Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2014

Cultural Impact

An illustration of quaker women

China’s Forbidden City is restored

Loughborough experts
Fangjin Zhang, Ian Campbell, Ian Graham, Design
External partners
Palace Museum (Forbidden City), Beijing
Summer Palace Museum, Beijing

Despite our best efforts to preserve them, ancient objects deteriorate over time and conventional manual restoration methods tend to be time consuming and expensive.

However, modern techniques such as 3D scanning and additive manufacturing – commonly used in manufacturing industries and for medical models – are revolutionising this vital preservation work.

The shape of the damaged artefact is captured using laser or optical scanners, and the data is cleaned-up using reverse engineering techniques. The damage is digitally restored, preparing a template for the 3D printing repair process.

The use of these digital technologies not only cuts the cost and time involved in archaeological restoration, but also improves the accuracy of the work whilst reducing the risk of further damage to the object.

Researchers at Loughborough have been working with the Palace Museum and Summer Palace Museum – both in Beijing – to develop a systematic approach to using digital techniques in the restoration of invaluable artefacts.

The Team’s innovative procedure guides restorers in their work by detailing the various methods available for the restoration of artefacts depending on their size, material and the level of accuracy required – so that informed decisions can be made as to the best way forward.

The museums are delighted with the results of the collaboration. Restoration work has been expedited – and the process can be used for a variety of objects from delicate pieces of jewellery and metalwork to colossal sculptures. It has even been used to renovate the ceiling and enclosure of a pavilion in the Forbidden City’s Emperor Chanlong Garden.


  • The application of the research has already resulted in an increase in the amount and quality of restoration work undertaken by the museums – and further long-term collaborations are already planned
  • The Summer Palace has already used the technology to restore and replicate many of its artefacts – for example full-sized replicas of the two 3m tall bronze lions that guard the Palace of Parting Clouds have been established at the new China Garden Museum
  • Other organisations in Beijing – including the Beijing Industrial Design Centre and Central Academy of Fine Arts – are keen to work with the Loughborough team

Frame from video Play video How do they do it? Forbidden City


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