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IDP Research Profiles



Sam van Schaik

1. PhD/early research interests

I completed my PhD at the University of Manchester in 2000. The doctorate centred on translations of 11 Great Perfection (Dzogchen) texts by the 18th century master Jigme Lingpa. It was published by Wisdom in 2003 as Approaching the Great Perfection: Simultaneous and Gradual Methods of Enlightenment in Dzogchen (available to order from Wisdom Publications).

2. Research/publications during tenure at IDP

I joined IDP in 1999. In the beginning I worked on the Tibetan wooden slips from Miran and Mazar-Tagh in a joint project with Tsuguhito Takeuchi. In 2001 I began to work with Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang, providing new numbers and basic catalogue information for the manuscripts not catalogued by Louis de la Vallée Poussin (IOL Tib J 766 to 1774). 
 From 2002 to 2005 I worked as a researcher on the AHRC Tibetan Tantric Manuscript Cataloguing Project. One of the outcomes of the AHRC project was a growing appreciation of the importance of palaeography to understanding the Dunhuang manuscripts. I worked with Jacob Dalton and forensic handwriting expert Tom Davis (Birmingham University) on identifying the handwritings of individual scribes. The results of this research were published in the article 'Beyond Anonymity'. This work led into the Leverhulme Palaeography Project.


Since 2005 my research has concentrated upon the palaeographical and codicological aspects of the Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts. My most recent research has been on the question of the source of the Tibetan script.


3. Talks, teaching, exhibitions

Since 2004 I have taught undergraduate and postgraduate level courses at SOAS, including 'Tibetan Buddhism' and 'The Buddhist Conquest of Central Asia'.
I regularly give papers at conferences worldwide.

4. Publications

Since 2000 I have published papers on subjects including the early Great Perfection, the early cult of Avalokiteśvara, the tantric samaya vows, and oral transmission.

I also publish two weblogs:
Early Tibet
Reading Tibetan Manuscripts



Susan Whitfield

1. PhD/early research interests

I completed my PhD in Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, on historiography entitled Politics Against the Pen.

2. Research/publications during tenure at IDP

Over the past decade I have been working on the following topics, using the Silk Road manuscripts and artefacts as the basis for much of this research.

Silk Road History, specifically 1st millennium social history, resulting in the publication of Life Along the Silk Road. I am now working on a history of the Taklamakan kingdoms.

Chinese Historiography, specifically in relation to the narrative of its relations with the 'Western Regions' and the concept of 'Chineseness' or 'Han'.

Manuscript Studies, specifically the codiocology of Chinese manuscripts from Dunhuang, most recently as part of the Leverhulme Palaeographical Project.

Forgeries: this has long been an interest and, in 200 I organised a conference on Dunhuang Manuscript Forgeries, resulting in a publication of the same name.

Censorship. I have written widely on this, including the Chinese and other subject entries in the Encyclopedia of Censorship and an article on Chinese almanacs and censorship in Tang China.

3. Talks, teaching, exhibitions

I give numerous lectures each year to a variety of audiences worldwide, including schoolchildren, university students, academic conference participants and members of the general public.

In 2004 I curated the British Library major sunmer exhibition, 'The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith'.

In 2007 I curated a small exhibition at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, 'The Secrets of the Silk Road.'

4. Publications

5. Online Papers

Is there a Silk Road?: Hosted by the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL.



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