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This Image shows ten people riding right to left on a covered boat while six people stand close together on the shore.

This image shows ten people riding on a boat with six more people clustered together on the shore. The boat is covered in the center by a four-post canopy with onion shaped decorations on top. The boat is in the center of the image and is heading right to left with the person in back holding a paddle and the nine other riders standing spread out on the deck. The other six figures are clustered together on the shore in the bottom right corner, looking at the boat. The image also shows the bottom of another boat, that is cut off, at the center of the top edge.

Gallery Text

This mural section was part of a series of vignettes recounting the recovery of a sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha believed to have been sponsored by a daughter of the great Indian monarch Ashoka (304–232 BCE) from a river near Yangzhou in the early fourth century. Inscriptions in rectangular cartouches (a fragment of one is visible directly below the skiff) briefly describe each scene of the narrative, which has also been passed down in canonical histories of Chinese Buddhism. The flaming jewels on the tall canopy that covers the Buddha sculpture, together with the fluttering banners that adornthe boat and are held by the assembly of monks nearby, signal the importance of the recovered sculpture and imbue the scene with a sense of celebration.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Eight Men Ferrying a Statue of the Buddha (from Mogao Cave 323, Dunhuang, Gansu province)
Work Type
mural painting
7th century
Creation Place: East Asia, China, Gansu province, Dunhuang
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2740, Buddhist Art, The Efflorescence of East Asian and Buddhist Art
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Section of a wall painting; polychromy on unfired clay
painting proper (irregular): H. 50.8 x W. 94 cm (20 x 37 in.)
framed: H. 73.7 x W. 114.3 x D. 3.5 cm (29 x 45 x 1 3/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
From Mogao Cave 323, Dunhuang, Gansu province; acquired during the First Fogg Expedition to China (1923-24) led by Langdon Warner (1881-1955)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, First Fogg Expedition to China (1923-1924)
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Sanchita Balachandran, "Research into the Collecting and Conservation History of Chinese Wall Paintings from Dunhuang in the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2004), Unpublished, passim
  • Sanchita Balachandran, Object Lessons: The Politics of Preservation and Museum Building in Western China in the Early Twentieth Century, International Journal of Cultural Property (2007), Vol. 14, No. 1, 1-32
  • Francesca Bewer, A Laboratory for Art: Harvard's Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900-1950, Harvard Art Museum and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA, 2010), p. 117, fig. 3.18; pp. 118-119, ill. (overleaf)
  • James C. Dobbins, Behold the Buddha: Religious Meanings of Japanese Buddhist Icons, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, 2020), pp. 4-5, fig. 3; p. 247

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2740 Buddhist II, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at