Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
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
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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.)
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Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2004), Unpublished, passim

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

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