Installation work A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains on display near the Palace Museum in Beijing Photo: VCG
Carrying the genes and spirit of a nation, cultural relics and heritages are irreplaceable resources of a thriving civilization. A huge number of Chinese relics have gotten more popular over the past 10 years and allowed people from around the world get to know Chinese culture better. The Global Times will feature a number of "star" artifacts in this series, to make cultural relics stored in museums, heritages displayed throughout the vast land, and scripts written in ancient books come alive. Just like Chinese President Xi Jinping said, Chinese civilization, together with the colorful civilizations created by the people of other countries, should provide correct spiritual guidance and strong spiritual power for mankind.
As a group of dancers in turquoise dresses and towering hair buns as black as ink move their bodies to a traditional Chinese melody, they appear as if they have just stepped out of a traditional Chinese landscape painting.
The dance showPoetic Dance: The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Paintinghas earned a reputation across the country since it first appeared on stage at China Central Television's 2022 Spring Festival Gala back in February. The inspiration for the show is one of the many treasures at Beijing's Palace Museum, the more than 900-year-old paintingA Panorama of Rivers and Mountainsby Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) painter Wang Ximeng. A court painter, Wang painted the blue-green landscape featuring colorful mountains and rippling waters using azurite blue and malachite green pigments at the age of 17. After the show went viral, the popularity of the painting skyrocketed, inspiring Chinese people to learn more about the work, the only extant painting by Wang.
A Panorama of Rivers and Mountainsis not the only painting to gain ground in the public consciousness. Through the efforts of Chinese cultural workers and high technology such as digitalization, other ancient paintings have been brought to life so that they can be better enjoyed and understood by people everywhere.
Speaking to the Global Times, Chen Lüsheng, deputy president of the National Museum of China from 2010 to 2016, praised the creativity of Chinese cultural workers, noting that innovation should be based on uniqueness of each cultural relic.
Chinese cultural workers have been experimenting with various methods to breathe new life into Chinese relics. The revitalization ofA Panorama of Rivers and Mountainsand another ancient paintingAlong the River During the Qingming Festivalare two outstanding examples of these workers' creativity.
The dance showPoetic Dance: The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Paintingdepicts a researcher at the Palace Museum who finds himself transported back to the Northern Song Dynasty, where he is presented with the rare opportunity to observe the creation of the painting for himself.
"The dance uncovers the soul of the painting and demonstrates its abundant cultural connotations to the audience," Dong Jilan, a famous young dancer from Bai ethnic minority group, told the Global Times while talking about the time she attended a performance of the dance. She noted that the most impressive part of the performance for her was at the end of the show when the dancers began slowing down and then suddenly stood still on stage, as if they were becoming a part of the painting themselves.
The popularity of the performance at the gala sparked a cross-country tour of nearly 40 cities that kicked off in March and is scheduled to end in January 2023.
A group of dancer perform Poetic Dance: The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Painting. Photo: VCG
Unstoppable digital trend
Digitization has become an important means to provide the public more ways to appreciate this work.
In August 2021, an immersive digital experience presentingA Panorama of Rivers and Mountainswas held at the Palace Museum and later in Chongqing Municipality.
From early morning rain to a fiery sunset, visitors were able to enjoy and interact with the beautiful scenery in the painting in which egrets soar through the sky and a misty drizzle makes ripples on a lake through the application of advanced technology such as VR and motion capture.
This was not the first time the Palace Museum has made use of the technology. Back in 2018, the famous scroll paintingAlong the River During the Qingming Festivalwas brought to life by the Palace Museum through a 4D rendering of the 5.3 meter-long scroll that allowed visitors to experience the hustle and bustle of an ancient capital city for themselves. A similar experience was also brought to the 2019 Asiaworld-Expo in Hong Kong, where people crammed into the venue to immerse themselves in this special festival.
"Digitalizing relics and ancient artworks is an unstoppable trend," Yang Xiaohua, co-founder of the AR Museum, told the Global Times.
"In the past, when a person went to a museum and wanted to learn about a famous painting, all they could rely on was a small explanatory sign. But with the advent of digitization, every individual can immerse themselves in the worlds created by ancient masters," Yang added.