Zhihua Gate

Project Overview

The digital restoration of Zhihua Temple is a collaborative project of the University of Chicago Center for the Art of East Asia, Xi'an Jiaotong University (China), Beijing Zhihua Temple, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Tsinghua University (China).

The project began with two conferences in 2017 and 2019, dedicated to the research and digital preservation and restoration of the Zhihua Temple. In 2019-2020, the digital scanning work was conducted at the two museums in the US and the Zhihua Temple in Beijing, with the generous support of the Cyrus Tang Foundation. The scanning task was performed by the Xi'an Jiaotong University team, consisting of art professors and graduate students of the Art Department. The team also did the digital reconstruction of the two main Buddha Halls in Zhihua Temple, further guided and assisted by the Department of Architecture, Tsinghua University.

Through the collaborative project, we hope to offer an opportunity for the interested viewers to learn, observe, and appreciate the history, music, and art and architecture of the Ming Temple, as well as the digital restoration of its two Buddha Halls, and in the process, also to reconsider the significance of traditional Chinese artistic and cultural heritage.


VIRTUAL EXHIBITION

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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INTERACTIVE FEATURE

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

ARTICLE

The powerful palace eunuch, Wang Zhen, constructed the Zhihua Temple on his own property in 1444. Two tall stone stelae in front of the temple’s Zhihua Gate record the circumstances surrounding the temple’s construction. According to this record, Wang Zhen used his personal assets to build the temple in gratitude for the imperial favor that he enjoyed in the service of several Ming dynasty rulers.

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ARTICLE

Zhihua Temple, the most complete Ming Buddhist temple to have survived today, preserves a slice of the temple’s history, and offers a glance into some essential features that characterize Ming Buddhist architecture.

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ARTICLE

As recorded on the stelae dated 1444, the year of the Zhihua Temple’s construction, the temple buildings had lavish furnishings and sculptures of Buddhist divinities with polychrome ornament. Recent studies estimate that the temple had some thirty sculptural figures, mostly carved from wood, but many of them are no longer preserved.

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ARTICLE

The ultimate goal of this project was to digitally reinstate two coffered ceilings according to Buddha Hall’s original structure, providing a holistic view of the interiors as they would have been. To achieve that with accuracy, however, we needed to overcome at least two major obstacles.

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ARTICLE

Chinese Buddhist music of Zhihua Temple is the predominant type of Buddhist ritual music performed at temples in the capital city of Beijing. Music of more than twenty temples in the Beijing area is known as “Capital music from the Zhihua Temple,”

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