Digital technology revitalizes Central Axis of Beijing

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By Yang Si, People’s Daily Overseas Edition

The Central Axis of Beijing, runs 7.8 kilometers from the Drum Tower and Bell Tower in the north of the city to the Yongding Gate in the south, is the world’s longest, best preserved and oldest city axis, presenting the quintessence of Beijing’s ancient architectures.

A digital exhibition about the Central Axis of Beijingkicked off on Feb. 14 in Beijing’s the New Shougang High-end Industry Comprehensive Service Park, attracting huge numbers of visitors.

The exhibition employed holographic display, a 720-degree screen, spatial orientation sound field and other digital technologies. With interactive virtual reality devices, visitors can step onto a virtual Drum Tower and Bell Tower, from which they can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the central axis, and browse through nearly a hundred valuable images of Beijing in the old times. Besides, over 50 digital satellite images were also offered to display how the central axis has evolved as the capital developed.

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Digital display is able to present what’s beyond verbal expression.

A series of acquisition technologies were adopted for the exhibition, including digital surveying and photography, 3D laser scanning, close-range photogrammetry, 3D modeling and virtual reality. The acquisition team explored historical materials, surveyed existing architectures and relics, sorted 3D survey results, and virtually restored the architectures according to historical materials. Besides, the team also built virtual surroundings and performed illumination rendering.

The exhibition digitalized existing major relics and tangible cultural heritage along the axis, recording history with modern technology. Various research will be conducted at multiple dimensions without damaging the physical heritage, which will offer material, academic and technical support for follow-up protection and conservation.

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Besides, the “digital central axis,” based on comprehensive studies of history, architecture, archaeology and anthropology, would virtually reproduce the changes and evolution of the Central Axis of Beijing with the time and space variation, by representing how major cultural heritage along the axis had changed in different times of the history.

The application of these technologies, as well as its results, have indeed gradually created abundant digital assets of cultural heritage.

The capital city has been making continuous efforts in getting its iconic central axis into UNESCO’s world cultural heritage list.Lv Zhou, professor with Tsinghua University and an important participator of the UNESCO cultural heritage bid for the central axis, noted that the bid has entered a phase of “sprint.” According to the standards of world heritage protection, the environment along the Central Axis of Beijing is being further lifted, he added.

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“The Central Axis of Beijing is not only a legacy of history, but also where modern people live. It’s living heritage that is still extending its value,” Lv remarked.

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