Seminar 3

School of Arts and Social Sciences Research Research Institute for Digital Culture and Humanities Seminar 3


The Emergence of Virtuality and Reality: Journey to the West in the Digital Age

Prof. Kuo Liangwen

24 November 2023

Seminar 3 for the series of “Chinese Mythology in the Digital Age”

RIDCH and TKPCCC co-organised the third seminar “虛擬與現實的交融:數字化時代的西遊記神話故事 (The Emergence of Virtuality and Reality: Journey to the West in the Digital Age)” on November 24, for the Seminar Series “Chinese Mythology in the Digital Age” funded by Sin Wai Kin Foundation. This seminar invited the preeminent scholar on digital humanity and digital archiving, Professor Kuo Liangwen, the Distinguished Professor of Journalism & Communication, and the Director of the Digital Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Centre at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.


Professor Kuo’s talk focused on the interplay between virtual reality and intangible cultural heritage, especially in relation to mythological stories and puppetry. He began by discussing the importance of myths in constructing shared imagination and identity, which arise from local environments and cultures. As an example, he analysed Journey to the West, a classic Chinese mythological novel, originated during the Ming dynasty, and contains political satire, reflections of social conditions, moral lessons, and more.


Professor Kuo then discussed the popularity of Journey to the West, which has been adapted across mediums like TV, theatre, and puppetry. He showed video clips demonstrating puppet theatre performances of Journey to the West in Taiwan. While puppetry was once widely popular, it has declined as younger generations lose interest. Some puppeteers are innovating by incorporating elements like hip hop music, Hollywood-style special effects, and multimedia narratives to revive the art. He showcased innovative VR projects that incorporate traditional myths and puppetry. One project digitally captured a puppet master’s intricate hand movements and rendered them into a VR game where users can control puppet battles with hand gestures. By recording vanishing cultural knowledge like the puppeteer’s techniques, they demonstrated a model of using digital technology to preserve traditional arts.


In conclusion, Professor Kuo emphasized that myth-adapting VR projects require collaboration between humanities scholars and tech specialists. He outlined key considerations in digital storytelling, including interactivity, multimedia integration, and navigating the line between virtual and actual world. He reflected on how virtual reality is becoming integral to how younger generations construct their realities and cultural identities.