The Chinese “5R” (Realities) – New Potential for Digital Presentation of Cultural Heritage

Date: Thursday August 31, 2017
9:45 am – 10:30 am

Location: The Theatre (RB2200), Richcraft Hall

Today, technology is successfully used worldwide for conserving, interpreting, and displaying cultural heritage. And yet, there is room for expansion, at least in China, where the protection of cultural relics has not been targeted to commercial gain. In the past, business corporations were not welcome, because of a fear of commercialization (using cultural relics as an opportunity to earn money.) But in recent years, a change in thinking has taken place, reconciling business with the concerns of cultural heritage protection. China, with its rich heritage, is gradually weakening its restrictions on the management and utilization of cultural heritage and related industries, for the purpose of promoting the value of cultural heritage and stimulating a heritage driven economy.

In the first part, the paper briefly introduces current cultural heritage management systems in China, and explores digitization trends and the latest research concerning (im)movable cultural relics and (in)tangible cultural heritage from the perspective of legal guidelines, localized management, commercial cooperation, and international interchange (for some reasons, China is still hesitant to cooperate internationally, especially when it comes to archaeological sites). The paper then discusses the development of Chinese digital cultural heritage, analyzing progress in digital display and open questions in heritage digitization through analysis of three case studies: the Digital Palace project, the Digital Dunhuang project and the Re-Yuanmingyuan (Digital Yuanmingyuan) project.

In the second part, the paper discusses the documentation of cultural heritage and the benefits for (heritage and academic) research (making full use of the documented data) and puts forward a new concept for digital heritage: the five realities (“5R”), namely virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, emo-responsive reality, and alternate reality games, that serve to meet the demand in modern China, if effectively put it into practice. The pioneering “5R” concept (VR, AR, MR, ER, ARG) builds on technologies with great prospect of success in digitally presenting cultural heritage to visitors. The “5R” virtual tourism solution for example, fully activates the visitor’s five senses to create an immersive visiting experience anytime and anywhere. For the realization of the “5R” , local points of reference are set with the help of a global position system, and the internet, information and communication technologies, software design and other multimedia disciplines are integrated to generate a visitor friendly tour guide APP (on site) and high-end exhibitions (off site) at home and abroad. For the interested public and those who are not familiar with cultural heritage, the “5R” provide an easy way to access history and understand the value of cultural heritage.

But there are still problems in applying digital technology in China, including the “5R”, which are addressed in this paper. First, the demand for digital technology is not clear and the conception is limited to technological aspects. Second, stakeholders are not open to new ideas and opportunities for further development, focusing only on built heritage and neglecting humanist aspects. Third, digital content and growth opportunities in cultural heritage industries are insufficient. Forth, there is a lack of consensus and top design among digital heritage industries. To solve these problems, the paper suggests five principles:

  1. Adhering to the academic spirit and conducting in-depth research when generating the original content of cultural heritage;
  2. Creating diachronic and synchronic content that enables visitors to understand the evolution of cultural heritage, creatively linking heritage and people;
  3. Providing impressive live experience for visitors on site to achieve value identity and raise awareness;
  4. Applying appropriate technologies to interpret and display cultural heritage and its value, with the aim of guiding technology by ideas;
  5. Taking the step from a digital resource to industry, ensuring mutual benefits for both cultural heritage and the market to realize sustainable development.

About the Speaker

Yan HE, President of Tsinghua Heritage Institute for Digitization (THID). She is a senior engineer, a national certified planner, and a national certified designer responsible for national cultural relics conservation. She’s a member of ICOMOS China and CIPA; a think tank member of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, China and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, China. She graduated from Tsinghua University, a top university in China, with a master degree in architecture and heritage conservation.

Mrs He’s expertise includes architecture, planning, built heritage conservation, protection and interpretation of archaeological sites, digital heritage, and international cooperation. She has presided over 40 cultural heritage projects about world and national cultural heritage, including the National Key Technology R&D Program “Re-Relic: Research of the Digitized Yuanmingyuan and Demonstration of Cultural Tourism Application”. She also has initiated the theoretical system “Digital Heritage”, and promoted the innovation transformation and industrial practice in fields like cultural tourism and creative industries. She has won 7 national prizes and 6 provincial awards. Over 40 academic papers and 9 books about architecture history study and culture heritage conservation were published in professional conferences and journals, both at domestic and abroad.