Preserving and Restoring Japanese Paintings and
Sculptures as Cultural Assets

The Cultural Assets of Japanese Painting and
Sculpture as a Category

The techniques and materials used in Japanese painting were brought to Japan from the Chinese mainland and the Korean peninsula well over a millennium ago, primarily through Buddhist painting. A gelatin-based glue is applied to traditional Japanese paper, silk, boards, and other materials as an adhesive, and the image is painted using natural minerals, seashells, and plants as pigments for coloration. Because these materials are fragile, repeated restoration efforts are needed in order to permanently preserve the paintings. Additionally, sculpture as a cultural asset in Japan consists almost entirely of Buddhist statues. Most of these statues are woodcarvings that become damaged due a variety of causes, including material deterioration and decay as well as insects. The ancient statues that survive today are the result of numerous restorations carried out over the course of many generations.

Japan’s outstanding restoration techniques, which have been handed down to the present through the restoration of Japanese painting and sculpture cultural assets, are culturally important in their own right along with the works of art themselves. However, Japan is now the only country that preserves both those creation techniques and restoration techniques. Those techniques and materials that represent well over a millennium of tradition could be regarded as indispensable for preserving and restoring the cultural assets of the Silk Road and Southeast Asia as well. The advanced creation and restoration techniques used for Japanese painting and classical sculpture that have been preserved by Japan will contribute more and more to global culture in this age of globalization.