In November 2021, colored prints of some 500 ancient Chinese paintings went on display at an exhibition in the Zhejiang University campus in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
The exhibition presented some of the achievements of a 16-year national cultural project, one in which Zhejiang art historians established digital archives for 12,250 ancient Chinese paintings from the period spanning the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC-256 BC) to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
The culture project was conducted in cooperation with some 260 culture and exposition institutions across the world, including the British Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. It featured the most comprehensive collection of images of ancient Chinese paintings in the world.
In 2005, Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Cultural Heritage Administration sought assistance from the provincial government to publish a complete set of Song Dynasty (960-1279) paintings by utilizing the collections of both the Taipei Palace Museum in Taiwan and the Palace Museum in Beijing. The project won the support from governments at both the provincial and the national levels, and was renamed "The Series of Ancient Chinese Paintings" to include the masterpieces handed down from all imperial dynasties.
The works in the project were mostly shot by a team of professional photographers. The majority of the digital archives of the paintings boast outstanding image accuracy and print quality.
As 3,250 of the 12,250 paintings are kept overseas, the project team had to travel around the world and contact numerous museums to digitize the works.
It was not a coincidence that Hangzhou-based institutes had initiated this ambitious project.