The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time

Have you ever wished you could go back in time to see a town or city as it “used to be”? Cities like Ancient Rome, Athens, and Tenochtitlan? What about China’s Forbidden City?

Thanks to a collaboration between IBM and the Palace Museum, you may explore this aspect of Chinese culture and history online via your own avatar.

The IBM press release states:

Visitors to the virtual Forbidden City may also engage in activities in which their avatars take an active role in the culture of the period. For example, avatars can take part in activities such as archery, cricket fighting, and playing the ancient game of Weiqi, the “board game of surrounding” now popularized as GO.

Visitors may also view and inspect artifacts and scenes such as “The Emperor Having Dinner” and “Court Painting.”

The video below, called The Forbidden City VIrtual World, highlights some of the experiences available to users, and gives a sense of how much work went into creating the virtual world.


You will need to download a proprietary client to run the virtual world. The partners write:

The Virtual Forbidden City is a 3-dimensional virtual world where visitors from around the world can experience the Forbidden City in Beijing. You can explore the magnificent palace as it was during the Qing dynasty, which ruled from 1644 until 1912, the end of the Imperial period in China.

The Forbidden City was created to embody the idea of the emperor as the center of the universe, and to evoke a visceral sense of his power. This huge palace complex was completed in 1420 and covers more than 72 hectares (178 acres). It contains hundreds and hundreds of exquisite buildings and historic artifacts. Now, using virtual world technology, you can experience the awe inspired by this vast and amazing space. And rather than experiencing its wonders in isolation, the Virtual Forbidden City allows you to see and interact with other users and a range of helpful automated characters. As you explore the Virtual Forbidden City, you can choose to simply observe the buzz of activity, or you can take tours and participate in activities that provide insights into important aspects of Qing culture.

So much of what we work with in digital preservation are static documents and born-digital or digitized objects. I enjoy seeing another use of historic data — to enable users to get a sense of the Ancient World. (I wonder how IBM and the Palace Museum intend to preserve this particular virtual experience?)

Did you download the client and enter the Virtual Forbidden City? If so, what did you think of it?

[Via RWW.]

Please let me know what you think....