CIRCA:The Digital Silk Road Project


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What is Silk Road?

The Silk Road consists of the land Road and the sea Road. The Land Silk Road originated in the Western Han Dynasty (202-8 BC). It starts from the capital Chang'an (now Xi'an), passes through Gansu and Xinjiang to central and West Asia, and connects Mediterranean countries. Its initial function was to transport silk and became a comprehensive trade road during the Ming Dynasty. The Sea Road" is a maritime channel for transportation, trade and cultural exchanges between ancient China and foreign countries. The sea silk road was formed in the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC-220 AD), developed in the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and flourished in the Tang, song, yuan and Ming Dynasties (618-1911).

In June 2014, UNESCO designated the Chang'an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal as World Heritage Sites.

Digital Silk Road Project

Digital Silk Road Project is a digital humanities research project. It aims to create digital archives of cultural heritage along the silk road based on technologies and humanities. Now the recent projects they are working on include as follows: Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books, Database of Ruins in Silk Road, Stein Placename Database, Digital Maps of Old Beijing, DSR Silk Road Music, etc.

History and Members

Digital Silk Road Project was Organised by National Institute of Informatics (NII) in 2001, and led by KITAMOTO laboratory, Which is focused on various methodologies for the better handling of image data. The project involves team members from various research institutions across Japan and China.

Purpose and Audience

The purpose of the digital silk road project is to collect and archive the cultural resources related to the silk road, and inherit those resources for the future. The audiences include researchers and people who has interests in it.

Contents and Technologies

To realize the goals, various information technologies are used in the research. Image Information Processing and GIS are used to organize database of ruins and digital maps in the silk road. Different Gazeteers of the sites along the silk road are created and each one of them has its own database, researchers can find the details they need by searching the key words. 3D and Virtual Reality are used to reconstruct some important cultural heritage such as Citadel of Bam in Iran, which was totally destroyed by the earthquake.

3D Reconstruction using Computer Vision

~ create 3D models based on the photos collected from tourists or taken from the helicopter, and develop 3D basic drawing as a unified basic drawing of the reconstruction. The complete 3D model can be used in the VR space and can be a basis for future restoration work.


Since 2001, the projects are financially supported by the following institutions:

•Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

•Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

•National Institute of Informatics


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