The Colour of Bei­jing

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Pan Yingzhao, Zhou Fu­jing Edited by David Ball, Mary Frances Cap­piello Pho­tos by Fran­cois Nadeau (Canada), Fu Yu, Jin Jian­hui

Re­searchers have spent eight years analysing Bei­jing’s “ge­og­ra­phy of colours.” Un­der­stand­ing the city’s unique colour pal­ettes helps pre­serve and pro­tect its an­cient fea­tures.

Bei­jing is a city filled with vi­tal­ity. The first traces of its con­struc­tion date back to 1000 BC when the Zhou Dy­nasty (11th cen­tury–256 BC) es­tab­lished a city in the area. It is also a city with pro­found cul­ture, hav­ing served as a sec­ondary cap­i­tal of the Liao Dy­nasty (AD 916–1125) and the cap­i­tal of the Jin (1115–1234), Yuan (1276–1368), Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dy­nas­ties. Its ur­ban plan­ning dur­ing each of these pe­ri­ods rep­re­sented the finest achieve­ments in the plan­ning of an­cient Chi­nese cities.

China's cap­i­tal city has ac­cu­mu­lated ex­ten­sive and pro­found cul­ture dur­ing its long his­tory which is in­valu­able in the study of ur­ban lay­out, his­toric and cul­tural blocks, an­cient build­ings, mod­ern struc­tures and ur­ban land­scapes. How­ever, with the rise and fall of each dy­nasty, many of the ves­tiges of old Bei­jing have dis­ap­peared as the city rapidly de­vel­ops.

It is for this rea­son that Chen Jingy­ong and his re­search team have spent eight years analysing Bei­jing's “ge­og­ra­phy of colours” and pro­tect­ing the ap­pear­ance of this an­cient city.

Past Glo­ries

Bei­jing has 3,000 years of his­tory as a city and 800 years of his­tory as a cap­i­tal. It is nec­es­sary to thor­oughly un­der­stand the city's his­tory and cul­ture, and ex­plore both the evo­lu­tion of colour us­age and the rules gov­ern­ing it. Only then is it pos­si­ble to an­swer the ques­tions of where the city's colours orig­i­nated and how they should be car­ried for­ward.

Bei­jing was the epit­ome of ur­ban con­struc­tion in China dur­ing the coun­try's 2,000 years of feu­dal dy­nas­ties. The city's mod­ern ur­ban lay­out came into be­ing af­ter it served as the cap­i­tal for the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties. Bei­jing is com­posed of the Im­pe­rial City at its cen­tre, con­tain­ing palace build­ings dec­o­rated with yel­low tiles and red walls, with dif­fer­ent colours be­ing used to sym­bol­ise vary­ing ranks. Sur­round­ing the Im­pe­rial City is the In­ner City and Outer City, which are cov­ered by a net­work of hu­tong (lanes) and si­heyuan (tra­di­tional court­yard res­i­dences) with grey tiles and walls. Among these res­i­den­tial houses, build­ings dec­o­rated in var­i­ous colours be­long­ing to of­fi­cials are spread out.

The year 1840 is con­sid­ered the start of the mod­ern era. At this time, Bei­jing launched a project to re­build build­ings and blocks which had been de­stroyed dur­ing wars. It was also at this time that build­ings with clas­si­cal western fea­tures emerged. For ex­am­ple, the em­bassies and banks on Dongjiaom­inx­i­ang and Xi­jiaom­inx­i­ang re­flected ar­chi­tec­tural styles in western coun­tries dur­ing the early 19th cen­tury; and clus­ters of com­mer­cial build­ings at Qian­men and Dashilar com­bined tra­di­tional north­ern Chi­nese and clas­sic western ar­chi­tec­tural styles. Later, the Beiyang (North­ern War­lords) Gov­ern­ment of China ren­o­vated the old city walls and con­structed the Jing­shi Huancheng Rail­way, which changed the tra­di­tional lay­out of old Bei­jing. Dur­ing this pe­riod, gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, schools, churches and hos­pi­tals broke with tra­di­tion and in­tro­duced el­e­ments more com­monly found in western build­ings.

Af­ter the found­ing of the Peo­ple's Repub­lic of China in 1949, Bei­jing launched a pro­gramme of ur­ban ren­o­va­tion with Tian'an­men as its core to im­prove the city's func­tions as the cap­i­tal. In the fol­low­ing 20 years, many his­tor­i­cal build­ings were ei­ther de­mol­ished or ren­o­vated, with new build­ings emerg­ing to help im­prove trans­porta­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment within the cap­i­tal. The dis­ap­pear­ance of tra­di­tional build­ings and in­crease in com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties dam­aged the tra­di­tional “yel­low tiles and red walls” and “green tiles and grey walls” of the city and the once-neat lay­out be­came dis­or­dered.

In mod­ern times, many tra­di­tional build­ings in Bei­jing suf­fered be­cause of changes in con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als and colour pal­ettes. The in­creased height of new build­ings also greatly im­pacted the city's tra­di­tional “geo­graph­i­cal colours” and caused se­ri­ous con­se­quences. Many of the si­heyuan and for­mer res­i­dences of well-known fig­ures were now gone and im­por­tant cul­tural sites had been oc­cu­pied. The wide­spread use of new paints, large glass win­dows, strange con­tours and ad­ver­tis­ing sign­boards could be seen across the city, lead­ing

to the city's tra­di­tional de­meanour and colour pal­ette dis­ap­pear­ing.

Colours are one of the most di­rect ways peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence a city and the pal­ette of a city mainly de­pends on the colour of its build­ings. For ex­am­ple, peo­ple of­ten speak about the “ink-and­pas­tel coloured” build­ings when re­fer­ring to Suzhou in the south of China. As an an­cient city, Bei­jing will lose its soul if its cen­tral area loses its tra­di­tional colour­ing.

Colours of Old Bei­jing

Sev­eral years ago, cities across China launched “Ur­ban Colour Plan­ning and Prac­tice Pro­grammes” to cope with prob­lems caused by rapid ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, such as the dis­ap­pear­ance of cities' colour pal­ettes. As an an­cient cul­tural and his­toric city, Bei­jing was no ex­cep­tion.

In Au­gust 2000, Bei­jing is­sued the Reg­u­la­tions on the Man­age­ment of Build­ing Ex­te­ri­ors for Ur­ban Build­ings which pro­posed the con­cept of a “com­pos­ite grey.” In Novem­ber that year, the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sion of City Ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued a doc­u­ment which rec­om­mended colours and pat­terns for use on the ex­te­rior façades of build­ings and de­ter­mined “com­pos­ite grey” to be the dom­i­nant colour. The ques­tion is how­ever: “Will this al­ways be the dom­i­nant colour?”

As we en­tered the new era, dis­cus­sions on Bei­jing's old colour pal­ette and how to pro­tect it were top of the agenda. In Septem­ber 2017, the Bei­jing Ur­ban Mas­ter Plan (2016–2035) pro­posed sev­eral projects to de­velop and carry for­ward the best parts of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. These projects would pro­tect the old city area, cen­tral area, and the his­toric and cul­tural re­gion of Bei­jing, Tian­jin and He­bei Prov­ince. The Cap­i­tal Core Func­tion Area was also iden­ti­fied as a key area in the pro­tec­tion of the city's “ur­ban colours,” an­cient charms and mod­ern char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The “ge­og­ra­phy of colour” anal­y­sis method has been ap­plied in sev­eral for­eign coun­tries, but is new to China. It is a com­pre­hen­sive method based on the pro­tec­tion of ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage which ex­am­ines the “colours” of dif­fer­ent cities, in­flu­enced by sev­eral dis­ci­plines in­clud­ing ge­og­ra­phy and the so­cial hu­man­i­ties.

Fac­tors that af­fect a place's colour pal­ette in­clude folk­lore, ge­og­ra­phy, de­sign, aes­thet­ics and ethics. Ur­ban de­sign and man­age­ment form a foun­da­tion for the study into the causes be­hind the for­ma­tion of ur­ban colour in old Bei­jing. Other fac­tors, such as ur­ban colour plan­ning, ar­chi­tec­tural colour de­sign, land­scape de­sign, green­ing, in­dus­trial de­sign and vis­ual de­sign, were also taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. To­gether, they of­fered the­o­ries and prac­tices to help track the colours of this his­toric city.

This shows that “ge­og­ra­phy of colour” is a com­pre­hen­sive dis­ci­pline that com­bines ge­og­ra­phy, colour sci­ence, ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban-ru­ral plan­ning. Be­cause of this, mem­bers in Chen Jingy­ong's team come from a wide range of dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Chen Jingy­ong him­self has been en­gaged in teach­ing and study­ing var­i­ous sub­jects in­clud­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign and the pro­tec­tion of ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage. Ruji Xiaox­iao holds a bach­e­lor's de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign and is cur­rently a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent study­ing colour in Bud­dhist struc­tures and build­ings of tra­di­tional Chi­nese time-hon­oured brands. Zhang Ke­fan has a Bach­e­lor of Arts in con­ven­tion and ex­hi­bi­tion econ­omy and man­age­ment, but is now work­ing on ethics and the­o­ries re­lated to the ge­og­ra­phy of colour and its use in tem­ples and an­ces­tral halls. Other mem­bers of the team, such as Sun Xiaopeng, Pan Yang and Zhao Shuai, all ma­jored in ar­chi­tec­tural stud­ies and are now work­ing on the ge­neal­ogy of colour, build­ings in the im­pe­rial city and colours of Daoist struc­tures. Fi­nally, Zhang Mengyu holds a BA in ur­ban-ru­ral plan­ning and com­pleted re­search into the pro­tec­tion of the colour pal­ette of the old Bei­jing area.

Since 2010, Chen Jingy­ong has led his team in the in-depth study of the ge­og­ra­phy of colour in Bei­jing. At the time, Chen and his team of post­grad­u­ates ma­jor­ing in ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign joined a project launched by the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage named “2010 Com­pass Plan Pro­gramme— Pre­ci­sion Map­ping of the An­cient Taisui Palace in the Tem­ple of Agri­cul­ture.” The Tem­ple of Agri­cul­ture was in­cluded in the fifth batch of Ma­jor His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural

Sites Pro­tected at the Na­tional Level, with the Taisui Palace as its main struc­ture. The team used tra­di­tional man­ual map­ping tech­niques, mod­ern 3D laser scan­ning and pre­ci­sion-mea­sure­ment tech­nol­ogy, to cre­ate ac­cu­rate maps of the wooden struc­tures, draw­ings and paint­ings. The project ob­tained valu­able data on the con­struc­tion of an­cient struc­tures and dig­i­tal ar­chive in­for­ma­tion on Taisui Palace. Through ma­te­rial and colour anal­y­sis, the team aimed to ex­plore how the city's ge­og­ra­phy of colour and rules gov­ern­ing it changed when in­flu­enced by dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments, light and other ob­jec­tive fac­tors.

The project was a huge and com­pli­cated ven­ture. Team mem­bers ex­am­ined roof tiles, columns, brack­ets, brick­work and draw­ings, cat­a­logu­ing their data and car­ry­ing out sys­tem­atic anal­y­sis. Chen and his team cre­ated a “Geo­graph­i­cal Colour In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Sys­tem” database, with data from Taisui Palace used as the first sam­ple. This study into Bei­jing's “geo­graph­i­cal colour” has now been un­der­way for eight years.

Sys­tem­atic Col­lec­tion and Re­search

What the spe­cial re­search se­ries on the geo­graph­i­cal colours of Bei­jing needs to do is to start from the Chi­nese rit­ual sys­tem cen­tred around colours. From the cur­rently frag­mented shades, re­searchers will mea­sure the orig­i­nal se­quence of colours used in the old city and where they ap­peared. Guided by the new ur­ban mas­ter plan of Bei­jing, the pro­gram will con­tinue the tra­di­tional use of the “five­colour sys­tem“of the an­cient cap­i­tal. To gain the base of knowl­edge to make this pos­si­ble, Chen Jingy­ong and his team of “Art Troops” started by analysing 30 ma­jor his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks as well as the Cen­tral Axis re­gion. “The his­tor­i­cal fea­tures here are al­most in­tact,” said Chen. There is a good foun­da­tion from which we can start our search for the his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and colour con­text of the old city and re­con­struct the five-colour sys­tem of the an­cient cap­i­tal.

As men­tioned above, fea­tures of the an­cient cap­i­tal were formed through a chang­ing process of the times. There­fore, phys­i­cal ge­og­ra­phy, hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties and man-made ur­ban fac­tors all had an im­pact on the fi­nal for­ma­tion of the ur­ban colour pal­ette. Although build­ings are the main unit of the city, the study of ur­ban colours did not stop there. In­stead, an en­tire in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ded­i­cated to hu­man fac­tors. For ex­am­ple, even buses, tax­ies, ad­ver­tis­ing sign­boards and pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties were all within the colour mea­sure­ment study's scope.

In his re­search, Chen's “Art Troops” fol­lowed the re­quire­ments of the Bei­jing City Mas­ter Plan (2016-2035). Ad­her­ing to the Mun­sell colour sys­tem—an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard—the team mainly adopted “af­fix­ing colourime­try” and “gra­da­tion cal­cu­la­tions” to mea­sure the colours of more than 3,000 re­search sam­ples in his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks. The col­lected colour data were ac­cu­mu­lated and logged in a database called the Geo­graphic Colour In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Sys­tem, which fa­cil­i­tated the ap­pli­ca­tion of man­age­ment, col­lec­tion, anal­y­sis and spec­trum com­pi­la­tion. The sys­tem pro­vided a big data plat­form for fu­ture recog­ni­tion, study and con­trol of geo­graph­i­cal colours.

Be­fore be­gin­ning their study, Chen's “Art Troops” de­fined the fac­tors that af­fected geo­graph­i­cal colours of the old city, whilst also tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion Bei­jing's ur­ban and ru­ral plan­ning sys­tem, and the city's over­all con­ser­va­tion needs. Then, in the ac­tual in­ves­ti­ga­tion, re­searchers scouted the city and col­lected colour fea­tures along streets in 30 ma­jor his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks as well as the tra­di­tional axis area. They an­a­lysed six kinds of ar­chi­tec­tural build­ings in ad­di­tion to land­scape green­ing, pave­ments, and build­ing fa­cades. Through colour mea­sure­ment and sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis, the team col­lected data on geo­graph­i­cal colour image el­e­ments re­lat­ing to the his­tory, na­ture, func­tion, form, size, sur­face area, ma­te­rial and colour value of build­ings as well as their his­tor­i­cal con­text, spa­tial lay­out and cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tics. Af­ter a com­pre­hen­sive ex­plo­ration of geo­graph­i­cal colour fac­tors, re­searchers se­lected the key­note hues of each block, re­flect­ing its geo­graph­i­cal pal­ette, the ref­er­ence val­ues of other rep­re­sen­ta­tive colours, and the ref­er­ence value of the the­matic and ac­cent colours. This was com­piled to cre­ate the ge­og­ra­phy colour pedi­gree of his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks as well as other quin­tes­sen­tial ar­eas of Bei­jing.

In the geo­graph­i­cal colour pedi­gree, the old city of Bei­jing, rep­re­sented by 30 ma­jor his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks as well as the tra­di­tional axis area, was clas­si­fied into five types of colour pal­ettes, in­clud­ing “Palace as the Back­ground,” “Re­li­gious

Fea­tures,” “Core of an An­cient City,” “Char­ac­ter­is­tic Fea­tures” and “Res­i­den­tial Fea­tures.” These five pal­ettes cor­re­spond to a five-colour sys­tem of green, red, yel­low, white and grey that re­spec­tively rep­re­sent “el­e­gance, clas­sics, solem­nity, har­mony and quiet­ness.”

To be spe­cific, the pal­ette “Palace as the Back­ground” cov­ers 14 blocks in­clud­ing Nan­chang Street (lit­er­ally “South Long Street”) and Be­ichang Street (“North Long Street”). As the blocks are near the Palace Mu­seum (the For­bid­den City), they were in­flu­enced by the im­pe­rial gar­den plan­ning. In this area, there are a great deal of land­scapes, bod­ies of wa­ter and im­pe­rial gar­dens that are brim­ming with greens and reds. The theme for its colour pal­ette is “green,” show­ing the “el­e­gance” in the colour pedi­gree.

“Re­li­gious Fea­tures” in­cludes his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks such as the Guoz­i­jian (Im­pe­rial Academy) area, Fayuan Tem­ple and oth­ers. In these ar­eas, the spa­tial tex­ture of “hu­tong-si­heyuan court­yards” is con­tin­ued, high­light­ing im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal build­ings such as the Con­fu­cius Tem­ple, Guoz­i­jian, Yonghe La­masery, Fayuan Tem­ple and oth­ers. There­fore, the theme here is “red,” stand­ing for “clas­sics” in the colour pedi­gree.

“Core of an An­cient City” in­volves an area with a geo­graph­i­cal pal­ette of the high­est his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural val­ues in the an­cient cap­i­tal of Bei­jing. It is also the con­cen­trated em­bod­i­ment of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese “eti­quette colour.” This area is mainly com­posed of the tra­di­tional axis area and the im­pe­rial palace his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural blocks. There­fore, the theme for its geo­graph­i­cal colour pal­ette is “yel­low,” rep­re­sent­ing “solem­nity” in the colour pedi­gree.

The “Char­ac­ter­is­tic Fea­tures” area is mainly com­posed of nine street blocks in­clud­ing Shicha­hai and Dashilan. It is the area with the most man-made ge­og­ra­phy fea­tures, such as cul­tural venues, in the an­cient city. The theme here is “white,” a sym­bol of “har­mony.”

In the same man­ner, “Res­i­den­tial Fea­tures” are four blocks in­clud­ing Xis­i­bei Toutiao to Ba­tiao (North Lanes 1-8 ad­join­ing West Lane 4) and Zhangz­izhong Road. They re­flect the tra­di­tional res­i­den­tial fea­tures of Bei­jing. In this area, the pal­ette is “grey,” or “quiet­ness,” in the colour pedi­gree.

“As long as we could find the pedi­gree and the cor­re­spond­ing ref­er­ence val­ues of the colour ‘genes,' we had the grounds to iden­tify and con­trol the colours,” said Chen Jingy­ong. Af­ter a sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis and the def­i­ni­tion of the colour study el­e­ments, the “Art Troops” will give the ref­er­ence val­ues— hues, bright­ness and sat­u­ra­tion—of the cor­re­spond­ing prin­ci­pal colours, aux­il­iary colours and em­bel­lish­ment colours for the build­ings them­selves, the land­scape green­ing and the pave­ment, to en­sure the fu­ture co­or­di­na­tion and unity of the over­all fea­tures.

Real Knowl­edge Comes from Prac­tice

Re­searchers wanted to iden­tify the so­called colour “genes” and find out the the­o­ret­i­cal, tra­di­tional and le­gal ba­sis for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and con­trol of colour fea­tures of the an­cient city. To do this re­quired more than just in­ten­sive knowl­edge from “read­ing 10,000 books.” Real-world knowl­edge from “walk­ing 10,000 miles” was also nec­es­sary.

For a com­plex, highly in­te­grated dis­ci­pline like this, the team should first have a solid, pro­found the­o­ret­i­cal foun­da­tion. For this rea­son, Chen and his “Art Troops” held two sem­i­nars a week. At the meet­ings, they shared pro­fes­sional opin­ions and re­ported their find­ings, to bring out their strengths, make up for weak­nesses, re­fine achieve­ments and pro­mote the re­search project.

The im­por­tant field re­search was taken even more metic­u­lously. To im­prove the database of the Geo­graphic Colour In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Sys­tem for its ap­pli­ca­tion in the fol­low-up col­la­tion, re­search and sum­mary, Chen and his team drew a sam­ple map with all the colour mea­sure­ment points of the an­cient city. They sub­di­vided the sur­vey points and com­piled lo­ca­tion num­bers so that the geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion of 3,000 sur­vey points can be clearly seen.

These items, in­clud­ing over 1,600 colour cards, spec­tropho­tome­ters, laser rangefind­ers, GPRS lo­ca­tors, cam­eras and note­books, were the stan­dard field tools of the team mem­bers. Be­fore go­ing to the mea­sur­ing points, the mem­bers would do a pre-col­lect­ing “warm-up,” which meant a search of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion to know the past and the present of the ob­jects. They would also visit the sites be­fore­hand to make sure that in­for­ma­tion about the sam­pling points was ac­cu­rate. This is be­cause “though there was in­for­ma­tion

for some mea­sur­ing points on the In­ter­net, when we got to the scene, we found that it had been re­moved, or had its name changed, or some­thing else made it im­pos­si­ble for the team to get close and col­lect data,” Chen said. At the col­lec­tion scene, the team mem­bers en­coun­tered a va­ri­ety of dif­fi­cul­ties, all of which took time to solve.

At the mea­sur­ing points, in ad­di­tion to at­tach­ing colour cards to the mea­sur­ing site for com­par­i­son, the team mem­bers also needed to record the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the build­ings such as widths, depths, heights, and in­ter­col­umn dis­tances. Rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion of ar­chi­tec­tural com­po­nents in­clud­ing roofs, beams, columns, doors, win­dows, sty­lo­bates (plat­forms on which columns are faced, such as a tem­ple floor), and foun­da­tions had to be col­lected as well. In col­lect­ing the data, many de­tails re­quired at­ten­tion. For ex­am­ple, tree shad­ing would change the colour of some build­ings. Veg­e­ta­tion also pre­sented dif­fer­ent colours in dif­fer­ent sea­sons and weather. There­fore, it was best to take pic­tures of a fa­cade along the streets in late au­tumn or early spring, to avoid hav­ing lush veg­e­ta­tion block build­ings. The team also needed to choose a good lo­ca­tion and an­gle when vis­it­ing nar­row al­leys to avoid an in­com­plete land­scape in pic­tures.

Even while ex­er­cis­ing great care, re­searchers knew they could still miss fea­tures. “The most im­por­tant thing we do in sci­en­tific re­search is to en­sure that the in­for­ma­tion is ac­cu­rate,” said Ji Xiaox­iao. “So, a com­plete fa­cade pic­ture of a cer­tain street is of­ten com­posed of hun­dreds of live pho­tos of mea­sur­ing points. In our re­search, we took a pic­ture roughly ev­ery three or five steps.”

The tremen­dous work­load for field sam­ple data col­lec­tion has pro­vided a re­li­able ba­sis for re­search on colour sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis. How­ever, this was only the be­gin­ning. In the fol­low-up work, the team mem­bers needed to col­late the data into writ­ten re­ports. In this process, if they found new sam­ples or new in­for­ma­tion, they needed to fol­low up on the sam­ples and con­tinue to col­lect and col­late rel­e­vant data. In such a re­peated process of col­lect­ing, com­par­ing, sum­maris­ing and writ­ing, re­search on the sam­ple colour data was con­stantly re­vised and im­proved. Sun Xiaopeng, a team mem­ber, said that he was re­spon­si­ble for col­lect­ing data on geo­graph­i­cal colours fea­tures of Dongsi and the Xisi neigh­bour­hoods in the Dongcheng District. Af­ter count­less vis­its to over 100 mea­sur­ing points, he was able to, with­out any ex­ag­ger­a­tion, re­mem­ber all the house num­bers and the res­i­dents liv­ing be­hind them.

Af­ter eight years un­der the lead­er­ship of Chen Jingy­ong, gen­er­a­tions of “Art Troops” have op­ti­mised and per­fected the re­search on the geo­graph­i­cal colours of an­cient Bei­jing on the ba­sis of their pre­de­ces­sors' work and con­tin­ued with their own sto­ries with the time-hon­oured cap­i­tal. As Chen put it, “It's like a re­lay race where peo­ple con­tinue to pick up the ba­ton and run on the track.”

This re­search has es­tab­lished a frame­work of geo­graphic colour study, a database called the “Geo­graph­i­cal Colour In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Sys­tem” and a geo­graph­i­cal colour pedi­gree. These re­search re­sults have not only pro­vided the ba­sis for the con­ser­va­tion of the old city of Bei­jing, but also laid a the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal foun­da­tion for up­dat­ing colour con­trol. More­over, it pro­vides a ref­er­ence for the fu­ture man­age­ment and use of colour in Bei­jing. The team will soon launch a spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tion on and off of the cam­pus to show a long scroll of street fa­cades of rep­re­sen­ta­tive lanes, al­leys and hu­tongs in the his­toric and cul­tural blocks of the his­tor­i­cal city. With the his­tor­i­cal record of the colour trends and colour con­trasts of his­tor­i­cal build­ings in the five- colour sys­tem, ap­pli­ca­tion of this re­search will en­able more peo­ple to feel the gen­uine colour fea­tures of the na­tion's time-hon­oured cap­i­tal.

In the fu­ture, the team will con­tinue to carry out sus­tained the­matic re­search cen­ter­ing on the colours of his­tor­i­cal, mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary build­ings as well as land­scapes, the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­man ge­og­ra­phy. Their ef­forts will con­trib­ute to the con­struc­tion of Bei­jing as a cap­i­tal and a cul­tural cen­tre, and cre­ate a blue­print for build­ing Bei­jing into a world- class har­mo­nious, live­able cap­i­tal city.

A mem­ber of Chen Jingy­ong’s team com­pares the colours on a beam with dif­fer­ent coloured swatches.

Chen Jingy­ong (mid­dle) and two mem­bers of his team com­pile Bei­jing’s geo­graph­i­cal colour pedi­gree.

A team mem­ber mea­sures a struc­ture in Di­tan Park.

The yel­low tiles and red walls demon­strate the mag­nif­i­cence of the For­bid­den City.

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