compose the dark band on the upper part of the outer walls.
making wooden nails
Carving wooden nails to be used in the repair of Baiya's main temple.


compacting the upper walls
Workers compact the dark band using parallel planks to keep the wood in place while people dance on top. They also use a special pounding tool to squash the tamarisk down.
Baiya main temple, front view
Front wall of the main temple.  Note bright-colored paint on the beams that support the newly-constructed roof, and the new front window. The front entrance to the main temple is at the bottom of the picture, partly obscured. 


Newly repaired Baiya MonasteryOctober, 1997, after twelve months of construction work.  The walkway at left allowed convenient worker access to the roof.  The main temple building (upper left) has had its roof and the dark band beneath completely replaced.  Note the fresh wood on the front-facing window.  In the center of the photo are the new guest quarters, including toilets and a shower room that drains into a channel below.  The same channel also prevents runoff from swamping the building, directing water around the side.  Protected from the channel is a walkway that permits pilgrims to circumambulate the temple.  The front wall of the annex (right) also has some newly refurbished rooms. These repairs were all designed and implemented by Xiong Xiong, the local man who is chief engineer for the project. 
New wood, 2nd floor, main temple Temple atrium, front.  Beyond this latticework of new wood lies the interior of the atrium where the detached murals will be re-mounted on the north and east walls. On the far right of the photo (background) is a chamber that will house a monk on a three-year meditation retreat.

  Back to TOP
1995: Bathing the Gods | 1996: Whacking the Gods | 1997: Monastery Repaired | 1997: Accounting Practices
1998: Day in the Life | 1998: Conservation Complete
| 1998: Baiya Revived  | 1999: Art Report