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Image and Text: these simple tools have been used by people in all of recorded history.  But today, students at the University of Rochester can use them to create a personal “living history” of distant lands and bring it to a new digital audience.

Here, we proudly display the original works of 23 students who just finished “HIS142: Traditional China” in Fall 2015.  This course covered China’s past from antiquity to the end of the 18th century, and the students channeled their conceptions of this history into two digital projects, namely “The Golden Plaque” and “Once upon a Time in China.”

We began by envisioning that we lived through one specific era in traditional China.  First, we wanted to leave a physical message for future generations to find, a message embodied in a few symbols that captured the essence of that time.  Each creator drew the symbols on a rectangular plate (imagine an engraved “Golden Plaque” like the Pioneer Plaque that was launched into space by NASA in 1972), accompanied by written descriptions of their messages.

After leaving the plaques as visual time capsules, we moved to create our own “person” and make him/her live in “Once upon a Time in China.”  These were fictional but believable characters with real faces–our students used Photoshop software to insert themselves into Chinese-style traditional paintings.  Students also created life stories to describe their personalities, exploits, dilemmas, and the fabric of their world in short biographical essays.

I hope you enjoy their plaques, portraits, essays, and other little dances with history.  And please join me in thanking the experts at the Digital Humanities Center—Joe Easterly, James Barbero, Lisa Wright, and Nora Dimmock—for helping these records reach you through space and time.

Elya Jun Zhang
University of Rochester, History

Elya Jun Zhang
Elya Jun Zhang, course instructor
Joe Easterly, webmaster
Joe Easterly, webmaster

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