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“Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City” is the latest artwork by internationally renowned pyrotechnic artist, Cai Guo-Qiang. Reminiscent of what it would have looked like in the ancient Chinese Forbidden City in Beijing, China, in the early part of the 15th century for the Chinese Yongle Emperor, who declared Beijing as the new capital city of China. It was aptly called the Forbidden City as almost all except himself, which included his family and governing dignitaries, were allowed very limited access to the Palace and the City.

Indeed today, such is the importance of the Forbidden Palace and City, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in the late 1980’s in recognition of the importance of its power during the previous 500 years. Today, the City welcomes over 14 million visitors annually.


Cai’s art has always included gunpowder and fireworks as his preferred medium but in this age of COVID, he had to rethink his strategy. In this instance, bringing his art to life with the aid of state of the art tech.

HTC Vive Arts and Cai have created this, his first ever VR artwork, which was set to coincide with the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City Palace complex completion.

This, like much of his work makes up for its short duration with its high impact. It depicts what a pyrotechnic display, in honour of Emperor Yongle, which would have of course been commissioned by himself as a very self-promoting man, would have appeared like in the courtyard of the foreground of the palace in celebration of the lunar New Year.

This daytime VR pyro show art piece is incredible – check out the trailer:


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