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Digital Restoration of Structures of Hwangnyongsa Temple, the Largest Temple
International Cooperation Division

Digital Restoration of Structures of Hwangnyongsa Temple, the Largest Temple


- Digital restoration of the Middle Gate and Roofed Corridor by NRICH

- Korea's first ever life-size digital restorationof a historic site


Researcher Han Wook (T. 042-860-9229)

Researcher Choi Hyang Seon (T. 042-860-9258)


The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (NRICH/ Director-General JI Byongmok) of the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) has accomplished the novel feat of digitally restoring certain structures of Hwangnyongsa Temple using AR technology.


Although there have been a few cases of digital restoration of a vanished cultural heritage object, such as Doneuimun Gate inS eoul (August 2019), this is the first time that an extant cultural heritagehas been digitally restored in a way that portrays every life-size detail ofthe structures concerned and their interiors in their original locations.


Hwangnyongsa Temple was the largest temple of the Silla dynasty and was renovated on numerous occasions after its foundation in 553 (the 14th year of the reign of King Jinheung). All of the original temple buildings were destroyed by fire during the Mongol invasion of 1238 (the 25thyear of the reign of King Gojong of the Goryeo dynasty). At present, only its site (Historic Site No. 6) remains in Gyeongju. A splendid nine-tiered wooden pagoda is also known to have been built at the site in 645 (the 14th year ofthe reign of Queen Seondeok of the Silla dynasty).

The parts of the temple that were digitally restored on this occasion are the Middle Gate and the Southern Roofed Corridor.They were built during the Unified Silla Period, when the temple is thought tohave been in its pinnacle. As regards the overall layout of the temple, the Middle Gate, flanked by the Southern Roofed Corridor, was located to the northof the South Gate, as were the wooden pagoda, main hall, and lecture hall. The Middle Gate, which has been digitally restored, measures 26.4 meters in width by 12.6 meters in length, while the Southern Roofed Corridor (which includesthe Middle Gate) is 272.5 meters long. The current digital restoration (carried out between August 2019 and July 2020) is the result of an effort to improve upon a previous attempt made in March 2018 after six months of work.


The new digital restoration is also the outcome of in-depth research on the temple started by NRICH in 2012. It displays the Middle Gate in two versions, i.e. a two-tiered structure with a hipped roof,and a one-tiered one with a gable roof (shaped thus "" when viewed from the side). It also displays two versions of theSouthern Roofed Corridor to complement the two versions of the Middle Gate.


Unlike past digital restorations, this project makes the viewer feel as if the structures have come alive thanks to the use of the technique of perspective based on a calculation of the distance betweenviewer and object. Looking at the work, you will feel as if you are actually inthe temple. This effect was achieved by considering the difference in the lengths of shadows at different times of day with the help of AR technology.


In addition, positional consistency was secured by using marker cognition and a camera location tracking function without using GPS technology, which is often used in this kind of project.


We plan to offer visitors to the temple a first-hand experience of the AR program for entering the Middle Gate and the South Roofed Corridor, using a tablet PC provided on site, with the cooperation of the City of Gyeongju. The following programs will also be offered to visitors to make their trip even more interesting: treasure hunt for relics unearthed from the site; views of historic relics unearthed from the site;blown-up images of the structures; opportunities to take photos of themselves against the backdrop of the temple; email transmission; animated images of the temple construction process; explanations of the elements used in theconstruction of the structures, etc.


This latest digital restoration is expected to shednew light on the work involved in making life-size restorations of vanished cultural relics, as a part of the effort to give people a realistic impressionof being present at the sites of such relics.


This kind of digital restoration work will contribute towards restoring the value of cultural heritage sites and to allowing more people who are interested to enjoy a hands-on experience of the digitally restored heritages. We at the National Research Institute of CulturalHeritage of the Cultural Heritage Administration plan to expand the work of digital restoration to the vanished main hall by 2024 and lecture hall and wooden pagoda later on, and to continue developing new ideas concerning the digital restoration of many other long-lost cultural heritages.

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