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The Forgotten Tradition

VIS 160 Senior Project

Jinyu Li


Our Worlds

The topic of VR/AR/XR has always been around me since I majored in ICAM. For example, Catherine Eng, a CTO of an app development company, created an application called Our Worlds. This application incorporated 3-dimensional image construction and 360-degree extended reality to let users experience stories deeply woven into the famous natural reservations around the world.

Our Worlds accomplished Extended Reality visual effects with a user’s geographic location information and camera access. By understanding this information, scenes in OurWorld can match the actual scenes users see to provide more consistency and a seamless experience for users. I am interested in making something aesthetically similar. 


Storytelling Artist: Marc-O-Matic

I really enjoy the idea of using animated cartoons to create a story.

By observing the fine details of the AR artwork, I feel like I am exposed to a completely new world, a world that is so lovely and relaxing. I would like to create a similar vibe to invite my audience back to the ancient Chinese world and explore the rich details there.


The Scent Archive by Kaiyun Fu

This work is what inspired me to develop an AR project. I really like the idea that this project is based on thorough research. I think my project resembles it in terms of the research I've done and also the similar techniques we are both using.


Maurício Nocêra: the Birth of Venus

This is a redesign of a classic artwork called the Birth of Venus. It depicts how Venus born from the sea foam, is blown by the west wind toward one of the Horai, who prepares to dress her with a flowered mantle. This work perfectly matches my idea in terms of innovation on classic paintings. However, I don't really enjoy Mauricio's street art style. So, I will find a softer way to innovate class paintings.


Chinese Culture Renaissance 

The social media short videos are the ultimate reason why I chose to develop an AR based on Chinese paintings instead of something that reflects my personal style. I was impressed by the beauty of cultures that had been forgotten a long time ago.

Project Proposal

I want to develop an AR-based project for mobile phones that transforms two-dimensional Chinese paintings into three-dimensional displays. This will showcase the special activities of ancient China and help revive forgotten Chinese traditions.


Recently, themes about Chinese traditions have quickly become trendy on various Chinese social media platforms. Within one week, TikTok content introducing traditional Chinese clothes gained millions of likes. Many viewers expressed complex feelings after watching these videos: pride and sadness. They felt proud of the beauty of Chinese traditions and sad that these traditions have been hidden for too long, as neither schools nor the public seriously discuss them. Hence, I aim to develop a project centered on Chinese culture to show the world the preserved traditional activities and teach Chinese people to appreciate the beauty of these traditions.


My plan is to employ AR to animate iconic Chinese paintings that display ancient activities such as women's soccer, weddings, and banquet games. The medium for this AR project will be the camera on any smartphone. Users will scan a two-dimensional Chinese painting using their phone's camera. Once the camera recognizes the painting, a three-dimensional version will appear on the screen. I will use Nomad Sculpt to build the 3D objects, as it is a touch-screen and beginner-friendly 3D modeling app suitable for iPads. With my experience using this app, I can efficiently create models without a steep learning curve. However, crafting the models alone is not enough. I need to import them into an AR-supported environment, and for this, I have chosen Unity. With Unity, users can view the 3D paintings from various angles by adjusting their phone positions just like this video demonstrates: DOF VR : AR for Real Estate & Architecture . Additionally, I plan to animate the 3D models in Unity so that the objects can move in response to hand gestures, such as having an animated person walk to the side when users move their hands like what’s shown in this short video. This will make the project more interactive. Implementing this will require further research into the paintings for a more accurate depiction of how ancient Chinese walked or talked.

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Week 3

  1. Research ancient Chinese banquet/game activities for deeper understanding.

    • Know which dynasty the activity is coming from.

    • Research whether there’s documents or documentaries describing how to do these activities (for building 3D models).

  2. Find paintings and get permission from the artists if needed. 

Week 4

  1. Figure out if Unity AR can build animated 3D objects. Find tutorials.

  2. Figure out how to upload a model from Nomad Sculpt to Unity. Find tutorials. (No, so I used Procreate and Playgrounds instead.)

  3. Figure out the functionality of each tool.

Week 5

  1. Try to build 2 objects using Procreate and import to Playgrounds to see if it works.

Week 6

  1. Add animation to the two paintings.

Week 7

  1. Find 4 more paintings.

  2. Color the two previous paintings in Procreate.

Week 8-9

  1. Sketch the 2 paintings out in Procreate.

Week 10-12

  1. Pick and sketch 2 more paintings in Procreate.

Week 13-15

  1. Color the paintings & finish all the animations.

  2. Figure out how to lock the iPad to only show Swift Playground.

Week 16-17

  1. Refine paintings, adjust each component's position, and print the postcard version of the paintings out for scanning and add brief text to them.

Week 18-20

  1. Design how to place them in a museum.

Week 3 Progress - Research & Find Paintings

  • Explanation about Cuju & the Rule of Cuju from CCTV (Central China Television by some Chinese painting experts:,vid:VytyaIFlI8M,st:0

  • History of Cuju from the interpretation of other paintings:

    • Cuji is Identified as the earliest form of football, Chinese cuju has a history of over 2,300 years. During its long period of evolution, cuju served both as a game for entertainment and competition as well as a sport for military training.

    • The word “cuju” is first seen in the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian. According to the Book of Han, cuju refers to “a leather ball stuffed with fur which can be kicked for fun.” Cuju was popular in the Qi and Chu Kingdoms during the Warring States Period (453-221 BCE). Linzi, the capital of the Qi Kingdom was identified by FIFA as the “Cradle of Football” in 2004.

    • Cuju was used to train soldiers in the Han Dynasty and various methods of playing cuju emerged in the Tang Dynasty. Cuju became more popular in the Song Dynasty among both aristocrats and the masses alike. It became an indispensable activity during royal parties. Emperors Taizong and Huizong were themselves excellent players. Gao Qiu, a major villain of the Water Margin, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, caught the attention of the emperor because of his excellent cuju skills, and eventually became the minister of defense.

    • The enthusiasm for cuju receded in the Ming Dynasty and gradually died out in the Qing Dynasty. However, historical records on cuju have endured for over two millennia, expressed in various forms of art including paintings.

  • Historical Context of "Album of Ladies' Leisure Activities" from the Palace Museum:

Week 4 Progress - Find Tutorials

  • * I didn't use any of them in the end because did not work for me, so I chose Swift Playground instead. However, these are good videos for those who are interested in learning more.

Week 5 Progress - Midterm Presentation & Sketching Paintings

Week 6 + 7 Progress - Animate the AR paintings & Color them!

I used Procreate to create multiple layers to animate the painting. 

Redesigned the paintings by adding elements to them to make them more like an inddor setting.

Week 8-9  Progress - Found 3 more paintings & Sketch them! (I did more!)

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Latern Admiring

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The Xuande Emperor's Shooting and Hunting, Ming Dynasty

Find 1 more painting: 

Purchased Scrolls

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Week 10  Progress - Animate painting

Week 11  Progress - Animate 2 more paintings

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Week 15 Progress - Animate Finished & Actual Installation Tested

Week 16 - 19 Progress - Exhibition Prep
Apps locked besides Playgrounds

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