Thu, 01 Jun 2023

On Nov. 22, a museum much anticipated by many history fans across the country opened in Hangzhou, the capital of eastern China's Zhejiang Province, which offers a glimpse into the life and culture of one of the most glamorous periods in ancient China.

Among China's many ancient dynasties, when it comes to the beauty of artifacts, architecture, literature, and art, the Song Dynasty, which dates back about a thousand years, is a popular choice for many Chinese experts and ordinary people.

And if people want to feel the splendor of the Song Dynasty in a city, Hangzhou is undoubtedly the place to go.

This is because Hangzhou, an international city famous for its digital economy, was once the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. In 1138 AD, Zhao Gou, the founding emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty, set the capital in Lin'an (now Hangzhou), which ushered in rapid development and became the political, economic and cultural center of the Southern Song Dynasty, creating a glorious history in the development history of ancient cities.

Therefore, just like the Qiantang River passing through the city, the bits and pieces of the Song Dynasty's charming culture have been nourishing Hangzhou, making it a place full of glamor and flourishing culture.

More than 800 years later, with the change of times and the development of urban construction, the once prosperous capital of the Southern Song Dynasty is now buried deep underground.

Hangzhou needs some visible venues to tell the story of the Southern Song Dynasty to people today. Contemporary residents can't wait to uncover the mystery of history and feel the elegance and charm of that era through the unearthed porcelain, brick, and tile.

The museum of Deshou Palace of the Southern Song Dynasty is a key to opening the cultural life of that era to the public.

Deshou Palace of the Southern Song Dynasty, built in 1162, is the residence of Emperor Zhao Gou after abdication, echoing the imperial city in the Southern Song Dynasty.

It is the most important historical and cultural relic of the Southern Song Dynasty existing and excavated in Hangzhou, and it is also one of the buildings with the highest ritual standards in the Southern Song Dynasty in China, occupying an important position in the history of ancient Chinese architecture and gardens.

Of course, the old residence is long gone. The Deshou Palace site was first discovered in 1984. After four large-scale archaeological excavations, large palace foundations, brick roads, rockery foundations, drainage facilities, and many other relics were found, which serve as windows of archaeological evidence to provide people with a glimpse of the royal garden style and gardening technology in the Southern Song Dynasty.

The construction of the museum of Deshou Palace of the Southern Song Dynasty kicked off on December 28, 2020. After nearly two years of construction, the elegant Song-style building is actually a relic protection shed, below which are the ruins of the main hall on display.

It is a restoration of the underground site built in accordance with the estimated original appearance and scale based on the research of Song Dynasty construction books, paintings, and archaeological findings.

This symbolic restoration is only a small part of the museum, which serves as a protective shelter for the ruins and also allows people to appreciate the architectural beauty of the Southern Song Dynasty intuitively.

More notably, a large number of architectural gardens during that period have been restored and displayed by digital means.

In order to let the audience see the site in a more vivid way, the whole site area of the museum has set up ten sites with digital displays. One can have a glimpse into the Deshou Palace and the architectural landscape of the royal palace in different periods through 3D interactive devices, dynamic long scrolls, digital projection, interactive AR augmented reality, and virtual reality.

Standing at the site of more than 900 square meters in the central area of the museum, one can follow Emperor Xiaozong from the imperial city, pass through the imperial street, go to Deshou Palace to enter the classic scene of the celebration of his father's birthday, with an immersive experience of the grandeur of Lin'an City, the imperial city and Deshou Palace of the Southern Song Dynasty.

In the Western garden site, one can also get to know the retirement life of Emperor Gaozong, and gain a deep understanding of the highly prosperous social, economic, and cultural characteristics of the Southern Song Dynasty through eight historical stories across the year.

Through the organic integration of the original site and digital means, as well as immersive and interactive interpretation and display of the site information, the beauty of the Southern Song Dynasty architecture and garden is well reproduced for the first time in China based on dedicated restoration.

It is not easy to realize this important window for systematically introducing the history, culture, and cultural relics of the Southern Song Dynasty for the first time and protecting and displaying the Song rhyme culture on a large scale.

For hundreds of years, the whole ruins of Lin'an city in the Southern Song Dynasty under the ground were immersed in water. How to protect and display earthen sites in humid areas is a worldwide challenge.

The first task facing the museum project is to solve this problem. Building on archaeology, architecture, and the study of Song history, many teams, systematically protected the architectural sites of the Southern Song Dynasty in humid environments for the first time through comprehensive technical means. Thanks to combined display approaches of indoor, digital, and site simulation presentation, this ancient site has been brought to life.

Today, walking out of the museum, the genes of Song Yun culture could be found everywhere as they have been engraved in the spirit and blood of the city.

Burning incense, making tea, hanging pictures, and arranging flowers, the four leisurely activities mentioned by Wu Zimu of the Song Dynasty in his book depicting life in ancient Hangzhou, could be spotted easily even today. Dongpo meat, butter cake, and Dingsheng cake have become taste symbols of the city. There are also Chinese Hongqu liquor and Southern Song liquor-making skills, Hangzhou brocade skills, etc. The Song people's pursuit of life aesthetics has been integrated into the life of ordinary people today and become the connection point of cultural genes.

British writer Alain de Botton said that when we call a chair or a house beautiful, we are really saying that we like the lifestyle they suggest.

The museum has attracted wide attention because it has cut through the mists of history to showcase the lifestyle of the Southern Song Dynasty, as well as the politics, culture, art, and life aesthetics at that time. The social environment of the Southern Song Dynasty created oriental thought and life and also shaped a new height of oriental aesthetics. Its lingering charm still nourishes Hangzhou and people's lives today.

As the pioneering work of the comprehensive preservation project of the ruins of the imperial city of the Southern Song Dynasty in Hangzhou, the museum is an important step to pass on the Song Dynasty's charming culture in the city.

More than 800 years ago, Hangzhou witnessed the boom of art and culture and the prosperity and elegant lifestyle of local people. After more than 800 years, the social atmosphere of openness, tolerance, and innovation are still strong. With a local history of over 1,000 years, Song Dynasty's charming culture has become the spiritual footnote of Hangzhou's Chinese modernization dream of promoting common prosperity.

When having a chance to visit Hangzhou, besides wandering along the West Lake, don't forget to visit the museum of Deshou Palace of the Southern Song Dynasty. Between the magnificent Song Dynasty paintings, the warm porcelain, and the vivid interplay of light and shadow, one can get a clue about the time-honored style of Hangzhou and the cultural code of its unwavering vitality.

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