If you’ve gotten your fill of the Forbidden City online, move ahead a little in conceived time and a few miles in virtual space and visit Beijing’s Yuangmingyuan, or Old Summer Palace.
Digital Yuanmingyuan is a collaboration between the Summer Palace’s staff and researchers at the adjacent Tsinghua university. Unlike the Forbidden City, the Palace is a ruin, having been destroyed during the Opium Wars. The project is an attempt to reconstruct it in a shareable space it never had in real life.
Currently the site contains a provisional environment built from 146 digitized photos and 22 video clips. The developers hope to launch the full environment on October 18, the 150th anniversary of the Palace’s destruction, according to China Daily.
“(T)he digital reconstruction will be further expanded, incorporating drawings, photographs, historical records and archaeological findings, along with information gathered overseas by scholars and researchers.”
Although built in the early 15th century, the Old Summer Palace was used as a primary place of government during the Ching Dynasty, from the early 18th century to the mid-19th. The Ming Dynasty, who built the Forbidden City, used it as the seat of day-to-day government, but the Ching only used it for formal ceremonies.
Destroyed in 1860 during the Opium War, a time of foreign control over China, the ruins stand as a symbol of oppression. One can hardly avoid thinking of the reconstruction as a symbol of Chinese repossession of power.
Yuanmingyuan photo by Bridget Coila