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Old Summer Palace digitalized in Beijing's industrial remains

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-07-22 09:35
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The Old Summer Palace, or "Yuanmingyuan" in Chinese, has been digitally recreated in a reclaimed century-old steel plant in western Beijing.

After more than 20 years of historical research on the Old Summer Palace, Professor Guo Daiheng's team from the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing held an exhibition via advanced internet and visual technology, including 5G, AR and AI, in the Shougang Industrial Park last weekend.

The exhibition shows how the Old Summer Palace, construction of which began in 1707 in Beijing, flourished before it was burned down and its sculptures looted by the Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.

Yang Si, a team member and executive curator of the exhibition, said that to let the public know more about the true history, Professor Guo, who is a disciple of famed Chinese architect Liang Sicheng, has been exploring technical ways since 1999 to "restore" the Old Summer Palace.

Based on preliminary archaeological findings, the project team spent years searching for old photos and etchings in many large museums at home and abroad in order to reconstruct the historical features of various pieces of architecture in the park, and both the Chinese and foreign experts gave them strong support.

The team came across some new findings during the research. For example, the members found many broken glass decorations in baroque style in the warehouse of the Old Summer Palace. After comparing them with those in the historical photos of the western architecture creations in the park, they recreated part of the architectural pieces' color images.

At present, 65 percent of the park has been digitally restored. "With the deepening of our research, the proportion will increase further," said Yang.

A hundred tickets released online by organizers a day before the exhibition were sold out within 30 seconds.

"The show answers many of my questions," said Zhao Jie, a blogger with millions of followers. She lives near the Old Summer Palace, but saw the park's former grandeur for the first time.

"I have never understood how the 12 animal head sculptures spit out water into the pond. Only after seeing the exhibition did I know that there was a complex water conservation system behind the process," Zhao said.

Chinese steelmaker Shougang Group has transformed its past production premises in Beijing's Shijingshan District into a new landmark of the capital, featuring winter sports events, fairs and exhibits, after it moved its production to the coastal industrial zone of Caofeidian in neighboring Hebei Province.

"The former steel plant is the best place for the exhibition," Yang said. "When cultural heritage meets industrial remains, it makes the exhibition more interesting."

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