Pacifying The South China Sea Scroll Navigator
The handscroll Pacifying the South China Sea chronicles the suppression of piracy by the forces of the Jiaqing Emperor (r. 1796–1820). The scroll illustrates the events of the period in twenty different scenes, each abundant with detail depicting the ‘annihilation and appeasement’ (jiaofu) of the pirates by government forces.
The Scroll Navigator is an installation at the Maritime Museum in Hong Kong that offers an interactive system for examining the scroll and revealing this narrative sequence. A reduced-scale photograph of the entire scroll is presented in a 5-metre-long light box, backlit with a fine raster of LEDs. Each LED is independently controlled so that any section of the photograph can be illuminated. Above this, a motorised, ultra-high-definition, 42-inch LCD monitor is mounted on a track that allows it to move freely above the entire length of the photograph. Any given section of the scroll that appears on the monitor is simultaneously illuminated in exactly that section of the light box. The visitor uses an iPad to control the movement of the LCD screen from one narrative zone to the next. Within each section the viewer can pan and zoom in to minute details of the painting—a capability afforded by the ultra-high-resolution scan of the original scroll that was made for this project.