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Cultural products bring history alive

Updated: 2023-04-20 08:19 ( China Daily )
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A boy is fascinated by creative figures. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

"Such products with cultural creativity can vividly tell the history," Qiu Wenzhong, chief administrator of the Yuanmingyuan Park, says. "They can usher the public to explore the cultural meaning and value of Yuanmingyuan on a deeper level and bring together the cultural industry, tourism, education and technology."

The kaleidoscopic products inspired by Yuanmingyuan testify to people's emotional ties with that lost wonder. From scarfs, stationery, toys like building blocks and jigsaw puzzles to chocolates and videos using virtual reality, Yuanmingyuan, which seemed to be rooted in people's minds with a stereotypical image of ruins for a long time because of its history, is thus given more color and light through cultural products.

"It's a way to bring the Yuanmingyuan heritage back to life," Qiu says. "Only through wide public participation, the hidden cultural relic resources can be really developed and benefit public interest."

Qiu says more than 1,800 design plans were handed in to the park during last year's second edition of the competition. From December to January, the one-month-long exhibition was held at a gallery of China Millennium Monument World Art Museum in Beijing to display products from the last two competitions. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at that time, nearly 40,000 visitors went to the exhibition.

In the previous two editions, the Great Fountain site, or Dashuifa, was among the most commonly used theme by designers. That batch of stone arcs and column ruins used to compose a part of Xiyang Lou (Western mansions), a Baroque-looking area amid traditional Chinese architecture in Yuanmingyuan. However, it is now one of very few old-time buildings in the former royal resort that is still visible above the ground, and seen on the official logo of the Yuanmingyuan Park's website today.

The water-clock fountain, with bronze sculptures of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, is among the best-known relics at the site. Stolen in the havoc of 1860 and later lost to Europe, stories of these sculptures widely represented "national pain". But, echoing Chinese people's relief, eight have returned to Beijing in recent decades, largely via patriotic collectors' efforts. The horse-head sculpture, which returned to Beijing in 2020, was the most recently repatriated item. So far it is the only one among the eight repatriated artifacts to return to Yuanmingyuan while the rest are housed in other museums in Beijing.

The unexceptional historical path the sculptures went through have also inspired designers to create related cultural products.

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