Research-based Artifact Conservation Project

collaborated with University Museum and Art Gallery, Hong Kong University.

Karlie Zhao and John Cheung, 2021
School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

This bean-shaped pillow, as part of the collection of HKU's art museum, is decorated with a hand-painted country field scene. In the painting, two adults, chatting, appear from one side of a woods on their horses. In the foreground, two children brandish swords and play with the wreckage on the ground. The pillow was made of slipped, stamped and incised Cizhou-type glazed stoneware.

  • Cultures/periods: Northern Song dynasty
  • Production date/year: 960-1127 A.D.
  • Production place: Henan (province)
  • Found/Acquired: China
  • Materials: stoneware
  • Ware: Cizhou-type Ware
  • Dimensions:
    Length: 21.70 centimetres
    Width: 22.53 centimetres
    Height: 11.10 centimetres

Research and Conservation Process

Photos taken in preparation for 3D scanning.

Glazed stoneware pillows were widely used in ancient China to relief people from the summer heat. They were also known as neck rests for their function of protecting women's delicate hairstyles from being messed up during sleep.

My collaborator and I went through a meticulous process of photographing and 3D scanning the ancient Chinese pillow, along with other artifacts, was a significant step in the preservation and study of these cultural treasures. This advanced technique not only aids in the conservation of the physical object but also allows for a detailed analysis and reproduction of its features, which can be invaluable for educational and research purposes.

The 3D scanning process involves capturing the exact shape and size of the pillow, creating a digital replica that can be examined and manipulated in virtual environments. This method is particularly useful for delicate or fragile items, as it allows for thorough study without the risk of physical damage. The resulting 3D model provides a comprehensive view of the pillow, offering insights into its construction, wear, and the techniques used by the artisans of the Northern Song dynasty.

After the scanning process, the digital model of the pillow underwent a cleaning-up phase. This step is crucial as it enhances the quality of the scan, removing any anomalies or distortions that may have occurred during the scanning process. The refined 3D model then serves as an accurate representation of the original object, suitable for detailed analysis and display. The hand-painted pattern from the surface of the pillow was extracted from the photos, and then engraved onto the 3D model of the pillow, recreating the original artwork in a digital format. This not only preserves the visual aspects of the pillow but also allows for the pattern to be studied independently of the object, providing valuable insights into the artistic styles and motifs of the time.

The combination of 3D scanning and digital artistry exemplifies the intersection of technology and cultural preservation. By employing these modern techniques, researchers and historians can gain a deeper understanding of ancient artifacts, ensuring that their legacy is preserved and appreciated for generations to come.

The digital model created from the 3D scanning and artistic recreation of the ancient Chinese pillow opens up a myriad of possibilities in the fields of artifact recreation, digitization, and art projects. The potential applications of this model are varied: it can be used as an educational tool or an artistic inspiration, as well as used in the field of artifact reproduction, restoration and preservation, for virtual exhibitions, interactive and augmented reality experiences, and further research and analysis.

View the Model with an Interactive Web Display

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