IDP-CREA: Cultural Routes of Eurasia


Associate Partners

The National Library of China
The Dunhuang Academy (DHA)
Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology (XJIA)

The British Library (BL), UK

Institute History

The British Library, established in 1972, is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is based in London and is one of the world's largest research libraries, holding over 150 million items in all known languages and formats; books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more. The Library's collections include around 25 million books, along with substantial additional collection of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC. The manuscript collection includes over 45,000 items from Central Asia, most acquired by Aurel Stein (1862-1943) during his first three Central Asian expeditions (1900-1916).

For further information see

The International Dunhuang Project

The International Dunhuang Project (IDP) was established in 1994 with its directorate at the British Library to ensure greater access to the Central Asia collections worldwide. IDP has, to date, digitised and made available over 50% of the Stein Central Asian collections at the British Library. IDP-CREA is part of this initiative. IDP-UK will oversee the project and be responsible for preparing various web resources and providing technical and other support.

For further information see


Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (LHAS)

Institute History

The Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was established by the historian Count József Teleki, the first President of the Academy, who in 1826 offered his 30,000 volume library to the Academy. The Library began operating in 1831, and now is one of the country's most important sources of scientific information for basic research. The separate Oriental Collection came into being in 1951. It encompasses every field of Oriental studies with internationally renowned Hebrew, Tibetan and Turkish manuscripts.

For further information see:

The Stein Collection

Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943) occupies an outstanding place among the benefactors of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Although he lived in India from 1887 onwards, he never forgot his homeland and maintained close ties with the Hungarian Academy: the Academy's Library was the location where Stein's Oriental studies started, and also the Academy was the first to acknowledge his scholarly achievement by electing him an associate fellow in 1895. In 1921 Stein donated his family correspondence and commanded that a significant part of his private library, consisting of about two thousand volumes mostly on subjects such as Indian and Central Asian philology and archaeology be ceded to the Academy. This first donation also contained manuscripts. The second major donation was his bequest, which only arrived in Hungary in 1957. The bequest also contained Stein's extensive correspondence, his manuscripts and documents, as well as his huge photographic collection. This part remained unstudied until 1999, when a British-Hungarian project started, which resulted in the publication in 2002 of the Catalogue of the Collections of Sir Aurel Stein in the LHAS, jointly published by the British Museum and the LHAS. This was followed in 2007 by the Supplement to the Catalogue of the Collections of Sir Aurel Stein compiled by the same British-Hungarian team.

In 2005 a joint project was started to digitize the Stein collection and make it available to scholars worldwide via the IDP Interactive Web Database. IDP-CREA makes the continuation of this project possible. Within its framework 1,200 new digital images will be added to the IDP Database.


Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), FR

Institute History

The origins of the Bibliothèque nationale de France can be traced back to the collection established in 1368 at the Louvre palace by King Charles V. The manuscript collection was developed by Charles VIII and Louis XII, notably by inclusion of confiscated during the Italian wars, and was significantly expanded during the reign of François I (1515-1547), who also founded the first legal deposit for printed books. Although the collection already contained some oriental manuscripts, these holdings were not really developed until Louis XIV and his minister Colbert initiated the purchase of scholarly collections, both in France and by French missions to Persia, Ottoman Turkey and eighteenth century India and China. The historic Richelieu site, which continues to house the specialist departments following the 1996 opening of the François Mitterand site, will undergo extensive renovation works from 2010. Documents will remain accessible throughout.

The Dunhuang Manuscripts at the National Library of France

Paul Pelliot reached the Dunhuang oasis on his 1906-08 central Asian expedition. He was able to investigate cave 17 which, despite the recent visit of English explorer Aurel Stein, still contained an extraordinary quantity of paintings and manuscripts in Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Sogdian, Uighur, and even Hebrew. In three weeks, he opened between 15,000 and 20,000 scrolls and other books, from which he selected all the texts written in languages other than Chinese, as well as many printed documents. Then, in caves 465 and 464, he uncovered manuscripts and printed material in Chinese, Tibetan, Uighur and Xixia, which he also purchased. Over 6,000 manuscripts and printed documents and thousands of fragments thereby entered into the collections of the BnF in 1910, while the paintings, works of art, notebooks and photography from the expedition went to the Musèe Guimet. In addition, Paul Pelliot's richly endowed sinological library, containing more than 30,000 contemporary volumes, was purchased in 1946.

Online Resources

Catalogues of the oriental collections (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Pelliot, etc.) are already online, while remaining manuscripts should all be catalogued online by 2012. In addition, a growing number of digitised manuscripts are accessible through the Gallica database and the illuminated manuscripts can be accessed through the Mandragore database.

For further details, refer to the BnF website.

IDP at the National Library of France

Thanks to support from the Mellon Foundation, the BnF has been able to digitise the entire collection of manuscripts and ancient printings from Dunhuang and to provide online cataloguing and finding aids. With European Commission funding, the BnF is hosting the French site of IDP, in collaboration with the British Library and the Guimet Museum, with the aim of facilitating access to the documents and objects in the French collections, thereby enabling the wider public and the worldwide research community to discover what is an exceptionally rich collection.


On peut faire remonter l'origine de la Bibliothèque nationale de France à la « Librairie » fondée au palais du Louvre par le roi Charles V, en 1368. La collection de manuscrits, reconstituée sous Charles VIII et Louis XII, en particulier à partir de collections confisquées durant les guerres d'Italie, a été considérablement augmentée à partir du règne de François Ier (1515-1547), qui institua également le premier Dépôt légal des livres imprimés. Dès cette époque, la bibliothèque du roi possédait des manuscrits orientaux, mais c'est Louis XIV et son ministre Colbert qui enrichirent ses collections orientales, en achetant en France des bibliothèques d'érudits et en envoyant des missions en Orient : Empire turc, Perse, puis, au XVIIIe siècle, Inde et Chine. Le site historique Richelieu, où sont restés les départements spécialisés après l'ouverture de la Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand, en 1996, fera l'objet d'importants travaux de rénovation à partir de 2010. Durant cette période, les documents resteront consultables.

Les manuscrits de Dunhuang à la BNF

Lors de sa mission en Asie centrale (1906-1908), Paul Pelliot arriva à l'oasis de Dunhuang, où il put explorer la grotte murée n° 17 qui conservait, malgré le passage tout récent de l'explorateur anglais Aurel Stein, une quantité extraordinaire de peintures et de manuscrits en chinois, en tibétain, en sanscrit, en sogdien, en ouïgour et même en hébreu. En trois semaines, il ouvrit entre 15 000 et 20 000 rouleaux et liasses, parmi lesquels il sélectionna notamment tous les textes en écritures non chinoises, et de nombreuses impressions xylographiques. Puis, dans les grottes 465 et 464, il exhuma des manuscrits et imprimés chinois, tibétains, ouïgours et xixia, qu'il acheta. Plus de 6 000 manuscrits et imprimés (dont certains antérieurs à 1035), et des milliers de fragments entrèrent ainsi dans les collections de la Bibliothèque nationale en 1910, tandis que peintures, æuvres d'art, carnets et photographies rejoignaient le Musée Guimet. En complément, la très riche bibliothèque sinologique de Paul Pelliot (plus de 30 000 volumes modernes) fut achetée en 1946.

Ressources en ligne

Pour d'autres informations, voir le site L'informatisation du catalogue des manuscrits devrait être achevée d'ici 2012 (catalogue BNF Archives et manuscrits). Les catalogues des grands fonds orientaux (Arabe, Hébreu, Persan, fonds Paul Pelliot...) sont déjà consultables en ligne. Les manuscrits numérisés, de plus en plus nombreux, sont accessibles dans Gallica. Les manuscrits enluminés sont consultables dans la base Mandragore.

IDP à la BNF

Grâce à l'aide de la Fondation Mellon, la BNF a pu numériser l'intégralité des manuscrits et imprimés anciens de Dunhuang, et informatiser ou achever leurs catalogues. Avec le soutien de l'Union Européenne, et en collaboration étroite avec la British Library et le Musée Guimet, la BNF a décidé d'héberger le site français de l'International Dunhuang Project, dans le but de faciliter l'accès aux documents et objets conservés en France, en complément du catalogue BNF Archives et manuscrits, et de permettre au grand public et à la communauté des chercheurs du monde entier de mieux connaître une collection exceptionnelle, qui n'a pas achevé de révéler ses richesses.


Musée Guimet (MG), FR

Institute History

The Guimet Museum has its origins in a project to create a museum of religions, specifically the religions of Egypt, classical antiquity and Asia. The project was conceived by Émile Guimet (1836-1918), an industrialist from Lyon who had assembled extensive collections from his travels. He presented his collections initially to the city of Lyon and they were transferred to Paris in 1889 when the new Guimet Museum was inaugurated.

In 1927, the museum acquired large collections returned by major expeditions to central Asia and China, including those of Paul Pelliot and Édouard Chavannes, as well as original works from the Paris Trocadero museum of Indochina and, throughout the 1920s and 30s, a wealth of material from the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan.

In 1945 the Guimet Museum transferred its Egyptian items to the Louvre in exchange for the entire collection in the Louvre's department of Asian art. During the next years, up to 1953, under the direction of René Grousset, the Guimet established itself as one of the foremost Asian art museums in the world. Grousset had taken over from Joseph Hackin who had died in 1941, and was succeeded by Philip Stern, director from 1954 to 1965, who concentrated particularly on developing research activities, the library and, above all, the photographic archives of the museum. Director Jeannine Auboyer took over in 1965 and is particularly noted for enriching the Indian classical holdings. She also oversaw major alteration works, including, in the early 1970s, introduction of a new musem layout. Vadime Elisseeff was appointed director in 1982, followed in 1986 by Jean-François Jarrige, a specialist in the ancient archaeology of India and Pakistan, who remains as director today. In 1991, the museum opened the Buddhist Pantheon to display the collections brought back from Japan by Guimet.

An extensive renovation programme, completed in 2001, was intended to enable the institution founded by Émile Guimet increasingly to affirm its role as a major European centre for the knowledge of Asian civilisations.

For further information see

Pelliot Collection

From 1906 to 1908 French sinologist Paul Pelliot conducted an important archaeological mission to Central Asia, accompanied by doctor Louis Vaillant and photographer Charles Nouette. They followed the route of the northern silk road, passing through Kashgar, Kucha, Turfan and Dunhuang further to the east, and findings were returned by Pelliot from the various sites established along the way. The Pelliot collection comprises manuscripts in several ancient languages, today held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, as well as paintings, sculptures and textiles, held at the Guimet Museum. The collection is completed by the inclusion of Paul Pelliot's personal paper archives, integrated into the collections of the Guimet Museum, and the original photography by Nouette, preserved in the museum's photographic archives.

The International Dunhuang Project, to build a database shared by all organisations holding collections and knowledge of European archaeology in early 20th century central Asia, offers a rare occasion to raise awareness of the Paul Pelliot collection and related collections held in various institutions in neighbouring European countries.

Le musée Guimet est né du grand projet d'un industriel lyonnais, Émile Guimet (1836–1918), de créer un musée des religions de l'Égypte, de l'antiquité classique et des pays d'Asie. Au cours de ses voyages il réuni d'importantes collections, présentées à Lyon à partir de 1879, puis à Paris dans un nouveau musée, inauguré en 1889.

Ce musée accueille à partir de 1927 d'importantes collections rapportées par les grandes expéditions en Asie centrale et en Chine, comme celles de Paul Pelliot ou d'Édouard Chavannes mais également les œuvres originales du musée Indochinois du Trocadéro et tout au long des années 20 et des années 30 le dépôt de la Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan. À partir de 1945, le musée Guimet envoie au Louvre ses pièces égyptiennes et reçoit en retour l'ensemble des œuvres du département des arts asiatiques du Louvre. L'institution devient l'un des tout premiers musées d'arts de l'Asie dans le monde, sous la direction jusqu'en 1953 de René Grousset qui a succédé à Joseph Hackin. Philippe Stern, qui dirige le musée de 1954 à 1965, s'attache aux activités savantes de l'institution, à la bibliothèque et surtout aux archives photographiques. Jeannine Auboyer lui succède en 1965 et enrichit les collections dans le domaine de l'Inde classique. Une nouvelle muséologie est mise en place au cours des années 70 et Jean–François Jarrige, spécialiste de l'archéologie ancienne du sous–continent indo–pakistanais, succède au sinologue, Vadime Elisseeff, nommé en 1982. En 1991, le musée Guimet ouvre le Panthéon bouddhique, présentant une partie des collections rapportées du Japon par Emile Guimet.

Le vaste programme de rénovation qui a pris fin en 2001, avait pour but de permettre à l'institution fondée par Emile Guimet de s'affirmer de plus en plus comme un grand centre de la connaissance des civilisations asiatiques au cœur de l'Europe.

De 1906 à 1908, le sinologue français Paul Pelliot conduit une importante mission archéologique en Asie centrale accompagné du Docteur Louis Vaillant et du photographe Charles Nouette. Il a suivit le tracé nord de la route de la soie passant par Kashi, Kuche, Tulufan et Dunhuang, plus à l'est. Les œuvres rapportées proviennent de différents sites établis tout au long de cet itinéraire. Composée de manuscrits en différentes langues anciennes, aujourd'hui à la Bibliothèque nationale de France, de peintures, sculptures et textiles, conservées au musée Guimet, cette collection est avantageusement complétée d'archives papier appartenant à Paul Pelliot, intégrées au fonds de la bibliothèque du musée Guimet, et de photographies de la mission, conservées aux archives photographiques de cette même institution.

Le projet, coordonné par I.D.P, de constituer une banque de données commune à l'ensemble des organismes conservant des œuvres et des connaissances rassemblées par les archéologues européens ayant fouillé en Asie centrale au début du XXe siècle, est une extraordinaire occasion de faire connaître la collection Paul Pelliot, si complémentaire de celles conservées dans les institutions des pays européens voisins.


Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (BBAW), DE

Turfanforschung (Turfan Studies)

Turfanforschung is a long-term project of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, in close cooperation with the Berlin office ‘Turfanforschung' of the Union Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts in German Collections of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Göttingen edits and catalogues the texts in the Berlin Turfan Collection. These texts were gathered between 1902 and 1914 by four Prussian expeditions to Turfan and neighbouring sites on the Silk Road and brought to Berlin where they are worked on. The Berlin Turfan Collection contains an extraordinary variety of texts in over twenty languages and scripts. Among these are Tocharian, an unknown Indo-European language at the time of its discovery, Old Uigur, the oldest Turkish literary language, the Iranian languages Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Bactrian and Saka, as well as Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian and Syriac. Most texts have a religious content and document the spread and development of Buddhism, Manichaeism and Christianity in the towns along the Silk Road. Old Turkish and also Chinese and Mongolian letters, contracts and other economic documents give us a glimpse of daily life a thousand years ago. The work of the Turfan study group in Berlin is concentrated on the Old Uigur (Old Turkish) and Iranian fragments, which are edited in our series ‘Berliner Turfantexte' and described in Catalogues. Berlin is also a contact point from the many national and international scholars working on the Collection.

Turfanforschung and IDP

The Turfanforschung has been cooperating with IDP from the beginning of the project. In accordance with an agreement in 2005 the digital images produced in the digitisation projects financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and all available metadata on the texts of the Berlin Turfan Collection is being presented in the IDP database. IDP Berlin has its own website in German and will, in the framework of IDP-CREA, include further digital images and metadata on Turfan texts in Berlin in the IDP database and also prepare the object biography of an Old Turkish fragment from Turfan.

Die Turfanforschung

Die Turfanforschung ist ein Vorhaben der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, das in enger Kooperation mit der Berliner Arbeitsstelle Turfanforschung des Projekts Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland der Göttinger Akademie der Wissenschaften die Texte der Berliner Turfansammlung katalogisiert und ediert. Diese Texte wurden zwischen 1902 und 1914 von vier preußischen Expeditionen in Turfan und benachbarten Orten an der Seidenstraße gesammelt und nach Berlin gebracht, wo sie seitdem bearbeitet werden. Die Berliner Turfansammlung enthält eine erstaunliche Vielfalt an Texten in mehr als 20 Sprachen und Schriften. Hierzu gehören u.a. Tocharisch, eine bis zur Wiederentdeckung unbekannte indogermanische Sprache, Altuigurisch, die erste türkische Schriftsprache, die iranischen Sprachen Mittelpersisch, Parthisch, Sogdisch, Baktrisch sowie auch Sakisch und Sanskrit, Chinesisch, Tibetisch, Mongolisch und Syrisch. Die meisten Texte haben einen religiösen Inhalt und dokumentieren die Verbreitung und Entwicklung des Buddhismus, des Manichäismus und des Christentums in den Städten entlang der Seidenstraße. Alttürkische aber auch chinesische und mongolische Briefe, Verträge und andere Wirtschaftsdokumenten gewähren einen Einblick in das tägliche Leben von vor tausend Jahren. Die Arbeit der Turfanforschung in Berlin konzentriert sich auf die altuigurischen (alttürkischen) und iranischen Fragmente, die in Editionen in der eigenen Reihe, Berliner Turfantexte' und in Katalogen erfasst werden. Berlin ist auch ein Begegnungszentrum für die vielen in- und ausländischen Forscher, die an der Sammlung arbeiten.

Turfanforschung und IDP

Die Turfanforschung kooperiert mit IDP seit der Gründung des Projekts. Gemäß einer 2005 geschlossenen Vereinbarung werden die in den DFG-finanzierten Digitalisierungsprojekten produzierten digitalen Bilder und alle verfügbaren Metadaten der Texte der Berliner Turfansammlung in der IDP Datenbank präsentiert. IDP Berlin hat eine eigene deutsche Webpräsenz und wird im Rahmen von IDP-CREA weitere digitale Bilddateien und Metadaten von Berliner Turfantexten in die IDP-Datenbank einbinden sowie eine Objektbiographie eines alttürkischen Turfanfragments erarbeiten.


Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin (AKu), DE

Institute History

The Museum of Asian Art is part of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin. It is a fusion of the Museums of Indian Art (MIK) and East-Asian Art (OAK) with their substantial collections of art from the Himalayas, South-East-Asia, China, Japan and Korea. Outstanding in international terms are the collections of art treasures from Central Asia resulting from the four German Expeditions (1902-14) to the Turfan region. Mural paintings and clay sculptures, fragile temple banners and manuscripts as well as numerous small finds attest to an extremely diversified culture that served as an intermediary between the Middle East and India on the one side and China and the rest of East Asia on the other. For over one hundred years scholars from all over the world have turned to the reserve collection for research in Buddhism, Nestorianism, Manichaeism and Zoroastrism, in art stylistics and languages.

Turfan research has always been characterized by a close cooperation between European and Asian scholars. Mutual assistance on travels to the distant heart of Asia, open exchange of information and research results has always been common practice. This was celebrated in 2002 by an international symposium for the centenary of the Turfan expeditions, held by the Museum of Indian Art and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science. The IDP-CREA collaboration will be followed up by establishing free access to museum material for all research groups. The Museum of Asian Art has already begun to digitise photographs of its objects for online access and is also working on the historical expedition photographs. These consist of 3000 images, hundreds pf which depict archaeological sites and situations which have changed or disappeared during the last century. The photographs are of irreplaceable help for research. the photographs and information will be added to the IDP web database as part of IDP-CREA.

Das Museum für Asiatische Kunst ist Teil der 'Staatlichen Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz' in Berlin. Als Zusammenschluss der Museen für Indische Kunst (MIK) und für Ost–Asiatische Kunst (OAK) beherbergt es umfangreiche Sammlungen von Kunstobjekten vom indischen Subkontinent, aus den Himalayaländern, Südostasien, China, Japan und Korea. Einmalig ist hier jedoch - auch im internationalen Vergleich - die Sammlung von Kunstschätzen aus Zentralasien, die als Ergebnis der vier deutschen 'Turfan-Expeditionen' (1902-14) nach Berlin gelangt sind. Reich kolorierte Wandgemälde und Lehmplastiken, fragile Tempelbanner und Handschriften sowie zahlreiche Kleinfunde geben Zeugnis von einer äußerst vielfältigen Kultur, die besonders im 1. Jahrtausend unserer Zeitrechnung als Mittler zwischen dem Vorderen Orient und Indien einerseits und China und ganz Ostasien andererseits fungierte. Forscher aus aller Welt konsultieren die Studiensammlung zu Fragen zu Buddhismus, nestorianisches Christentum, Manichäismus und Zoroastrismus, zu Stilkunde und sprachlichen Forschungen. Die Turfanforschung fand von Beginn an in enger Kooperation zwischen europäischen und asiatischen Forschern statt. In gegenseitiger Hilfestellung auf Reisen in das entlegene Zentrum Asiens, im freien Austausch von Informationen und Forschungsergebnissen war und ist die Zentralasienkunde beispielhaft. Dies wurde auch 2002 wieder auf dem vom Museum für Indische Kunst und der Berlin Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften ausgerichteten Symposium anlässlich des 100jährigen Bestehens der ‘Turfanforschung' dokumentiert. Fortgeführt wird diese Zusammenarbeit jetzt durch ein Projekt, das den freien Zugang aller Forschergruppen zu in Museen und Archiven lagernden Materialien zum Ziel hat.

Das Museum für Asiatische Kunst hat deshalb damit begonnen, Fotos seiner Objekte aus Zentralasien ins Netz zu stellen. Darüber hinaus werden derzeit die Expeditionsfotos bearbeitet.

Von den über 3000 belichteten Fotoplatten geben Hunderte archäologische Zustände wieder, die nach 100 Jahren für immer verloren sind und jetzt für die Forschung und Restaurierung unersetzliche Hilfe leisten.

Unter IDP-CREA werden diese historischen Fotos jetzt in die IDP Datenbank aufgenommen und stehen damit bald Forschern und der Öffentlichkeit online zur Verfügung.


With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union