A collaborative initiative has contributed documentation of Shuilu’an Temple, Lantian, Shaanxi Province, China — about a dozen images and seven virtual reality panoramas — to the Artstor Digital Library. Partners include Northwestern University Academic and Research Technologies Advanced Media Production Studio, the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and the Dunhuang Research Academy, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Staff from Northwestern University had previously collaborated with the Dunhuang Research Academy to photograph the Mogao caves in Dunhuang (a site that is located about 1,000 miles from the Temple) – a project that was also funded by the Mellon Foundation. Images from Dunhuang are available in the Artstor Digital Library as part of the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive.

The Temple, dating to the Tang Dynasty (c. 1000 CE), is famous for its Ming Dynasty (c. 1500 CE) painted sculpture. Polychrome terracotta sculptures line the the Temple’s main Buddha hall, and range in size from bas relief figures a few centimeters high to one and a half meter free-standing guardians.The entire decorative program includes approximately 3,500 figures, representing many different forms of the Buddha, as well as scenes of the Buddha’s life. For this reason, Shuilu’an Temple is often referred to as “Little Dunhuang,” as if the two-dimensional murals painted in the Mogao caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, had been realized in three-dimensional sculpture.