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A Journey Through Time
A new hi-tech version of a famous Chinese painting is to start its international tour
By Li Fangfang | Web Exclusive
Shan Jixiang, Curator of the Palace Museum, speaks at a news conference in Beijing on February 12 (WANG XIANG)

Have you ever wanted to experience how people lived 1,000 years ago? Audience worldwide will soon have the chance to do just that through an interactive version of the renowned ancient Chinese painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival. A digital copy of the piece, developed by the Palace Museum in Beijing and Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television, will be available from the start of summer this year, as announced at a press conference in Beijing on February 12.

With its fine examples of freehand brushwork and pale, elegant colors, Along the River During the Qingming Festival (Qingming Shanghe Tu) by Zhang Zeduan, an artist who lived toward the end of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), is one of China's greatest works of art. It gives a panoramic view of Bianjing (modern day Kaifeng), the capital of several Chinese dynasties including the Northern Song. Among the 1.8 million artifacts in the Palace Museum, this painting is one of the most valuable.

Soon, audience will be able to experience life in the Northern Song Dynasty by entering the 50-meter-long installation, where they will get the chance to see in detail the minutia of daily life at the time, such as how people in the past went shopping and had tea.

"It's a great combination of history, art and technology," said Shan Jixiang, Curator of the Palace Museum.

The digitalized version of the Along the River During the Qingming Festival is shown at a news conference in Beijing on February 12 (WANG XIANG)

Following an agreement between the Palace Museum and Phoenix Satellite Television in September 2016, top artists, celebrities and hi-tech developers have worked together to create an interactive experience through which visitors can fully appreciate cultural relics.

With the stated goal of "bringing the relics to life," mixed reality technology is used to recreate the painting. However, how to preserve the authenticity of the work and its artistic value while using the technology has been a major challenge for the team, made up of researchers from the Palace Museum and R&D team, as well as artists from Phoenix Satellite Television.

The new edition seeks not just to digitalize the painting, but to recreate the piece with a modern artistic language. A stage created with holography will present an exhibit on life along the Bianhe River.

"This project is regarded as a good practice for the protection of other relics and can present a historical and artistic China to the world," said Liu Changle, Chief Executive of Phoenix Satellite Television.

Copyedited by Laurence Coulton 

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