Through magic of pixels, history gets a second life

By Zhao Ruinan (China Daily)

Updated: 2023-06-26

Walking around a digital exhibit hall in Yongle Palace in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, it is difficult not to be amazed and inspired by 3D printing, digital murals, augmented reality recognition and other exhibition projects. All this is thanks to the great effort that has been put into digitally preserving the Yongle Palace murals.

Yongle Palace (palace of eternal joy), one of the three biggest Taoist temples in China, is the largest of all Taoist temples remaining from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and was among the first national key cultural relics protection items.

In 2016, experts found that its murals were deteriorating and that the wooden components of the four halls were deformed and cracked, and a rescue operation then began.

A digital collection of murals, buildings and other movable cultural relics was created and eventually made available to the public on the internet.

Since 2018 a team led by Li Luke, an associate professor in the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing, has been dedicated to digitally restoring buildings and murals in Yongle Palace.

Xi Jiulong, head of the Yongle Palace mural art protection research institute, says technological intervention has helped bring life to history to help the public better understand it.

Digital technology can capture details in old paintings invisible to the naked eye and present them vividly, Xi said, adding that digitalization could also pave the way for future research.

Visitors could also immerse themselves in the splendid artworks and learn more about the antiquities by scanning the QR code attached to each item.

Over the past two years digital exhibitions of murals in Yongle Palace have been held around China to great acclaim.

Xi says he hopes cultural relics can be better documented and presented with the help of advanced technology.