A Treasured Scroll Evolves into Digital Art

Animated street scene from the "Old Beijing Gets Moving" exhibit at the Salon at the National Convention Center, Beijing, on Dec. 12. The 228-m long, 3-m tall projection is an interactive experience on Beijing street life in the 1920s and 1930s. [Corey Cooper/China.org.cn]

The "Old Beijing Gets Moving" exhibition at the Salon at Beijing's National Convention Center foundationally begins with the imagination of self-taught Hui-minority artist Wang Daguan.

In the 1990s, Wang (1925-1997) completed his masterwork, "Looking around at Old Beijing," a 22-meter long, 0.26-meter wide cityscape portraying everyday life in the capital in the 1920s and 1930s.

Taking nearly his entire life to complete, Wang’s piece was named a national cultural relic. When the first part of the completed scroll went on exhibit at the China Art Museum in 1983, it drew a record 11,000 visitors. The scroll paints a near perfect window to one hundred years in the past, showcasing impeccable architectural detail of the old city, folk customs, and characters of all varieties. The work is on display in its entirety.

Jumping ahead to 2011, the "Old Beijing Gets Moving" exhibit expands the spirit of Wang's work into a 228-meter long 3-D animated digital projection. Audio accompaniments, as well as actual century-old artifacts, create a complete sensory experience for the viewer. People of all walks of life are shown in their daily trades including opera performers, merchants and pedicab drivers. Religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, festivals, parades, and music performances represent all facets of "Old Beijing" society.

Beyond the gigantic projection that spans the massive exhibition hall, there is much more to see. Visitors are treated to live folk music and traditional xiangsheng (spoken comedy) performances by local artists. Also, they can survey a spectacular traditional Chinese calligraphy exhibition in the adjacent Robin Art Gallery.

Beijing Longbien Culture Development Ltd, which created the exhibit, was acclaimed for its "Riverside Scene on Tomb-Sweeping Day" scene at the China Pavilion during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The exhibition, which, originally opened at the Salon at the National Convention Center in Beijing on August 12, has been acclaimed by the local and national media.

A special screening of the exhibition was held on Dec. 12.to promote innovation and development of Beijing's cultural industries. The exhibit's co-sponsors include the Beijing Cultural and Creative Industry Promotion Center, the Beijing Foreign Cultural Exchanges Center, and the Beijing Information Office.

Editor: Xu Xinlei