Thursday, December 4, 2014

IDP News No. 44, Autumn 2014

The new Visitors’ Centre at Dunhuang, September 2014. Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy. Photographer: Sun Zhijun.

IDP News No. 44, Autumn 2014 is now available to view online or download as a PDF (798KB). The current issue includes the articles:

  • The Visitors’ Centre at Dunhuang
  • Conservation and Research on Excavated Textiles from Mogao
  • Desmond Parsons in Chinese Archives
  • Prospects for the Study of Dunhuang Manuscripts: The Next 20 Years
  • Our Favourite Things: Excerpts from the IDP20 Blog
  • Obituary: Serguei Grigoryevich Klyashtornyj

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lectures: Bronze Age Origins of the Silk Road

Dr Kristian Kristiansen (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Dr Idris Abdurusul (Honorary Director, Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, China), will look at Bronze Age tomb sites from two widely separated regions — Northern Europe and East Central Asia — to highlight some of the similarities between them and discuss their possible connections.

The lectures will be held at 19.00 on Thursday, 4 December 2014 at the University of Leuven, Brussels (Room 00.20, MSI I, Erasmusplein 2, 3000 Leuven).

This series of duo-lectures, “The Silk Road: Border Crossing”, is an initiative and experiment of the Belgian Institute for Advanced Chinese Studies in Brussels (BIHCS/IBHEC), in co-organisation with the Educational and Cultural Department of the Royal Museums of Art and History (KMKG/ MRAH) and supported by Asian Art in Brussels (AAB) and the International Dunhuang Project (IDP).

The duo-lectures are intended to encourage the audience to step out of their comfort zone and participate in ‘border crossing’, not only along the well-known ‘silk roads’ but also by addressing areas that are not traditionally connected with present-day China but that have seen similar developments.

Each session includes a 2x1 hour lecture by two specialists on different areas but similar topics. The sessions will be moderated by the president of the BIHCS/ IBHEC, sinologist and archaeologist, Ilse Timperman.

Future lectures in this series are as below, both to be held at:
Auditorium, Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels.

Sunday 14 December 2014, 10.30am

Early Monasticism and Anchoretic life in Egypt
Dr. Karel Innemée (Leiden University)

Early Monasticism on the Eastern Silk Road (Tarim Basin)
Dr. Susan Whitfield (International Dunhuang Project, British Library)

Sunday 25 January 2015, 10.30am

The Hellenistic East
Prof. Judith Barringer (University of Edinburgh)

Sculpture and the Question of Contacts between China and the Hellenistic East
Dr. Lukas Nickel (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)

For further details and a downloadable programme, see The Silk Road: Border Crossing page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Publication: Manuscript Cultures

Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field is a new volume from the Manuscript Cultures in Asia project at the University of Hamburg. It contains chapters on manuscript and scribal cultures in Europe, Africa and Asia. Two chapters are dedicated to manuscripts from Dunhuang: "Towards a Tibetan Palaeography" by Sam van Schaik and "Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts" by Imre Galambos. The volume is available from the publisher's website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 4

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Treasures Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission.

The fourth text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (November-December 2014) contains the second half of section 15 through to all but the final line of section 17 of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

15. The merits of maintaining this sūtra (cont.)

The following English translation of the fourth text panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

If there are people able to accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain this sūtra to others, then the Tathāgata is always aware of them and always sees them. Thusly, these people are carrying the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the Tathāgata. Why? Subhūti, those who are happy with lesser teachings are attached to views of a self, views of a person, views of a being, and views of a life. They cannot hear, accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it to others. Subhūti, in every place where this sūtra exists, the devas, humans, and asuras from every world should provide offerings. This place is a shrine to which everyone should respectfully make obeisance and circumambulate, adorning its resting place with flowers and incense.

16. Able to purify obstructions

“Moreover, Subhūti, suppose good men and good women accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra. If they are treated badly due to karma from a previous life that would make them fall onto evil paths, then from this treatment by others their karma from previous lives will be eliminated in this lifetime, and they will attain Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. Subhūti, I remember in the past, innumerable, incalculable eons before Dīpaṃkara Buddha, being able to meet 84,000 countless myriads of buddhas, and providing offerings to honor them all without exception. Suppose someone in the next era is able to accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra. The merits of my offerings to all those buddhas are, in comparison to the merits of this person, not even one hundredth as good. They are so vastly inferior that a comparison cannot be made. Subhūti, if there are good men and good women in the next era who accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra, and I were to fully explain all the merits attained, the minds of those listening could go mad with confusion, full of doubt and disbelief. Subhūti, understand that just as the meaning of this sūtra is inconceivable, its rewards of karma are also inconceivable.”

17. Ultimately without self

At that time, Subhūti addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, when good men and good women develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, how should their minds dwell? How should they pacify their minds?” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Good men and good women develop Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi by giving rise to a mind thusly: ‘I will liberate all sentient beings. Yet when all sentient beings have been liberated, then truly not even a single sentient being has been liberated.’ Why? Subhūti, a bodhisattva who has a notion of a self, a notion of a person, a notion of a being, or a notion of a life, is not a bodhisattva. Why is this so? Subhūti, there is actually no dharma of one who develops Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.

“What do you think? When the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, was there any dharma of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi?” “No, Bhagavān, and thus do I explain the actual meaning of the Buddha’s teachings: when the Buddha was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, there was truly no dharma of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.” The Buddha said, “Thusly, thusly, Subhūti! There was no dharma of the Tathāgata’s attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. Subhūti, if there were a dharma of the Tathāgata’s attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, then Dīpaṃkara Buddha would not have given me the prediction, ‘In the next era you will become a buddha named Śākyamuni.’ It is because there was no dharma of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, that Dīpaṃkara Buddha gave me this prediction by saying, ‘In the next era you will become a buddha named Śākyamuni.’ Why? ‘Tathāgata’ denotes the suchness of dharmas. Subhūti, if someone says, ‘The Tathāgata has attained Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi,’ there is no dharma of a buddha’s attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.

“Subhūti, the true attainment by the Tathāgata of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi is neither substantial nor void, and for this reason the Tathāgata says, ‘All dharmas are the Buddha Dharma.’ Subhūti, all dharmas spoken of are actually not all dharmas, and are thus called all dharmas. Subhūti, this is like the body of a person that is tall and great.” Subhūti said, “Bhagavān, the body of a person that the Tathāgata speaks of, tall and great, is not a great body, and is thus called the Great Body.” “Subhūti, for bodhisattvas it is also such as this. If someone says ‘I will liberate and cross over innumerable sentient beings,’ then this is not one to be called a bodhisattva. Why? Subhūti, truly there is no dharma of a bodhisattva, and for this reason the Buddha says, ‘All dharmas are not a self, a person, a being, or a life.’ Subhūti, if a bodhisattva says, ‘I am adorning buddha-lands,’ then this is not one to be called a bodhisattva. Why? The adornments of buddha-lands spoken of by the Tathāgata are not adornments, and are thus called adornments.


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text, including colophon

May – June 2015

Frontispiece

Monday, October 20, 2014

IDP UK: Server down

We are experiencing some technical issues with our UK server and are working to fix them as soon as possible. Our international servers are working as usual, European users may use our French and German sites in the meantime. We apologise for any inconvenience.

UPDATE 21/10/14: Normal service has been resumed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Film Screening: The Silk Road of Pop

An evening of music and film will commence with a live performance by the London Uyghur Ensemble followed by a screening of the award winning documentary The Silk Road of Pop, a portrait of the explosive pop music scene among the Uyghur community in China’s Xinjiang Province. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the film directors.

Fri 28 Nov 2014, 18:30–­20:30
The British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
MAP
Admission Free
ONLINE BOOKING

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IDP Interns: Shaochen Wang and Na Zhang (UCL)

IDP interns Shaochen Wang (left) and Na Zhang (right).

SHAOCHEN WANG

I am a postgraduate student from Institute of Archaeology in UCL and major in managing archaeological sites. I have spent one month working with the IDP, it is very interesting and attractive. Since I come from Xi’an, China, the starting point of the Silk Road, I found the most fascinating work experience in IDP was when we were rehousing some slides of old Xi’an, the City Wall, the Great Wild Goose Pagoda and so on. Most of the slides are made in 1980s or earlier, so I got a chance to know my hometown better and appreciate the vintage photographs, especially some ancient architecture that I am familiar with. Besides this, other interesting work in the IDP involved typing some documents regarding the Dunhuang Mogao Caves and translating some Buddhist words. It can be difficult sometimes but I have learnt a lot about Dunhuang and Buddhism through this experience and after this, I really want to visit Dunhuang by myself and see the caves and wall paintings that I have documented and translated.

And I also think that all the digital works and the online database of IDP are really wonderful. Having been shown the workflow of digital studio and some basic training of XML, I realized how complicated it can be and how difficult to maintain a database like that and I am really impressed. And special thanks to Emma Goodliffe, she was really kind and helpful and I really enjoyed the time working with the staff of the IDP and my classmate!

NA ZHANG

I am a full-year postgraduate student at the Institute of Archaeology at the University College London majoring in managing archaeological sites. I became an intern in the IDP at the British Library after a very friendly interview. Then I knew there would be an interesting journey with IDP waiting for me.

I studied archaeology in Xi’an which is the starting point of Silk Road and Dunhuang is a significant part of Silk Road as well. There is no denying that the manuscripts and murals at the Dunhuang Mogao Grotto are attractive and fascinating. People in that period were smart and creative. Based on these things, when I rehoused the slides about Dunhuang and the Silk Road, it seems like I am walking on that road. I enjoy the beautiful landscapes, chat with local people and touch the mysterious caves. After I knew the development of the conservation and preservation of the manuscripts, I realized that IDP did a great thing for both scholars and general public.

From the traditional method to the modern technology, people who are interested in the Dunhuang culture try their best to present this to the world. How nice that I can do the placement here!

IDP Highlights 2013–14

Our annual highlights report is available to download (PDF 602KB). The report celebrates the past year’s achievements and gives us an opportunity to thank the many supporters and friends of IDP worldwide. Highlights include the completion of the conservation, numbering and digitisation of Sanskrit material and the work carried out on the Central Asian manuscript storage areas at the British Library.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 3

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Treasures Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission.

The third text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (September-October 2014) contains the second half of section 13 through to the first half of section 15 of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the third text panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

Subhūti, what do you think? Has the Tathāgata actually spoken any dharma?” Subhūti replied, “Bhagavān, the Tathāgata has not spoken.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Are there very many atoms contained in three thousand great thousand-worlds?” Subhūti replied, “There are extremely many, Bhagavān.” “Subhūti, the atoms spoken of by the Tathāgata are not atoms, and are thus called atoms. The worlds spoken of by the Tathāgata are not worlds, and are thus called worlds. Subhūti, what do you think? Can the Tathāgata be seen by means of the Thirty-two Marks?” “No, Bhagavān, the Tathāgata cannot be seen by means of the Thirty-two Marks. Why? The Thirty-two Marks that the Tathāgata speaks of are not marks, and are thus called the Thirty-two Marks.” “Subhūti, suppose there were a good man or good woman who, in the practice of giving, gave his or her body away as many times as there are sand grains in the Ganges River. If there are people who accept and maintain even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, then the merits of this are far greater.”

14. Leaving appearances: Nirvāṇa

At that time, Subhūti, hearing this sūtra being spoken, had a profound understanding of its essential meaning, and burst into tears. He then addressed the Buddha, saying, “How exceptional, Bhagavān, is the Buddha who thus speaks this profound sūtra! Since attaining the Eye of Prajñā, I have never heard such a sūtra! Bhagavān, if there are again people who are able to hear this sūtra thusly, with a mind of clean and clear belief, giving rise to the true appearance, then this is a person with the most extraordinary merits. Bhagavān, the true appearance is not an appearance, and for this reason the Tathāgata speaks of a true appearance.

“Bhagavān, being able to hear this sūtra thusly, I do not find it difficult to believe, understand, accept, and maintain it. However, in the next era, five hundred years from now, if there are sentient beings who are able to hear this sūtra and believe, understand, accept, and maintain it, then they will be most extraordinary. Why? This is because such a person has no notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life. Why? The appearance of a self is not a true appearance; appearances of a person, a being, and a life, are also not true appearances. Those who have departed from all appearances are called buddhas.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Thusly, thusly! If there are again people who are able to hear this sūtra, and are not startled, terrified, or fearful, know that the existence of such a person is extremely rare. Why? Subhūti, this foremost pāramitā that the Tathāgata speaks of is not a foremost pāramitā, and is thus called the foremost pāramitā.

“Subhūti, the Pāramitā of Forbearance that the Tathāgata speaks of is not a pāramitā of forbearance. Why? Subhūti, this is like in the past when my body was cut apart by the Kalirāja: there were no notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life. In the past, when I was being hacked limb from limb, if there were notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life, then I would have responded with hatred and anger. Remember also that I was the Ṛṣi of Forbearance for five hundred lifetimes in the past. Over so many lifetimes there were no notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life.

“Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattvas should depart from all appearances in order to develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. They should give rise to a mind which does not dwell in form; they should give rise to a mind which does not dwell in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas; they should give rise to a mind which does not dwell. In anything that dwells in the mind, one should not dwell, and for this reason the Buddha says that the minds of bodhisattvas should not dwell in form when practicing giving. Subhūti, bodhisattvas should give thusly because it benefits all sentient beings. The Tathāgata teaches that all characteristics are not characteristics, and all sentient beings are not sentient beings. Subhūti, the Tathāgata is one who speaks what is true, one who speaks what is real, one who speaks what is thus, and is not a deceiver or one who speaks to the contrary.

“Subhūti, the Dharma attained by the Tathāgata is neither substantial nor void. Subhūti, if the mind of a bodhisattva dwells in dharmas when practicing giving, then this is like a person in darkness who is unable to see anything. However, if the mind of a bodhisattva does not dwell in dharmas when practicing giving, then this is like a person who is able to see, for whom sunlight clearly illuminates the perception of various forms. Subhūti, in the next era, if there are good men or good women capable of accepting, maintaining, studying, and reciting this sūtra, then the Tathāgata by means of his buddha-wisdom is always aware of them and always sees them. These people all obtain immeasurable, limitless merit.

15. The merits of maintaining this sūtra

“Subhūti, suppose there were a good man or a good woman who, in the morning, gave his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. In the middle of the day, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Then in the evening, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Suppose this giving continued for incalculable billions of eons. If there are people again who hear this sūtra with a mind of belief, without doubt, then the merits of these people surpass the former merits. How much more so for those who write, accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it?

“Subhūti, to summarize, this sūtra has inconceivable, immeasurable, limitless merit. The Tathāgata speaks it to send forth those in the Great Vehicle, to send forth those in the Supreme Vehicle. If there are people able to accept, maintain, study, recite,[end of panel] and explain this sūtra to others, then the Tathāgata is always aware of them and always sees them.


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text, including colophon

May – June 2015

Frontispiece

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Married Monks of Kroraina

The kingdom of Kroraina florished in the middle of the Taklamakan desert in the first centuries of this millennium, and is now known to us through the buildings and artefacts preserved by the desert until their discovery and excavation by explorers and archaeologists. Among the most important of the discoveries from the kingdom were documents providing a detailed (if incomplete) picture of the daily life of Buddhist monks in the region in the 3rd to 4th centuries.

The manuscript Or.8211/1374, containing a letter about the adoption and marriage of a girl into the monastic community.

Over 700 of these documents were excavated by Aurel Stein in the early 20th century and are now in the collections of the British Library and the National Museum of India. Most of them are letters, written in the Gandhārī language and the Kharoṣṭhi script, on wooden tablets. A document was usually made of two wooden tablets placed together, with the content of the letter inside. The two parts were bound with string and sealed with clay, and the cover tabled was inscribed with the name of the addressee

One of these tablets reveals a very interesting aspect of the lives of the monks in Kroraina. It records a dispute that arose out of the adoption of girl as a daughter by one monk, who was then given as a wife to another monk:

The śramamna Budhavam̄a says that the śramamna Śariputra received as an adopted child from Denuǵa Aṃto his daughter called Śirsateyae. The śramamna Śariputra gave this daughter to the śramamna Budhavam̄a as his wife in lawful marriage. The daughter of that woman Śirsateyae, Puṃñavatiyae by name, was given as wife to the śramamna Jivalo Aṭhama. This Aṭhama died...

The practices mentioned here (and in other documents) seem to be regarded as normal, only written about when problems arise leading to disputes, such as the death of a one of the monks. So it seems that the kings of Kroraina accepted that these monks were allowed to be married and have children. Yet this could hardly be simply a case of ignorance: the stricture of celibacy is at the centre of the Buddhist monastic vows.

Photo 392/27(89)Photograph of the excavation of site N.xxvi in Niya, one of the houses in which śramamna lived.

We can only speculate on the nature of the compromises that we made in order to allow for married śramaṃna in the knowledge of the requirements of the vinaya. It might be that the śramaṃnas took the full monastic ordination but ignored the strictures on celibacy. On the other hand, they may have received only the lay vows, but adopted the status of a fully-ordained monk for ritual purposes. Another possibility is that they combined the life of a celibate monk with that of a householder by taking a wife but remaining celibate, with children brought into the family through adoption.

Note

Translations of most of the documents from Niya can be read on the IDP website. All of the British Library documents have been digitized. Transcriptions can be found at www.gandhari.org.

Further Reading

Brough, John. 1965. "Comments on Third-Century Shan-Shan and the History of Buddhism." Bulletin of SOAS 28: 591–93.

Burrow, T. 1940. A Translation of the Kharoṣṭi Documents From Chinese Turkestan. London: The Royal Asiatic Society.

Hansen, Valerie. 2004. "Religious Life in a Silk Road Community: Niya during the Third and Fourth Centuries." In John Lagerwey, ed. Religion and Chinese Society 1: 279–315. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

Padwa, Mariner. 2007. "An Archaic Fabric: Culture and Landscape in an Early Inner Asian Oasis (3rd–4th Century C.E. Niya)." PhD Dissertation. Harvard University.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 2

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Treasures Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission.

The second text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (July-August 2014) contains sections 7-12 and the first half of section 13 of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the second text panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

7. No obtaining, no expounding

“Subhūti, what do you think? Has the Tathāgata obtained Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi? Is there any dharma the Tathāgata has spoken?” Subhūti replied, “Thus do I explain the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings: there is no fixed dharma of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, nor is there a fixed dharma the Tathāgata can speak. Why? The Tathāgata’s exposition of the Dharma can never be grasped or spoken, being neither dharma nor non-dharma. What is it, then? All the noble ones are distinguished by the unconditioned Dharma.”

8. Emerging from the Dharma

“Subhūti, what do you think? If someone filled the three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels in the practice of giving, would such a person obtain many merits?” Subhūti replied, “Very many, Bhagavān! Why? Such merits do not have the nature of merits, and for this reason the Tathāgata speaks of many merits.” “If a person accepts and maintains even as little as a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, speaking it to others, then his or her merits will be even greater. Why? Subhūti, this is because all buddhas, as well as the dharmas of the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the buddhas, emerge from this sūtra. Subhūti, what is called the Buddha Dharma is not a buddha dharma.

9. The appearance without appearance

“Subhūti, what do you think? Does a srotaāpanna have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of a srotaāpanna?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Srotaāpanna’ refers to one who has entered the stream, yet there is nothing entered into. There is no entry into forms, sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas. Thus is one called a srotaāpanna.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Does a sakṛdāgāmin have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of a sakṛdāgāmin?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Sakṛdāgāmin’ refers to one who will return once more, yet there is nothing which leaves or returns. Thus is one called a sakṛdāgāmin.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Does an anāgāmin have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of an anāgāmin?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Anāgāmin’ refers to one who will not return, yet there is nothing non-returning. Thus is one called an anāgāmin.”

“Subhūti, what do you think? Does an arhat have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of an arhat?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? There is truly no dharma which may be called an arhat. Bhagavān, if an arhat has the thought, ‘I have attained the Arhat Path,’ then this is a person attached to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Bhagavān, the Buddha says that among arhats, I am the foremost in my practice of the Samādhi of Non-contention, and am the foremost free of desire. However, Bhagavān, I do not have the thought, ‘I am an arhat free of desire.’ If I were thinking this way, then the Bhagavān would not speak of ‘Subhūti, the one who dwells in peace.’ It is because there is truly nothing dwelled in, that he speaks of ‘Subhūti, the one who dwells in peace.’”

10. The adornment of pure lands

The Buddha addressed Subhūti, saying, “What do you think? In the past when the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, was there any dharma obtained?” “No, Bhagavān. When the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha there was truly no dharma obtained.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Do bodhisattvas adorn buddha-lands?” “No, Bhagavān. Why? The adornments of buddha-lands are not adornments, and are thus called adornments.” “Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should thusly give rise to a clear and pure mind—a mind not associated with abiding in form; a mind not associated with abiding in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas; a mind not abiding in life. Subhūti, suppose a person had a body like Mount Sumeru, King of Mountains. Would this body be great?” Subhūti replied, “It would be extremely great, Bhagavān. Why? The Buddha teaches that no body is the Great Body.”

11. Unconditioned merits surpass all

“Subhūti, suppose each sand grain in the Ganges River, contained its own Ganges River. What do you think, would there be many grains of sand of the Ganges River?” Subhūti said, “There would be extremely many, Bhagavān. The number of Ganges Rivers alone would be countless, let alone their grains of sand.” “Subhūti, I will now tell you a truth. If a good man or good woman filled such a number of three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels in the practice of giving, would he or she obtain many merits?” Subhūti said, “Extremely many, Bhagavān.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Just so, if good men and good women accept and maintain even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, speaking it to others, then the merits of this surpass the former merits.

12. Venerating the true teachings

“Moreover, Subhūti, if one speaks even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, you should understand that this place is like the shrine of a buddha. In every world, the devas, humans, and asuras should provide offerings to it. How much more so for those capable of accepting and maintaining the entire sūtra? Subhūti, you should know that this is a person with the highest and most exceptional Dharma. Wherever this sūtra dwells is the Buddha or an honored disciple.”

13. Receiving and maintaining the Dharma

Subhūti asked the Buddha, “Bhagavān, by what name should we revere and maintain this sūtra?” The Buddha told Subhūti, “This sūtra is called the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā, and by this name you should revere and maintain it. Why is it called this? Subhūti, this Prajñāpāramitā spoken by the Buddha is not a perfection of prajñā. Subhūti, what do you think?


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

July – August 2014

2nd panel printed text

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text

May – June 2015

Colophon

July – August 2015

Frontispiece

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One of the world's first banknotes

Paper money originated in China and flourished along the Silk Routes. One of the earliest surviving banknotes was found in the lost city of Kharakhoto (Turkic for “the black city”). Kharakhoto was once a stronghold of the Tangut Empire, before it fell to the armies of Genghis Khan in 1227. The banknote is in two separate pieces now held at the British Library, Or.12380/2286 and Or.12380/2287, and it dates to the period of Mongol rule in the 13th century.

Paper money began in the 9th century when merchants began depositing their money with local banks in return for promissory notes. These notes the passed from hand to hand, used as money in themselves. Once this practice became widespread, successive Chinese rulers first tried to ban or regulate this practice, before the Song Dynasty established a monopoly on printing banknotes in the 11th century. The government monopoly continued under the Mongol rulers of the Yuan dynasty, the era in which the banknote from Kharakhoto was printed.

This particular banknote was printed in the early 1260s, at the beginning of Kublai Khan’s reign. We have Marco Polo’s account from around this time recording his impressions of paper money: these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; on every piece a variety of officials have to write their names and put their seals… Anyone forging it would be punished with death. And the Kaan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money which costs his nothing that it must equal in amount all the treasure in the world.

The Kharakhoto banknote is digitized and available on the IDP website, along with two brief articles. The first, by Beth McKillop, discusses the discovery of the banknote and its context in Chinese history. The second, by John Burton, describes how the banknote was preserved by the British Library's Oriental Collections Conservation Studio.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Stein Exhibition of 1914 and the Secret Invitation List

As reported in a previous post, the first exhibition of Stein material opened in the gallery of the new north extension to the British Museum on 7 May 1914. In the second of this series of blog posts on the exhibition, we look at the opening of exhibition though the eyes of Miss Lorimer, Stein's ‘Recording Angel’.

Photo 1280/1(1) Miss F. M. G. Lorimer. Courtesy of Christina Lorimer.

‘This letter has been written over several days, and now it is the 8th and the opening of the New Galleries came off yesterday. The ceremony was very short, and the Mighty stayed in the building only for a short half-hour after, in the course of which they walked through the Gallery & Mr Binyon’s top floor Exhibition, and personally inspected Mr Dodgson, Mr Binyon, and the architect, so that you will see how much time they had to look at the exhibitions themselves. The Private View in the afternoon was most unfortunately affected by the weather; for there was a succession of heavy thunder-showers and it became extremely dark. After a time they put on the lights in the gallery but the lights at the top of the cases themselves were not yet finished, so that one could not see anything at all well; some of the India Office were at the ceremony in the morning, and also Dr van Lecoq who has just been out here for two days, and Prof. Rapson.

Dr van Lecoq has brought back 150 cases from his last expedition, and seems in very good health and spirits. He has been enquiring most heartily for you.

I do not think any of the other foreign scholars invited, M. Foucher, M. Pelliot, etc. were able to come.

I send two copies of the guide separately.’1

Stein had sent a telegram with a list of invitees to the private view but, as Miss Lorimer tells Stein in her next letter, dated 9 July 2014, it arrived too late. As she reports, she was not allowed access to the original invitation list.

‘I was extremely sorry that I did not get your telegram, asking me to draw up a special list of invitees for the Private View, until after the opening. It did not arrive until 10 days later, and I found it when I came back from my holidays at the end of May. I am the more sorry that I did not think of doing it myself, as I cannot now find out completely who were asked and I fear there were some regretable omissions. The invitation list was drawn up by the Director and all invitations sent by his office, although he invited supplementary suggestions from the Keepers, of people professionally interested or Museum benefactors. I saw Mr. Binyon's list, but not Dr. Barnett's, and I am afraid I took too much for granted that the latter was asking all our own collaborators; but I believe their lists were too limited.

…When I got your telegram I thought the simplest thing would be to look through the official list of invitees, and be able to assure you probably thereafter of the invitation of a good number of your personal friends in the country; but when I made the request to the Director (it seems quite innocuous, but even so I made is in as harmless light as possible) I got the decidedly amusing reply that the Director considered the list Trustees' matter and too confidential to be communicated!—list of invitations to a public function which had already taken place a month before! So I cannot now find out, though it would have been so much more satisfactory to know.’2

Sadly Stein's response to this is too faint to read on the microfilm copies that I have access to here — a transcription will await my next visit to Oxford. In the meantime, I am back to the British Museum archives in search of the elusive invitation list.

1 MSS. Stein 94/157, letter from Miss Lorimer to Stein, this section dated 8 May 1914.
2 MSS. Stein 94/167-9, letter from Miss Lorimer to Stein, dated 9 July 1914.

Monday, June 9, 2014

BD02745《無量壽宗要經》

GUEST POST AUTHOR: LIU BO

Liu Bo is Manager of IDP China at the National Library of China, and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University cataloguing their collections of ancient Chinese local histories.

最近,中國國家圖書館IDP工作室數字化了BD02745《無量壽宗要經》。這件敦煌遺書長達161釐米,由四張紙粘連而成,抄寫114行。《無量壽宗要經》是吐蕃統治敦煌時期(786—848)非常流行的一部佛經,這一個卷子也是吐蕃時期抄寫的,小字密行,具有顯著的吐蕃時期寫經的特點。

這個寫卷的末尾,有一個簽名“呂日興”。這位呂日興的身份,現在已經難以查考了。也許他曾是這卷經書的所有者或者施造者,也許他只是校勘人或讀者。寫卷的背面,署有“金”字。這是敦煌金光明寺的簡稱,它表明這個經卷是金光明寺的財產。金光明寺院在沙州城以西,在吐蕃時期和歸義軍時期,是一所大寺院,後唐同光年間(923—926)有僧人62人,頗為興盛。歸義軍節度使曹元忠曾在該寺做法事。寺內有寺學,索勳的孫子索富通就曾在該寺學習。寺內也有藏經,這個卷子就是其中之一。

這個卷子見證是過敦煌佛教的繁榮興盛,能在藏經洞中留存至今,可謂幸運。感興趣的人士,可以通過IDP網站仔細欣賞這一件千年前的佛經。

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wang Xudong: Digital Caves of Dunhuang

GUEST POST AUTHOR: LIU BO

Liu Bo is Manager of IDP China at the National Library of China, and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University cataloguing their collection of Chinese local histories.

Dr. Xudong Wang, Associate Director of Dunhuang Academy, delivered a lecture at Sackler Museum, Harvard University on Friday, 11 April 2014. The topic was Digital Caves of Dunhuang: Present and Future, which is just what I am interested in. Dr. Wang introduced the Digital Caves of Dunhuang Project, showed us how they digitize the murals, statues and caves.

It is difficult to digitize murals, because the surface of the wall is not a smooth one, and statues and caves are much more difficult. Their work is very different from IDP. IDP mainly digitizes manuscripts, which are flat or can be flattened with a glass plate if they are not. So Dunhuang Academy uses specially-made equipment to work, and spends more time to manipulate and join the images. Now they can take photographs of twenty caves a year, but can only manipulate four or five of them. As we know, there are 735 caves at Mogao near Dunhuang, and more than 400 of them with murals! It is really a large job. They also face some challenges, such as the metadata schema which is still being studied. Actually, people cannot manage images well without metadata.

Dunhuang Academy will build a large database to show murals and statues in the Mogao Caves. Dr. Wang showed some images and digital caves, all the pictures were wonderful, all details were displayed very, very clearly. I have visited the Mogao Caves two times in the last five years, but I am still astonished by the quality of digital caves, it was a different and nice experience. I thought we could get more information from the digital images than watching murals in the caves with the help of a torch. Fortunately, some scholars have already benefited from digital caves, as Dr. Wang explained.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 1

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission. Each panel will then be shown in turn, remaining on display for two months. The frontispiece will be shown again for the final display in July and August 2015.

The display also includes a copy of a Chinese almanac printed just a decade later, in AD 877, and two pages from a printed copy of the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit with a phonetic transcription in Chinese, an early example of Korean printing using moveable type and the earliest examples of Japanese printing, the Million Charms of Empress Shotoku. See this earlier post for more information on these.

The first text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (May–June 2014) contains the opening six sections of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the first panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

1. The cause of the Dharma assembly
Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was in Śrāvastī, residing in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park, along with a great saṃgha of bhikṣus, twelve hundred and fifty in all. At mealtime, the Bhagavān put on his robe, picked up his bowl, and made his way into the great city of Śrāvastī to beg for food within the city walls. After he had finished begging sequentially from door to door, he returned and ate his meal. Then he put away his robe and bowl, washed his feet, arranged his seat, and sat down.

2. Elder Subhūti opens the question
From the midst of the great multitude, Elder Subhūti then arose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, and knelt with his right knee to the ground. With his hands joined together in respect, he addressed the Buddha, saying, “How extraordinary, Bhagavān, is the manner in which the Tathāgata is skillfully mindful of the bodhisattvas, and skillfully instructs and cares for the bodhisattvas! Bhagavān, when good men and good women wish to develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, how should their minds dwell? How should they pacify their minds?” The Buddha replied, “Excellent, excellent, Subhūti, for it is just as you have said: the Tathāgata is skillfully mindful of the bodhisattvas, and skillfully instructs and cares for the bodhisattvas. Now listen carefully, because your question will be answered. Good men and good women who wish to develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi should dwell thusly, and should pacify their minds thusly.” “Just so, Bhagavān. We are joyfully wishing to hear it.”

3. The true way of the Great Vehicle
The Buddha told Subhūti, “Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should pacify their minds thusly: ‘All different types of sentient beings, whether born from eggs, born from wombs, born from moisture, or born from transformation; having form or no form; having thought, no thought, or neither thought nor no thought—I will cause them all to become liberated and enter Remainderless Nirvāṇa.’ Thusly sentient beings are liberated without measure, without number, and to no end; however, truly no sentient beings obtain liberation. Why? Subhūti, if a bodhisattva has a notion of a self, a notion of a person, a notion of a being, or a notion of a life, he is not a bodhisattva.

4. The wondrous practice of non-abiding
“Moreover, Subhūti, bodhisattvas should not abide in dharmas when practicing giving. This is called ‘giving without abiding in form.’ This giving does not abide in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas. Subhūti, bodhisattvas should practice giving thusly, not abiding in characteristics. Why? If bodhisattvas do not abide in characteristics in their practice of giving, then the merits of this are inconceivable in measure. Subhūti, what do you think? Is the space to the east conceivable in measure?” “Certainly not, Bhagavān.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Is the space to the south, west, north, the four intermediary directions, or the zenith or nadir, conceivable in measure?” “Certainly not, Bhagavān.” “Subhūti, for bodhisattvas who do not abide when practicing giving, the merits are also such as this: inconceivable in measure. Subhūti, bodhisattvas should only dwell in what is taught thusly.

5. The principle for true perception
“Subhūti, what do you think? Can the Tathāgata be perceived by means of bodily marks?” “Certainly not, Bhagavān. The Tathāgata cannot be perceived by means of the bodily marks. Why? The bodily marks that the Tathāgata speaks of are not bodily marks.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Everything that has marks is deceptive and false. If all marks are not seen as marks, then this is perceiving the Tathāgata.”

6. The rarity of true belief
Subhūti addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, will there be sentient beings who are able to hear these words thusly, giving rise to true belief?” The Buddha told to Subhūti, “Do not speak that way. After the extinction of the Tathāgata, in the next five hundred years, there will be those who maintain the precepts and cultivate merit, who will be able to hear these words and give rise to a mind of belief. Such beings have not just planted good roots with one buddha, or with two buddhas, or with three, four, or five buddhas. They have already planted good roots with measureless millions of buddhas, to be able to hear these words and give rise to even a single thought of clean, clear belief. Subhūti, the Tathāgata in each case knows this, and in each case perceives this, and these sentient beings thus attain immeasurable merit. Why? This is because these beings are holding no further notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life. They are holding no notions of dharmas and no notions of non-dharmas. Why? If the minds of sentient beings grasp after appearances, then this is attachment to a self, a person, a being, and a life. If they grasp after notions of dharmas, that is certainly attachment to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Why? When one grasps at non-dharmas, then that is immediate attachment to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Therefore, you should neither grasp at dharmas, nor should you grasp at non-dharmas. Regarding this principle, the Tathāgata frequently says, ‘You bhikṣus should know that the dharma I speak is like a raft. Even dharmas should be relinquished, so how much more so the non-dharmas?’


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

May – June 2014

1st panel printed text

July – August 2014

2nd panel printed text

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text

May – June 2015

Colophon

July – August 2015

Frontispiece

Friday, May 9, 2014

Video: The Dunhuang Star Chart

This film from bonnetbidaud.tv features the medieval Chinese manuscript Or.8210/S.3326 discovered in 1907 by the archaeologist Aurel Stein at the Silk Road town of Dunhuang and now housed in the British Library. This set of sky maps displaying the full sky visible from the Northern Hemisphere, is up to now the oldest complete preserved star atlas known from any civilisation. It is also the earliest known pictorial representation of the quasi-totality of Chinese constellations.

Director : BLUMBERG Jérôme
Scientific direction : BONNET-BIDAUD Jean-Marc
Producer : CNRS Images (2009)
Duration [20'00]

Further reading on IDP:
The Dunhuang Chinese Sky: A Comprehensive Study of the Oldest Known Star Atlas by Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, Dr Françoise Praderie and Susan Whitfield.
Star Atlas: Translation by Imre Galambos.
Chinese Astronomy, an educational resource by Abby Baker.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

‘Wonders of the East’: Stein Exhibition in the British Museum Extension

A century ago, on 7 May 1914, the British Museum welcomed King George V and Queen Mary to open the new north wing of the Museum, the King Edward VII Galleries. Their visit was captured by Pathe News and also reported in The Times.1

Stein Photo 28/7(4), Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Staff had been busy for months preparing the opening exhibitions for the royal couple, and Thomas Humphrey Ward (1845–1926), Leader Writer for The Times, considered that ‘the most exciting part of the display’ were ‘the selected examples, several hundreds in number, of the paintings, embroideries, books, stucco relief, &c., which compose the amazing collections made in his last journey of exploration by Sir Aurel Stein’.2

The Stein exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, Guide to an Exhibition of Paintings, Manuscripts and other Archaeological Objects collected by Sir Aurel Stein, K.C.I.E., in Chinese Turkestan. (London: The Trustees of the British Museum 1914). The introduction is reproduced below.


Introduction

The present Exhibition is designed to show the most valuable results of the second journey of archaeological and geographical investigation carried out by Sir Marc Aurel Stein, K.C.I.E, in Chinese Turkestan and the adjoining western border of China, under the joint auspices of the Government of India and the Trustees of the British Museum. A previous journey made by Sir Aurel Stein in 1900-1901, of which the most important proceeds are exhibited elsewhere in the British Museum, had disinterred from the sands of the deserts of Turkestan abundant relics of a rich ancient civilisation deriving its chief inspiration from India. The included MSS. in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, and a hitherto unknown local language, containing texts of Buddhist religious works, official documents in a Sanskritic dialect, statuary, paintings on panels, frescoes and a large number of miscellaneous objects for the uses of public and private life. So much interest was aroused by these discoveries that several expeditions were sent out by Continental Governments, which excavated a number of buried sites in Turkestan with signal success. Sir Aurel Stein then proceeded to make preparations for a second journey on a larger scale. He set out in April 1906 from Kashmir, and passed northwards through Chitral, Mastuj, the Taghdumbash Pamir, and Tashkurghan to Kashgar. From Kashgar he started on June 23rd for Yakrand, whence he went on, still following the route towards the south-east, to Khotan. After some exploration of the mountain of south Khotan, he set out eastwards, and at Khadalik, near Domoko, and other sites in the neighbourhood unearthed some buried temples which proved to be rich in archaeological and literary treasures. Thence marching eastwards through Keriya to Niya, he opened up some ruins north of the Niya River, probably abandoned in the third century A.D., from which he extracted a surprising wealth of official documents and domestic miscellanea. From Niya his route led him in a north-east direction to Miran, where the remains of a Tibetan fort of the eighth or ninth century yielded an immense hoard of Tibetan documents and various other objects.

From Miran he advanced northwards through Abdal, across the Lop Desert, excavating on the way several sites, and returned to Miran, where he found in the ruined Buddhist sanctuaries some singularly attractive and interesting frescoes of purely Indo-Hellenistic type, probably not later than the fourth century. Thence he returned to Abdal, and set out in a north-easterly direction for Tun-huang. In the course of this stage of the journey he made the important discovery of remain of a very ancient Chinese frontier-wall, strengthened at interval by towers and guard-houses, which ran west and south-west from the region of An-hsi. Tun-huang (Sha-chou) was reached on March 12th, 1907, and almost immediately a visit was paid to the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ (Ch’ien-fo-tung) to the south-east of the town. These caves consist of a large number of grottos, some of large size, cut in irregular tiers on the face of a rock, with walls adorned by ancient Buddhist frescoes executed by local artists in a style which is an offshoot of the Indo-Hellenistic school of Gandhara modified by Chinese influences. After this preliminary visit Sir Aurel Stein returned to the investigation of the frontier-wall which he had observed on his way from Miran to Tun-huang. It proved to date from the second century B.C., and to be identical with the lines running from Chiu-ch’üan (Su-chou) to the ‘Jade Gate’ or Yü-mên, thus forming a barrier securing the district south of the Su-lo River, which was the base for the political and military expansion of the Chinese Empire westwards. In tracing the course of this wall he discovered numerous Chinese documents dating from 99 B.C. downwards, large quantities of articles of military and domestic equipment, etc. This exploration completed, he returned to Tun-huang, and then to the ‘Thousand Buddhas.’ In the latter place, in a cell which had until recently been walled up for many centuries, and was now in the custody of a Taoist priest, was discovered an extensive library comprising many thousands of Buddhist and other MSS. and books, chiefly in Chinese, but also including many works in Sanskrit, Sogdian, Turki, Uighur, Tibetan, etc., together with hundreds of silk banners painted with hieratic scenes and figures, often of very high artistic merit. Negotiations with the guardian of this hoard were brought to a satisfactory issue, and in consequence an immense addition was made to the collections of the party.

After investigation of some other matters of local interest – among them the fine old frescoes in the Buddhist caves of Wang-of-hsia – Sir Aurel Stein proceeded across the Nan-shan mountains eastwards to Kan-chou, completing the survey of the wall, and then turned towards the north-west. After a short stay at Turfan, of which the ruins have yielded rich treasures to German and Russian archaeologists, he advanced in a south-westerly and westerly direction to Karashahr, and began excavations some fifteen miles south-west of the town on the site of some Buddhist shrines known as Ming-oi. The search was very successful, the site proving especially rich in beautiful stucco heads and wood-carvings. A march westward to Kuchar, followed by a bold dash southward across the Taklamakan Desert – which nearly ended in disaster – brought the travellers in February 1908 to Karadong, where they found considerable numbers of painted panels, inscribed tablets, and Sanskrit MSS. Some supplementary investigations having then been made in the neighbourhood, they arrived at Khotan early in April, and then again turned northwards through the Taklamakan. After a halt at the ruined Tibetan fort at Mazartagh, probably dating from the eighth or ninth century, which yielded hundreds of Tibetan, Chinese and other documents, they proceeded to Aksu, thence journeyed westwards and southwards to Yarkand and Khotan, and from Khotan made a toilsome march over the mountains southwards to Leh, which was reached on October 12th 1908.

Some idea of the great quantity and importance of the materials obtained in this journey may be formed from the following figures, which naturally are only approximate.

From the various sites excavated there were collected

  • about 8,000 pieces of stucco ornament, pieces of carved wood, metal and wooden implements, fragments of fabrics and wearing apparel, coins, and intaglios;
  • 50 large fresco panels;
  • about 500 fragments of frescoes;
  • about 4,500 manuscripts on paper, wood, etc., in Sanskrit, local Prakrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Khotanese, and Kuchean.

From the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ near Tun-huang were obtained

  • about 500 paintings on silk, linen, and paper, with prints and drawings on paper;
  • about 150 pieces of textiles, embroidery, brocade, damask, and gauze, etc.;
  • about 6500 manuscripts and printed books in Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Khotanese, Kuchean, Sogdian, Uighur, and Turki.

A full account of his travels have been published by Sir Aurel Stein in Ruins of Desert Cathay (Macmillian, 2 vols., 1912). His official report and inventory of the objects discovered is still in course of preparation.

The present Exhibition is designed to put before the public characteristic examples of the various classes of objects before they are allotted to their final destinations. At present they are the joint property of the Trustees of the British Museum and the India Office, and it is with the assent of the Secretary of State for India in Council that the Exhibition takes place. The Exhibition is necessarily a temporary one, since the gallery in which it is held will shortly be required for other purposes. In arranging it the officers of the British Museum have had the constant co-operation of Sir A. Stein’s assistants, Mr. F. H. Andrews and Miss F. Lorimer.

The arrangement of the Exhibition commences at the eastern end of the gallery. The paintings, to which the first section of the Guide (pp. 5–24) is devoted, occupy the cases along the entire northern side. Returning along the southern side the visitor will find, first, the miscellaneous archaeological objects (pp. 24–38), and finally the manuscripts.


Over the next few months, we will post further extracts from the catalogue as well as the correspondence and reports in the British Museum and Aurel Stein archives (the latter at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford) to trace the progress of this important exhibition and to highlight some of the objects on display. The complete exhibition catalogue with links to images of the exhibits will be published online on IDP at the end of this period.

Many thanks to Helen Wang, Marjorie Caygill and Sophie Arp for their invaluable research and generous help which has been used to prepare these posts.

1 See Helen Wang 2002. Sir Aurel Stein the Times. London: Saffron Books: 41
2 The Times, 7th May 1914, 5c; in Wang 2002: 65

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

IDP Lectures: Silk on the Silk Road

Silk on the Silk Road was an afternoon of lectures by scholars, curators and conservators held on the 11 April 2004 as part of IDP’s 20th anniversary celebrations at the British Library, London. Intended for a general audience, the talks introduced the Silk Road and the textiles collections held in London and worldwide. All the presentations and audio recordings are available to download below.


Silk for Books and Buddhism: the British Library and British Museum Collections
Susan Whitfield, Director, IDP, The British Library
Download the audio file MP3 40.4MB
Download the presentation PDF 63.3MB


Silk in Shoes and Clothing: V&A and British Museum Collections
Helen Persson, Curator Chinese Textiles and Dress, V&A
Download the audio file MP3 41.4MB
Download the presentation PDF 86.9MB


Silk as Money
Helen Wang, Curator, East Asian Money, The British Museum
Download the audio file MP3 30.4MB
Download the presentation PDF 11.2MB


Silks from the Silk Road
Zhao Feng, Director, The National Silk Museum, China
Download the audio file MP3 58.1MB
Download the presentation PDF 16.6MB


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Phrasebooks for Silk Route Travellers

Phrasebooks still seem to sell quite well, judging by their presence on bookshop shelves. If translation apps do eventually make them redundant, it will be the end of a tradition that goes back a long way. The Central Asian manuscript collections provide plenty of evidence that phrasebooks were popular with travellers on the Silk Routes in the first millennium AD. For example, Pelliot chinois 5538 is a scroll with a series of phrases in Sanskrit and Khotanese, on the general theme of pilgrimage. Some of the phrases form conversations, like the following:
And where are you going now?
I am going to China.
What business do you have in China?
I'm going to see the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī.
When are you coming back?
I'm going to China, then I'll return.
The conversations also cover practical matters:
Do you have any provisions for the road?
I do not like my provisions.
I'll go with one or two horses.

We don't know whether this particular scroll (which dates from the late 10th century) was actually used as a phrasebook – it might have just been copied out as an exercise – but most of the phrases in it are relevant to the needs of a Buddhist pilgrim travelling from India to China.

Other phrasebooks are clearly for different sorts of travellers. The Tibeto-Chinese phrasebook, found in Or.8210/S.1000 and S.2736 (not yet digitized) was obviously compiled for merchants. The phrasebook gives the Tibetan word, followed by the Chinese equivalent, all in the Tibetan script. Thus it was clearly written for travellers who knew the Tibetan language but little or nothing of Chinese. In this phrasebook, the names of goods including food, clothes, tools, weapons and armour predominate. Phrases concerning buying and selling are also here, including 'last price' – a phrase familiar to those who have haggled in an Asian marketplace. There is also the polite 'thanks for letting me look'.

Also here are words and phrases helpful to visitors to a strange town looking for food and a bed for night, and moving on to the next destination. The phrasebook is also there for travellers who encounter problems such as illness, being robbed, or being accused of being a thief. They can use it to invoke the authority of the Tibetan emperor or a local official, or seek the help of a ritual specialist (bon po).

These are only two examples of the many phrasebooks and glossaries from Dunhuang and other Silk Route sites, but they cover two of the most important actvities on the Silk Routes in the first millennium: pilgrimage and trading. The Sanskrit-Khotanese phrasebook also has some revealing snippets of conversation that suggest another interest for travellers. After some phrases regarding the arrival of a Tibetan teacher, the conversation goes in this direction:

He is dear to many women.
He goes about a lot.
He makes love.

Which suggests that gossip was also a popular activity among Silk Route travellers over a thousand years ago!

Further reading
  • Bailey, H.W. 1964. 'Śrī Viśa Śūra and the Ta-uang'. Asia Major (New Series) 11.1: 17–26.
  • KUMAMOTO Hiroshi. 1988. 'Saiiki ryokōsha yō Sansukuritto-Kōtango kaiwa renshūchō' 西域旅行者用サンスクリット=コ一タン語 會話練習帳. Seinan Ajia Kenkyū 西南アジア研究 28: 53–82.
  • van Schaik, Sam and Imre Galambos, Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-Century Buddhist Pilgrim. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012.
  • Thomas, F.W. and Giles, Lionel. 1948. 'A Tibeto-Chinese Word-and-Phrase Book'. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 12.2–3: 753–769. JSTOR.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Patron Profile: Dr Abraham S-T Lue

The International Dunhuang Project (IDP) at the British Library was founded in 1993. Dr Abraham Sek-Tong Lue MBE, CMG talks about the start of IDP and his role as Chairman of the IDP Patrons. Dr Abraham Lue was interviewed at the British Library on 15th of May 2013.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

IDP News Issue No. 43

IDP News Issue No. 43, Spring 2014 is now available to read online or download in PDF format (1 MB).

This enlarged edition of IDP News celebrates our 20th anniverary. In it we remember the beginnings and international growth of IDP and celebrate our many collaborations illustrated with pictures from the archives. IDP’s partners and friends have selected a few of their favourite items and have met together for celebratory events over the past six months. This is also an opportunity to thank our many supporters who have made our success possible.

Contents

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Some sources for silk in the Stein collection

To celebrate 20 years of the International Dunhuang Project, IDP has arranged an extensive programme of events including a half-day of lectures on 11 April ‘Silk on the Silk Road’. In this post I thought I would highlight two sources on silk in the Stein collection, one well-known and the second, a bit more obscure, but equally important for its reference to the silk trade in the fourth century AD.

Wooden panel from Dandan Uilik (Stein collection D.X.4: BM OA 1907.11-11.73), The British Museum.
This wooden panel dating from ca. seventh century from Dandan Uilik was discovered by Aurel Stein on his first expedition to Khotan in 1900-1901. The scene is thought to depict a story related by the seventh century Chinese traveller Xuanzang of how silkworms were smuggled out of China westwards into Khotan – present day Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. A Chinese princess (second from the left), about to be married to the king of Khotan, has smuggled silkworm eggs and mulberry seeds in her headdress. She carries a basket of cocoons. On the far right, a figure holding a comb stands in front of a loom with a reel of thread behind. The four-armed deity (second right) has been identified as the patron of weaving.

Among the oldest manuscripts in the Stein collection are eight letters forming the contents of a postbag lost in transit from China to Central Asia and discovered by Stein in the watch tower T.XII.a on the Dunhuang Limes. Known as the ‘Ancient Letters’, they date from the beginning of the fourth century AD and are among the earliest documents written in Sogdian, an Eastern Middle Iranian language formerly spoken in the region around Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan (see previous posts ‘A Few of our Favourite Things #7: Hans van Roon and #14: Nicholas Sims-Williams’). The letters are mostly commercial and mention many commodities, including musk, gold, pepper, camphor, wheat and perhaps white lead, as well as cloth made of linen or of hair.

Until recently the word for silk was not thought to have been mentioned in the Ancient Letters although there is no doubt that silk played an important role in the east-west trade at this period. However it has now been identified as occurring twice in letter 6, T.XII.a.ii.8g (BL Or.8212/97).
[You] said to me: [If] you go out (from China) to Loulan you should buy silk (pyrcyk) for me (in exchange) for it, and if [you do not find(?) any] silk you should buy camphor (in exchange) for [it] and bring it to me.

Ancient letter 6, a commercial document. Silk (pyrcyk) occurs twice in the fifth line: in the middle and at the end on the left (Stein collection T.XII.a.ii.8g: BL Or.8212/97)

The word for silk (pyrcyk) is formed from an otherwise unattested Sogdian word for silkworm (it occurs in Khotanese as pira‑, which means ‘worm’, especially ‘silkworm’) with the addition of the adjectival suffix ‑čīk, thus giving it the meaning ‘derived from the silkworm’, or ‘silk thread or cloth’. A different derivative of the same word, pyryk, is attested in Choresmian, another related middle Iranian language, with the meaning ‘cocoon’.

References:
  • Nicholas Sims-Williams. ‘Towards a New Edition of the Sogdian Ancient Letters: Ancient Letter 1.’In E. De La Vaissière and E. Trombert (eds). Les Sogdiens en Chine. Paris 2005, pp. 181-93.
  • R.E. Emmerick and P.O. Skjærvø. Studies in the Vocabulary of Khotanese III. Wien 1997, pp. 91-3. 
  • Duan Qing. ‘于闐文的蠶字、繭字、絲字 (Khotanese words for silkworm, cocoon and silk).’In 季羨林教授八十華誕紀念論文集 [Festschrift for Professor Ji Xianlin on the occasion of his 80th birthday]. Nanchang, 1991.
  • Duan Qing. ‘Were Textiles Used as Money in Khotan in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries?’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 23 (2013), pp. 307-25.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Photographs of Samye Monastery in 1935–36

Photo 1285/8, Samye Monastery in 1936

We have just digitised a series of photographs of Samye monastery taken in 1935–36. These prints are from the papers of F.W. Thomas, Tibetologist and librarian at the India Office Library. They were sent to him by Hugh Richardson, another Tibetologist who was stationed in Tibet as the British Trade Agent for several years. There are two different sets of photos. Richardson posted the first set of thirteen to Thomas in August 1938, explaining that they were taken at a consecration ceremony held at Samye after recent restoration works. Here is the text of Richardson's letter:

Gyantse
Tibet
via India
22nd August 1938

Dear Dr. Thomas,
I am sending some pictures of Samye which I got from a friend — a Lhasa Depön — who accompanied the Regent when he went there in 1936 to perform the re-dedication ceremony after extensive repairs. Some of the photographs contain pictures of part of the ceremony. I had them enlarged from very small negatives and I hope they will be of some use to you. There is a general view which should help to identify photos of individual buildings. If there is any particular detail of which you want a photo please let me know in case I can get an opportunity of visiting Samye. I am trying to get pictures of the monastery before repair but have not succeeded so far. I believe there is one photograph in Sir Charles Bell's "The People of Tibet" or it may be in his "Religions of Tibet".

The negatives of the pictures I have sent you are not my property but if you should desire to reproduce any of the pictures I could ask the owner if he has any objection.

I hope you had a pleasant journey home. I have no definite news yet whether I shall be going to Lhasa this autumn or not, but it is still quite possible.

I believe there is a Tibetan m.s [sic] containing the text of the Doring but can't trace its exact title. I shall enquire about it if I get to Lhasa.

Yours sincerely,
Hugh Richardson

The prints sent with this letter are now digitised and on the IDP website. They can be found under the the pressmarks Photo 1285/6 to Photo 1285/18. One of the photographs (Photo 1285/15) is very similar to the one that appears on p.37 of Charles Bell's The Religions of Tibet but it is not the same photograph, despite showing the same long-distance view of the temple complex.

As well as discussing the photographs, which were not taken by him, but by a Depön, an official in the Lhasa government, Richardson also mentions the text of the Doring, the inscribed pillars that were made during the Tibetan empire. The particular Doring he refers to here may be the one at Samye, and the Tibetan manuscript containing its text is probably the one by Kathok Tsewang Norbu, which Richardson did acquire later, and is now among his papers at the Bodleian.

The second letter was written by Richardson just a couple of weeks later, after he had found three photographs of Samye before the recent reconstruction:

Gyantse
Tibet
via India
3rd September 1938

Dear Dr Thomas,
I have secured, and send herewith these photos of Samye taken in 1935 before the repairs. The negatives are the property of Capt. Battye of the Political Dept.

There does not appear to be any obvious change in the buildings so perhaps the batch of later photographs which I have already sent may prove useful.

Yours sincerely,
H. Richardson

These three prints are now available on the IDP website under the pressmarks Photo 1285/3 to Photo 1285/5. As Richardson says, they don't appear to show any significant differences prior to the restoration work, which was probably limited to repairs, regilding, and the like.

Portrait of Frederick William Thomas and Giuseppe Tucci, Rome in 1955. Photo 1285/1

Finally, this collection of photographs also includes two pictures of F.W. Thomas with Giuseppe Tucci, which were sent to Thomas from Italy by Tucci's photographer Francesca Bonardi. On these, see this blogpost on earlytibet.com. To see all of this collection, go to idp.bl.uk and type ‘Photo 1285’ in the database search box.

References:
Charles Manson and Nathan W. Hill, forthcoming, "A Gter ma of Negatives: H.E. Richardson’s Photographic Negatives of Manuscript Copies of Tibetan Imperial Inscriptions Possibly Collected by Rig ’dzin Tshe dbang nor bu in the 18th Century CE, Recently Found in the Bodleian Library, Oxford." In Kurt Tropper (ed), Epigraphic Evidence in the Pre-modern Buddhist World edited by Kurt Tropper. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Few of Our Favourite Things: The Complete Series

As part of IDP's 20th anniversary celebrations we asked twenty of our friends and supporters to select their favourite item from the IDP collections. The full selection is available as an online catalogue and will be featured in the spring and autumn 2014 editions of IDP News. A Pinterest board featuring all twenty of the ‘favourite’ items is also available. For full details of all our anniversary events and activities please see our 20th anniversary programme page.

IDP would like to thank all of the contributors for their selections and for taking part in our 20th anniversary celebrations. Below is a full list of their posts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#MuseumMastermind and #MuseumWeek

This week IDP UK has been taking part in Twitter’s #MuseumWeek event and today for the ‘Test Your Knowledge’ #MuseumMastermind day we prepared two quizzes and a bonus question. For the first quiz we asked our followers to identify the languages and scripts of manuscripts, and for the second we asked them to name the pictured buddha or bodhisattva. The bonus question was to tell us the printing date of the Diamond Sutra currently on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library. The answers to all our questions are shown below.

Find out more about #MuseumWeek on Twitter or follow IDP UK to hear about all our activities and events.

Languages and Scripts

Question 1/13: Or.8211/1393
Gandhārī (lang.), Kharoṣṭhi (script)

Question 2/13: PEALD 6a
Old Turkic (lang.), Uygur (script)

Question 3/6: Or.8212/98
Sogdian (lang and script.)

Question 4/13: IOL Tib J 120.1
Tibetan (lang. and script)

Question 5/13: IOL Toch 1
Tocharian B (lang.), Brāhmī (script)

Question 6/13: IOL Khot W 1
Khotanese (lang.), Brāhmī (script)

Question 7/13: Or.13873/2
Forgery (see here for more information).

Question 8/13: Or.8212/166
Judaeo-Persian (lang.), Hebrew (script)

Question 9/13: Or.8212/161
Old Turkic (lang.), Kok Turkic (script)

Question 10/13: Or.8212/1872(d)
Middle Persian (lang.), Pahlavi (script)

Question 11/13: Or.12380/3500
Sanskrit (lang.), Brāhmī (script), Chinese (lang. and script)

Question 12/13: Or.12380/1840
Tangut (lang. and script)

Question 13/13: Or.8210/S.5662
Chinese (lang. and script)

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

Question 1/6: 1919,0101,0.31
Tejaprabhā Buddha

Question 2/6: Or.8210/S.6983
Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin)

Question 3/6: 1919,0101,0.15
Avalokiteśvara (Water Moon Guanyin)

Question 4/6: 1919,0101,0.34
Mañjuśrī

Question 5/6: 1919,0101,0.10
Avalokiteśvara (Cintāmānicakra)

Question 6/6: 1919,0101,0.4
Kṣitigarbha

The Diamond Sutra

Bonus Question: The Diamond Sutra Or.8210/P.2
Printed in AD 868.