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Centre for Applied Archaeology
UCL Institute of Archaeology

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Shanxi Digital Documentation Project

The logo of Arcadia - funder of the research

Endangered temple wall-paintings in Shanxi, China

The remote villages of China’s Shanxi province are home to numerous Buddhist and Daoist temples containing undocumented wall-paintings and temple art. Many of these earthen and timber buildings are falling into ruin and others have been targeted by thieves.

There is an urgent need to undertake a more comprehensive survey of Shanxi’s temples, both to record material before it is lost and to use as a platform in future research and conservation. We are therefore delighted to have received generous funding from Arcadia - a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, for a four-year programme of survey work that will start in Spring 2018.   

Our Study Tour before the project's start informed our work programme for coming years and initial pilot study that took place in China in May, 2018, created an agreed set of workflows with our partners. As we move to the main activities of the project, more updates will follow on these pages. The work will eventually result in the open-source publication of a digital archive of wall-paintings and building plans.

The images presented here, prepared in the 2017 scoping survey, give an idea of what we will be working on.

One of the Ming Dynasty (Wanli period) wall paintings in the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas

One of the Ming Dynasty (Wanli period) wall paintings in the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas

The scene, showing a ritual libation, has been badly defaced by recent graffiti.

Selected images from Guanyin Temple (觀音廟) in Xiayangcang village and from Daiyue Temple (岱嶽廟) in Hequ County:

A computer-generated view of the interior of one of the rooms of the Guanyin temple

A computer-generated view of the interior of one of the rooms of the Guanyin temple

It shows wall paintings as well as the temporary works that are preventing wall-collapse

A low-resolution 3D model of Guanyin Temple in Xiayangcang village, as recorded from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle by Zhejiang University. It also illustrates the extent of undergrowth and roof collapse.