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Tencent’s Game Technology Brings Mogao Grottoes to Life, Revitalizing Ancient Culture in Immersive Experience

An immersive and interactive experience, the “Digital Library Cave” captures relics from the grottoes, as well as work from the British Library and Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in preserving cultural heritage and protecting the world’s timeless works. Mogao Grottoes, one of the world’s greatest cultural discoveries, located in China, has been described by UNESCO as among “the largest, most richly endowed, and longest-used treasure houses of Buddhist art,” is now open through the newly launched Digital Library Cave.

The Digital Library Cave was co-created by Dunhuang Academy and Tencent as part of a five-year strategic partnership. Tencent and Dunhuang Academy used the latest in game technology to build this hyperspace participatory museum and vividly re-create the historical scenes of the Library Cave and over 60,000 precious cultural relics stored inside. The online museum is now available in both English and French.

Utilizing the latest game technology

The immersive Digital Library Cave experience harnesses Tencent’s latest technology and techniques found in its game engines and cloud game, including physical rendering and global dynamic lighting. The result is a hyperreal historical journey that captures every detail of cultural heritage from the site and embeds them in the immersive experience. For instance, Tencent is digitizing the original appearance of the towering 1,600-meter cliff face of the Mogao Grottoes, while bringing to life the intricate details of the “three-story building,” the 16th and 17th caves, with 1:1 millimeter-level precision using photogrammetry. Visitors can also engage with historical figures and travel through a thousand years of dynasties through the game experience.

In addition, the Digital Library Cave also features a digital gallery that presents 21 invaluable artifacts from different dynasties, which are stored in the British Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the British Museum and the Guimet Museum. This exhibition utilizes state-of-the-art 4K digital restoration and 3D modeling techniques to provide an immersive viewing experience.

Guiding Bodhisattva @British Museum in the digital gallery

Players can access the virtual exhibition center by reaching Mogao Cave 17.

Revitalizing cultural heritage in the digital world

Tencent is bringing its expertise in combining advanced technologies and delivering immersive gameplay to the project, not only to preserve this rich culture but also to explore how it could enable a new model for the digitization of cultural heritage. The exhibition integrates vivid storytelling with artifacts to create a new level of immersion. The Digital Library Cave is a perfect example of utilizing game technology for super-real cultural experience — in this case, the history and culture of the Mogao Grottoes. 

Dr. Su Bomin, Director of Dunhuang Academy, said, “The Digital Library Cave is the result of a century-long study of Dunhuang, years of work on Digital Dunhuang, and technical support from Tencent’s game technology. It’s a virtual-world re-creation of the Library Cave of Dunhuang, with millimeter precision, using a brand-new concept and experiential mode. This innovative approach reunites, reshapes, reappears, and reborns the cultural relics of the Library Cave in a new way, for the first time.”

Leon Guo, Tencent Senior Vice President, said, “For many years, Tencent has valued cultural diversity and has been committed to the preservation, restoration, and digitization of heritage. Our efforts have included the digitization of the Palace Museum (also known as the Forbidden City), Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, and Sanxingdui, as well as the development of a digital Great Wall of China. We’re very excited to bring the Mogao Grottoes to life and deliver an immersive experience that utilizes innovative approaches and game technologies to preserve cultural heritage digitally for generations to come.”

Since 2017, Tencent has collaborated with the Dunhuang Academy for the sustainable preservation of cultural heritage by digitizing the caves and artwork inside the site. Some of these have been integrated into existing games such as through the Dunhuang x Honor of Kings game skins, as well as a digital avatar Jia Yao, serving as a digital ambassador of Dunhuang culture. Tencent also aspires to leverage its expertise and technology to support more conservation projects globally, promoting cultural exchange beyond physical and geographical boundaries.

Access the Digital Library Cave and enjoy the immersive Mogao Grottoes experience.