China Building Digitized Forbidden City

China opened a website about the Palace Museum -- the famous imperial Forbidden City -- in Beijing, Monday, using modern digital technologies to preserve its ancient art.

The website will give an opportunity for Internet users at home and abroad to browse this 600 year-old imperial palace and Chinese traditional culture remains.

The website (www.dpm.org.cn) is the first step to build and utilize advanced digital technology to preserve the priceless cultural relic, said Tan Bin, vice director of the Palace Museum, China's largest.

The further development of this website will help build a comprehensive and accurate database for ancient buildings and relics in the museum, Tan said.

At the same time, it will improve the museum's relic management, protection work, research programs and international exchanges.

The Forbidden City covers an area of 720,000 square meters and has more than 8,700 rooms which was built during the Ming or Qing dynasties (1368-1911).

It also has a collection of one million pieces of cultural relics. In recent years, the museum receives about seven million domestic and overseas tourists annually.

Because China has a very large population, it would take about 200 years to show all its people this wonder of Chinese civilization, Tan said.

Besides, Tan said, only about 8,000 relics are on regular display in the Palace Museum, accounting for less than 1 percent of the total.

"This is a common problem for many museums across the country," he said, building a digital information system and reproducing images processed by the system are a key point in the development of the country's cultural relic protection and exhibition in the new century.

The Palace Museum set up a special data information center in 1998 as an infrastructure project for electronic information development.

At the end of 1999, the museum set up a kilomega-cable network and built a database with a collection of over 50,000 photo images on the ancient relics.

The website, which took two years to develop with a funding of 12 million yuan as well as technological efforts from the Sinosoft Group Corporation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will greatly facilitate the preservation and research of museum arts as well as a wide range of cultural information for tourists who have no chance to visit it in person.

The website is the most professional and comprehensive of its kind in China, including a dozen of sections on the museum's brief, tour routes, history, cultural relics, ancient books, unique architecture and academic forum.

Some 4,000 high-quality photos are stored on the website and a 360-degree tridimensional showroom will provide vivid images.

The website also offers two academic magazines published by the museum.

The database for the website is still upgrading and enlarging with more and more cultural relics and study results to be " digitized" later.

In addition, the website will develop two versions in English and Japanese, Tan said.

The Forbidden City was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1987 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

(People's Daily 07/17/2001)

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