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In this paper, we describe the experimental techniques and numerical modeling approaches to understand the alternating current plasma display panel (ac PDP) discharge physics. Conventional ac PDP uses microscale dielectric barrier discharge, and the spatio-temporal visualization of discharge not only helps to understand the discharge dynamics, but also validates the models adopted in the computer simulation study of PDP cell. The experimental observations using optical spectroscopy and imaging method turned out to be very helpful especially for the understanding of discharge dynamics including gas reactions and wall charge formation. The numerical simulation shows good agreement with experimental observations which allows us to use the computer simulation to extract more useful information with more confidence. Some parametric study, such as the effects of the variations of cell pitches, address electrode width, barrier rib height, and geometrical structure, etc., on the luminous characteristics of PDP had been carried out and could now well be explained.