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Digitizing ancient Buddhist culture with Artec Ray in Shenzhen, China

Challenge: To digitally capture an ornate 15-meter statue in its full form with Artec Ray.

Solution: Artec Ray, Artec Studio, ZBrush, Freeform

Results: This detailed statue of Guanyin was captured in its entirety, for preservation and in case of damage, prior to it being relocated from its current location for land development.

Avalokitesvara: He who embodies compassion from all Buddhas. Revered in religions and beliefs ranging from Hinduism to Taoism, Avalokitesvara is also known in many forms and by many names, from Tibet’s Chenrezig to Japan’s Kanzeon and India’s Padmapani. In Chinese Buddhism, this representation of compassion takes a female form: Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.


There are three significant dates for Guanyin, a goddess revered in both Buddhist and Taoist cultures, believed to be representative of mercy for humankind and a source of compassion for the world. First, Feb. 19, the day she is said to have been born. June 19 is the day of her enlightenment – the highest spiritual level of truth, wisdom, and knowledge in Buddhism – and Sept. 19, the day of her renunciation – the final part in a journey from spiritual awakening to complete surrender, leaving behind worldly joys and desires.

On these special days celebrated in Buddhist communities around the world, statues of Guanyin are visited by many who come bearing gifts, offerings, and prayers; they seek blessings, good health, and spiritual guidance. From temples in Indonesia to caves in India, the Guanyin statue featured here sits atop a mountain in Shenzhen, China.

With redevelopment fast on its way, the well-visited statue needed a new home. But with a need to preserve the statue in her original setting in case of any damage, there was a desire to capture Guanyin as is – peaceful and perfectly constructed atop a lotus flower.

“This statue will be destroyed or removed soon,” says Ivan Fung of JIE Technologies, Artec 3D’s Gold Certified Partner in Hong Kong. “It may be moved to another place in a year or two, so our clients LK International – a nearby printing company whose employees regularly visit the statue and who have recently started to explore 3D printing – wanted to preserve it digitally. If there is any damage during the transportation of the statue, or even if it will be destroyed, digital data would be available and a replacement statue could be built with the exact same look and details,” says Fung.

Artec Ray was able to scan the statue in its entirety to create a highly precise 3D model.

For this task, JIE Technologies had just the scanner in mind for a large item which needed special attention to detail: Artec Ray.

With the highest speed and accuracy among long-range 3D scanners, Artec Ray’s laser technology is ideal for capturing large objects such as airplanes or buildings, wind turbines or – as in this case – statues. Ray scans objects up to 110 meters away, while objects within 15 meters are scanned with submillimeter distance precision, and ranks best in class in angular accuracy. Beyond fast scanning, the data captured with Ray is cleaner, has less noise, and leads to quicker processing.

For Fung and his team, using Ray was a first. “I’m an industrial guy, most of our scanning work is for industrial applications and reverse engineering,” he says, citing experience using Artec scanners Eva, Leo, and Space Spider for these purposes. “We used Ray to scan the statue, and we took four hours, which is really good for such an expansive statue.”

Using a construction lift to raise the scanner to various heights parallel to the ground, Artec Ray made its way around the statue. An iPad app was used for this scan – this Ray feature makes it easier to 3D scan large objects. Following four hours of scanning, the data was processed and aligned in Artec Studio in what Fung says was for himself and three colleagues, a day’s work.

“If we needed to, we could have used Artec Eva to scan more details,” Ivan says. “But actually, I was surprised that Ray scanned so well and captured all the necessary detail.”

For such a large item, being able to use Ray – and only Ray – provided numerous other benefits. “If we had used Leo or Eva, I don’t think we could have finished it quite as easily,” says Fung. “Because we had a long-range scanner like Ray, we were able to complete it in such a short time.”

The data has also been used to print tiny, commemorative statues.

Being able to scan without using any targets – a feature of Artec Studio – the team carried out less than 10 scans and during data processing, put them all together.

“In terms of scanning quality, Artec Ray provided better and more detailed results than other brands of scanners we have used. We could see that the files are far more detailed,” Fung says.

Despite the fact that it was their first time, getting to know Ray was easy.

“We received Ray in November, so we’d had it for just about a month. This is the first time we used Ray, and it’s also the first time we made a perfect scan,” Fung says.

Before the work began, the team practiced in their own homes, offices, and buildings. “The scanning itself was easy, you just press a button,” Fung says. What proved to be just as important was the software. “We’re well trained in Artec Studio,” Ivan adds. With instructions from the Artec support team, Fung and his team went ahead with their first Ray project confidently, and were met with great success.

“Our customers are happy with the results of the scan, and we’re very satisfied, too,” Fung says.

Today, more has been done with the data, beyond the original goal of preservation. Tiny versions of Guanyin have been printed as a commemorative item for those who used to frequent the mountain.

“We scanned it, scaled it down to 10 or 15 centimeters. They were then printed as souvenirs,” Fung explains.

“People cannot buy the big statue,” he laughs, “But at least they can buy and take home the small ones.”

Besides this successful scan, the project has also created opportunities that weren’t previously present in the Chinese market. “Other scanners have a lot of competition in China,” Fung says. “But Artec Ray in particular opens a whole new market for us.”

Following the success of this project, JIE Technologies is confident that Ray can help them to target other clients in China, such as museums or architecture projects. And besides being a project successfully completed, it comes down to cultural preservation in an ever-changing climate as well.

“In China, when the government or commercial investors want to use the land, they sell for a higher price and to make more money. So, this statue needed to be moved to make way for land development and modernization,” Fung explains.

“This happens quite often in China, and it’s good to protect some of our culture.”

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