University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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 […]

How We Do What We Do

Buddhist Blog Project Photo

By: Morgan Burgess

“Can you please explain what you’re doing?” is a question we hear daily. From a visitor’s perspective it doesn’t look like we’re doing much. Basically, we observe and document. A thorough condition report is the first step in any conservation treatment; we need to know what we’re dealing with. These murals are so large that […]

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 […]

Conserving the Buddhist Murals: An Introduction

Pre-program interns Morgan Burgess (left) and Cassia Balogh (right) work recording the current condition of  the mural C 688

By: Lynn Grant

Just because artifacts have been in our collections or even on display for a long time doesn’t mean we know all about them. A case in point is the large Buddhist Murals in our Chinese Rotunda, probably the largest artifacts in our collection, at least in area. Although they’ve been on exhibition there since the […]

Sculpture of Female Attendants [Object of the Day- #75]


By: Gabrielle Niu

These two statues are from Northern Thailand (19th Century). The one of the right, kneeling with her hands folded in front of her chest, represents a female attendant to the Buddha. To her left is a male attendant. He sits with one hand on his knee and the other holding a staff. Both pieces are […]

Statuette from Liao Dynasty [Object of the Day #63]

Statuette from the Liao Dynasty

By: Ashley Harper

This gilt bronze statuette is a representation of the compassionate and venerated Guanyin, a popular figure in eastern Buddhism. The figure’s graceful stance and relaxed expression give the statue a sense of peace. In her hands, she holds a lotus bud while over her forehead, at the base of the high crown headdress, is a tiny […]

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 […]

Seated Luohan from China [Object of the Day #17]

Seated Luohan

By: Stephen Lang

The Penn Museum’s luohan is one of the most famous and important pieces in the museum’s collection. The fact that it is slightly larger than life size makes it a marvel of technology. Firing something so big  is extremely hard to do without destroying the piece in the process.  The modeled  facial features also imply […]

Xuanzang and the Silk Road Pt. 3

By: Stephen Lang

The iconography of Xuanzang, and its history,  is quite fascinating.   Bearing the typical shaved head of a Buddhist monk, Xuanzang is depicted in our painting with a large backpack of sutras, a canopy over his head (with a hanging incense burner) and holding a scroll in his left hand and a fly wisk in […]

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