University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Identifying the Celestial Beings

The Sun with a black disc.

By: Stephen Lang

In my previous post I explained how we identified the Buddha in our Tejaprabha mural.  But what about the other figures?  If we take a close look at the mural we notice that many of the figures have different attributes. For instance, they may be holding something in their hand or have a mark in […]

Identifying the Tejaprabha Mural

Sutra close-up

By: Stephen Lang

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the mural depicting Tejaprabha Buddha originally came into the museum and was published with the central figure identified as Sakyamuni Buddha.  However a few years later someone noticed that one of the figures on the left was holding a small book with an inscription on it.  It was […]

Getting the Murals to the Museum

C492 with accession numbers

By: Stephen Lang

It’s important to understand how an object actually comes into the museum. The Buddhist murals in the Rotunda are comprised of many different sized panels which entered the museum in stages.  The mural depicting Tejaprabha Buddha came into the museum incomplete in 1926.  You can see the panels are actually framed in large wooden borders […]

The Two Buddhist Murals from Guangshengsi Monastery


By: Stephen Lang

  Two of the most fascinating objects in the Asian section are a pair of  murals reported to have come from Guangshengsi Monastery in southern Shanxi Province, China.   What makes them particularly interesting is the nature in which their provenance, date, and subject matter have fluctuated over the decades since they came into the […]

Chinese Painting [Object of the Day #116]


By: Stephen Lang

  This painting, named “A Pair of Doves”  by Yi Yuanji, depicts two spotted doves (Streptopelia chinensis ) amid sprays of soft bamboo with a pile of rocks from which grows a small stunted tree. The time of year is most likely autumn or early winter. The signature of Yi Yuanji, 易元吉, is found on the face of […]

Statue of Maitreya [Object of the Day #106]


By: Stephen Lang

This gilt bronze statuette is of Maitreya, also known as “the compassionate one” and the Buddha of the future. It dates to the Eastern Wei Dynasty (534-550 CE) but is typical of the Northern Wei style which is characterized by its front facing orientation and flowing Chinese robes. The statue rests on a four-sided, four-legged […]

Statue of Fudo [Object of the Day #44]

Statue of Fudo

By: Stephen Lang

This statue of Fudo, one of the Myo-o (Knowledge Kings), sits in the midst of fire symbolizing invulnerability. Also known as the immovable one, he is a part of a fierce class of protective deities who form an important category in Shingon art. Often depicted holding a lasso and vajra hilted sword, the statue was […]

The new “Lords of Time”?


By: Stephen Lang

With the new MAYA 2012 exhibit up and running the concept of time and keeping track of time has been on my mind lately. A few years ago, on my way to a restaurant in San Francisco, my friend and I stumbled across a building with a sign that said “X Long Now”.  Intrigued, we […]

Ainu Robe from Japan [Object of the Day #31]

Ainu Robe

By: Stephen Lang

This Ainu robe was collected by  Hiram M. Hiller (1867-1921) a physician and amateur ethnologist during a trip to Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan. The trip itself lasted only a month but covered an area stretching from the southern coastal villages of Hokkaido, near Shiraoi (where this piece comes from), to a circuit around […]

Gisan Painting from Korea [Object of the Day #24]

Gisan Painting

By: Stephen Lang

    This watercolor was done by the artist Chun-gŭn Kim (artist name: Gisan) in 1886 in Choryang, Korea.  It illustrates one of the many games played in Korea during the 1800s. Two country girls, about eighteen years of age, in traditional Korean attire can be seen practicing choo-cheon or swinging. Gisan beautifully renders their billowing skirts and […]

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