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Walking with the Buddha

In 2018 a Durham University team co-curated an exhibition at the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, which was visited by almost one million people from 25 different countries.  

The exhibition explored the life of the Buddha, and was centred around the results of archaeological excavations at Lumbini in Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha.  

Professor Robin Coningham, Durham’s UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage led the Lumbini excavation with Dr Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Department of Archaeology, Nepal. Elements of their research - including 3D printed reconstructions of the earliest Buddhist shrines at Lumbini - were displayed, along with items from the Oriental Museum’s early Buddhist art collection.  

What was the Oriental Museum’s role in this exhibition project?  

Oriental Museum staff were involved in every stage of the planning and delivery of this major exhibition.   

The Oriental Museum is fortunate to be home to a significant collection of early Buddhist art, and more than 30 pieces from the collection travelled to Taiwan for the exhibition. Curators worked with staff from the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum and Prof Coningham’s team to identify ancient Buddhist sculptures and historic photographs from our collections that helped tell the story of Buddha’s life.   

The Museum’s curators then provided support to academic colleagues in the preparation of both exhibition and catalogue text, as well as collaborating with partners at the Buddha Museum on the co-design and installation of the exhibition.  Oriental Museum staff were present in Kaohsiung for the installation and opening of the exhibition and delivered papers at the accompanying academic symposium.  The research collaboration with the Buddha Museum is ongoing, and Oriental Museum staff will be presenting a paper focussing upon the presentation of Buddhism and Art in the modern western museum context at an international conference on Humanistic Buddhism being hosted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2021. 


Installing early Buddhist sculpture from the Oriental Museum in the gallery at the Buddha Museum, Taiwan.

A man wearing purple gloves positions a stone sculpture into a museum display case