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 […]

I Spy with My Little Eye…

C:Scratchpad 056

By: Cassia Balogh

One of the most amazing aspects of Buddhist murals condition survey is that it does not get boring. We are constantly discovering more details and quirks. While a regular, sharp-eyed museum visitor can see many of these details, some are impossible to truly appreciate without being fifteen feet tall and two feet from the mural. […]

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 […]

What ARE the Buddhist Murals Made Of?

mural constructionv3

By: Morgan Burgess

The questions most frequently asked of us while working on the Buddhist murals in the Chinese rotunda involve what the murals are made of. Often people presume they are frescoes. True fresco is done on wet plaster. The pigments used in a fresco are mixed with water and applied to a wet plaster surface. A […]

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 […]

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