The Museum of the Institute of History and Philology is known for its vast collection of artefacts surviving from the Shang Dynasty. Among these artefacts, animal imagery is frequently used for decorations. Some of them are real animals, some of them imaginary. Animal skeletons excavated from the Yin Ruins consist of wild animals and domesticated livestock; references to game obtained during the king’s hunt often appear in the text of oracle bones. All of the abovementioned animals – real or imaginary, wild or domesticated, physical or literary – can be found in the “zoo” of the Museum. One can see elephants, deer, tigers, cattle, sheep, camels, rabbits, tortoise, lizards, birds, owls, fish and frogs, joined by mythological creatures such as dragons and Taotie (饕餮).
The climate in the environs of Anyang, Henan Province in the Shang Dynasty, i.e. over 3,000 years ago, was sultrier with an average of 2℃ of annual temperature higher than today. The massive amount of animal remains excavated from the area has a lot to do with this climatic fact. Anyang faces the Yellow River (Huang He) in the east and borders on Taihang Mountains in the west. In ancient times, it was patched with marsh and coated with bushes, and the abundance of wildlife favored the Shang kings’ hunting outings. The game served as the source for food, sacrifice and bone containers; the iconography found on bronze ware, jade ware and bone tools testifies the relationship between these animals and the Shang civilization.
Partnering with the Academia Center for Digital Cultures, this project intends to bring these animals to life in the virtual world. Their digital animation can connect the audience with artefacts in such a way that the approach to ancient culture interweaves physical objects and vivid, virtual representation, blurring the boundary between the past and the present.