University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Taizong Horses [Object of the Day #100]

Taizong Horse

By: Xiuqin Zhou

The six stone horse reliefs, known in Chinese as “Zhaoling Liujun” 昭陵六骏 (the six stone horses of Zhao Mausoleum), were commissioned by Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty 唐太宗 (r. 627-649) in 636 CE and presumably completed in 649 CE, the time of his death. The realistic depiction and exquisite carving techniques of these stone […]


By: Lynn Grant

In the final week our Chinese colleagues were with us, we did give them a chance to do something other than work on the Horses.  Our colleagues at Historic Preservation on Penn’s campus gave them a tour of their architectural conservation labs and digital resources and very kindly arranged for them to have a special […]

The 3D craze

By: Lynn Grant

In the old days (which are still around sometimes), if you wanted to make a copy of something like the Tang Horses, you’d take an impression using silicone rubber or rubber latex or something like that.  It was/is a messy business that required a lot of preparation and even then sometimes damaged the artwork it […]

Catching up

By: Lynn Grant

Things have gotten especially interesting around here (see my Museum post “Exodus”, from May 28) and I haven’t had a chance to update you on the Tang Horses.  Our Chinese colleagues left us on May 28th, having accomplished great things in a very short time.  As I told them, they did in three weeks what […]

Tackling the hard parts

By: Lynn Grant

Remember this image from our work plan way back when (two weeks ago)?  Well, we’ve now done the fills marked in green and decided that some of the ones marked in red should be green and did those.  So, what’s left: the big  fills colored yellow here, which we’ve been thinking hard about.  The fills […]

Filling the voids

By: Lynn Grant

Our Chinese colleagues and Julie have diligently filling the minor voids along the join lines in the main segments.  They use a mixture of an acrylic resin, glass microballoons,  stone powder from a quarry near Xi’an, and dry artists pigments.  The results are wonderful, as can be seen in the accompanying example.  The joins are […]

Media stars!

By: Lynn Grant

On Wednesday a team from China Central television came to do a story on the collaboration between Chinese conservators and American conservators, working together to preserve the Tang Horses.  They interviewed everyone but the horses!

An exciting discovery

By: Lynn Grant

Among the many things our Chinese colleagues brought with them from Xi’an were two plaster fragments.  These were exact replicas of stone fragments that had been excavated from the Zhaoling Mausoleum site in 2003.  One of these was found to belong with C 396, forming the raised front part of the saddle.  This exciting find […]

Hard at work.

By: Lynn Grant

After the short break for Penn’s Commencement, we hit the ground running on Tuesday.  After our tests of various mixtures for the filling of the small fills (green lines on picture in previous post), we were ready to actually work on the horse reliefs.   We wanted to get a better idea of how long this […]

Commencement weekend

By: Lynn Grant

This weekend was Commencement at Penn, which meant we couldn’t work in the Rotunda on Friday afternoon or all day Monday.  On Friday, the Chinese conservators took a very quick trip to Washington, DC, which they enjoyed very much even though they didn’t have much time there.  On Sunday, we had lunch with Mr & […]

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