Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Inhabiting ‘Prosperous Suzhou’ - Interrogating ancient artwork and documents to manifest tangible and intangible heritage

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posted on 2022-07-28, 05:02 authored by Xu, Qiaoliang

The research investigates digital landscape heritage. It focuses on the application of Virtual Reality (VR) in a game engine. The aim is to aid the understanding and interpretation of ancient principles relating to sensitive and appropriate interaction of the built form and its associated landscape. The principles have at their root harmony of human inhabitation, the built forms and the landscape they are surrounded. This understanding can lead to re-application within a contemporary context, and the VR environment has the potential to augment and enrich it. This research has reinterpreted a classical depiction of Suzhou, in an 18th-century handscroll painting - “Prosperous Suzhou”, into a three-dimensional immersive virtual environment. It proposes that VR can be a way to experience and increase understanding of heritage landscapes; in our case one that now only exists in an ancient idealised painting. The reinterpretation aims to enhance the users’ experience and understanding of the Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage. The spatialised scene is augmented through the integration of other historical information, such as poems and travel notes, to embed intangible aspects into the gardens and landscapes. The reinterpretation process can be summarised as being in two stages, representing the site context and the site content. Context refers to the geometry and built forms of the world, whereas content includes the intangible social and cultural heritage. It is demonstrated that the immersive and interactive virtual reality environment enhances the user experience through the informed interpretation of both the tangible and intangible. Reinterpreting the painting in VR enables an immersive, continuous, first-person journey through the designed space where the environment changes as the viewer moves through it. This immersive experience enables users to gain a greater understanding of the heritage of the scholar garden as a landscape design form and of this particular garden, Suichu Garden, which is an important example of lost heritage for Suzhou.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre of Building Performance Research

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

950307 Conserving the Historic Environment

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Brown, Andre; Rodgers, Maria; Marques, Bruno