WENZHOU, Zhejiang - Xu Kangfei scrupulously combed the messy hair of a young woman who was lying on a mortuary slab with a serene expression on her face.
"I want to make it as neat as it is in this photo; she has beautiful, pitch-black, long hair," said Xu, a mortuary cosmetician who is responsible for cleaning, embalming and putting make-up on the bodies of the victims of the recent high-speed train crash.
The young woman, Mu Linan, had been a stewardness aboard the train that rammed into the rear of another train near Wenzhou in East China's Zhejiang province on July 23.
Xu carefully cleaned wounds on the woman's body and head and put cosmetic foundation and blush on her face.
"This is the ultimate way of showing respect to the deceased and the ultimate comfort for their families," Xu said. "No matter how difficult it is, we are trying our best to make sure everyone is satisfied."
Even with 27 years of experience in his line of work, Xu couldn't help feeling overwhelmed when he first saw the crash victims' decomposed bodies. His 21-year-old apprentice, Ji Shuohong, nearly fainted.
"I can't imagine how horrifying the situation was," he said, adding that a large number of cosmetic repairs had to be made to the most injured bodies.
Since last Monday, Xu, his apprentice and two other cosmeticians have been working in the Wenzhou Funeral Home.
The hardest part of their work, they said, is in restoring the head shapes and facial features of those who suffered devastating injuries.
On Thursday, they spent the entire day working on the head of a 16-year-old boy who had been in the crash. For a guide, they looked a photograph his parents had provided.
When they had finished, the parents were invited in to have a look at their son. They stared at him for a moment and then put a piggy bank filled with coins beside his body.
The signs of the recent trauma were less obvious on other victims, who, all the same, received attention from the cosmetician.
"Alongside the worst injuries, even a slight scratch must be dealt with carefully," Xu said.
Of all the cases he saw, the most surprising to him was that of a family of three that had died in the crash.
"When their bodies were discovered in a crushed carriage, rescuers found the father still tightly embracing his son," Xu said. "Their bodies were only separated after they had been taken to the funeral home."
"I dressed the 4-year-old boy in a red sports suit, which was once his best set of clothes," he said. "I also put blush on his face to make him look healthy."
The train crash has left 40 people dead and 191 others injured.
"They must have suffered a great amount of pain when the accident happened," Xu said, recalling that his young apprentice once wept for the loss of their lives.
"I told her that the most we can do is to fulfill our duty, and help the deceased leave this world with dignity," Xu said.