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China breathes digital life into historical heritage like Great Wall

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-23 14:55
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LANZHOU -- Embarking on a mesmerizing journey, visitors wear virtual reality (VR) glasses that transport them back to a bustling military fortress along the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Great Wall, with vivid scenes of streets, military camps, and farmhouses.

In Northwest China's Gansu province, a team of tech experts is harnessing digital technology to reconstruct segments of the Great Wall dating back over 400 years, showcasing and unraveling the cultural value of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Great Wall, a symbol of China, comprises many interconnected walls, some dating back 2,000 years. The existing sections have a total length of over 21,000 km, with Gansu contributing nearly one-fifth to the overall length of this iconic structure.

Utilizing ancient texts, on-site investigations, and digital technology, the technical team from Silk Road Infoport Co Ltd successfully restored three crucial military strongholds along the Gansu section of the Great Wall, said Wang Yuou, manager of the company's intelligent digital reconstruction project.

State-of-the-art technologies, including high-precision BeiDou satellite positioning and drones, were employed during field investigations to authentically recreate historical relics, according to Wang.

Expanding beyond the Great Wall, the team applied their digital expertise to restore the Nanzuo ruins, a pivotal archaeological site shedding light on early Chinese civilization.

The Nanzuo site's main palace, covering an indoor area of 630 square meters and dating back approximately 5,000 years, is considered by the archaeological community as the largest single indoor structure of its time in China.

Experts compiled, analyzed, and encoded information, such as documents, images, and videos related to the Nanzuo ruins. A multi-dimensional parameter information database helps achieve a panoramic presentation of the cultural heritage restoration.

"Digital technology can help us build models for the ancient palace and make it a reality," he said.

In recent years, China has increasingly employed digital technology to breathe life into historical relics. Leveraging technologies such as 5G, augmented reality, VR, and artificial intelligence, cultural institutions and technology companies like Tencent and Baidu have introduced a plethora of digital cultural products and projects.

A team from Tianjin University used centimeter-resolution continuous shooting to identify the ruins of more than 130 hidden doors at the Great Wall. About 900,000 items and sets of cultural relics at the Palace Museum have undergone digitalization, constituting 48 percent of its total collections.

China's efforts to "revive" cultural artifacts aim to tell the story of its rich civilization. The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) underscores the commitment to promote free access and digital development of public cultural venues like museums.

Looking ahead, Wang's team aspires to capture the entire lifecycle of the digital artifacts. "By integrating various information parameters such as historical context and spatial details, along with the support of intelligent algorithms, we want to accurately recreate the relics during different periods," he said.

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