The Dispersed Chinese Art Digitization Project (DCADP) is an initiative spearheaded by the University of Chicago's Center for the Art of East Asia that uses modern technologies to digitally reconstruct damaged works of art and virtually place these reconstructed models back in their original spatial contexts.

A large number of what are now considered “cultural relics” were dispersed outside of China in the early half of the 20th century—particularly in the late Qing and early Republican eras. Many objects from ancient Buddhist caves and temples were stolen or sold into the international art market. Objects that were considered especially important were in turn purchased by museums in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

The Center for the Art of East Asia, in collaboration with Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, has conducted 3-D scanning and research on various damaged cultural sites and objects originally housed there. By using this information to digitally reconstruct these important Chinese cultural sites, the project aims to bridge complex historical and cultural divisions and increase global understanding of China's cultural heritage.

The first project to be completed under this initiative is the Digital Restoration of Zhihua Temple in Beijing. Additional scanning and restoration work is being conducted on many other sites and will be added here as it becomes available.


The Zhihua Temple is a Ming dynasty era Buddhist temple located in Beijing. The project resulted in digitally restored models of two of the main temple halls along with their original carved ceilings, which have resided in the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art since the early 20th Century.

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The Longmen Grottoes is a UNESCO World Heritage site consisting of more than 2000 caves and 100,000 Buddhist statues, with most construction occurring between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E. Our project has digitally restored much of the Binyang Central Cave—one of the largest and oldest caves at the site, and originally including pieces now in collections at the Metropolitan Museum, the Tokyo National Museum and the Osaka City Museum.

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Zhihua Temple, one of Beijing's architectural treasures, tells a rich tale and presents an opportunity for a new kind of reconciliation.

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The two recessed ceilings from Zhihua temple are exceptional examples of imperial Ming-era craftsmanship. This feature offers an in-depth look at the exquisite carving and construction of the ceiling originally housed in Zhihua Temple’s Wanfo Pavilion and now installed at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

Explore the Ceiling