Ancient relics come to life with technology

When Zhang Han set foot inside Liangzhu Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the 10-year-old put on a pair of augmented reality glasses and embarked on a tour that took him back more than 5,000 years.

From exquisite jade artifacts to pottery, the museum displays various burial objects found in the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins have gained worldwide recognition as bearing testimony to the existence of at least 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.

Wearing the smart glasses, Zhang was presented with virtual images of relics as well as related background information, such as the real-life scenarios in which they were used, their functions and cultural significance.

“It’s such a wonderful journey. Everything is true to life,” said Zhang from Tianjin.

Augmented reality glasses feature among a string of measures taken by the museum to give visitors a more vivid and immediate experience of Liangzhu civilization, while helping them gain a better appreciation of Chinese culture.

Tourists can also visit the official website of Liangzhu Museum to enjoy a virtual tour through high-definition pictures and virtual reality. With a click of the mouse, they can gain access to exhibition halls that they may never be able to visit physically.

Advanced technologies are increasingly playing a major role in Chinese museums. Long before the digital exhibition of cultural relics, digital technology was used widely in archaeological research and heritage protection, said Ma Dongfeng, executive director of Liangzhu Museum.

A big data monitoring center has been set up to better preserve the Liangzhu ruins near the museum. It closely monitors the temperature, humidity and flow of tourists. If the data from certain sites exceeds the limits, emergency responses will be launched, according to Ma.

In the northwestern Chinese city of Dunhuang, which is known for the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mogao Grottoes, the “digital Dunhuang project” has made extensive use of digitalization. By the end of 2021, it had completed the digital collection of 268 grottoes, the image processing of 164 grottoes, and the 3D reconstruction of 45 painted sculptures, 146 grottoes and seven large relic sites.

The protection and revival of Dunhuang’s ancient culture is not an isolated case in China. The Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi province also have 3D “digital archives”, which allow precious cultural relics and historical archives to be permanently preserved.