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The British Library houses one of the world’s richest collections of manuscript and printed materials from the Eastern Silk Roads. IDP London coordinates the conservation, cataloguing, digitisation and research of these items, in liaison with British Library conservators and curators, as well as scholars worldwide.

IDP London is also responsible for maintaining the IDP database and the IDP website in English. In addition to information relating to the British Library’s Eastern Silk Roads collections, it hosts the images and metadata of other collaborating institutions in the United Kingdom and overseas.

This includes the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Ryukoku University and Princeton University.

Accessing manuscripts at the British Library

The British Library’s collections include works of enormous international cultural significance. Although digital surrogates should be consulted in the first instance to encourage better preservation of these materials for generations to come, we recognise that certain research projects may require physical examination.

To see original materials in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room at the British Library, you will need to obtain a valid Reader Pass. In addition, you will need to send a request to [email protected] with at least two weeks’ notice (one month over the summer) and provide us with:

  • A list of pressmarks (item identifier number) for all requested materials.
  • The intended date(s) of your visit.
  • A justification for viewing these items in person and brief outline of your research.

Please note that some manuscripts may not be available because they are too fragile or are awaiting conservation.

No photography is allowed when viewing these items in the Reading Room.

The Stein photographs can be viewed in the Asian and African Studies Print Room by appointment only. Please e-mail [email protected].

Requesting materials for use or publication

To use the images hosted on the IDP database for personal or professional projects, you will need to ensure that you comply with fair use or copyright restrictions.

If you would like to use images or materials produced by the British Library, please get in touch at [email protected] to secure explicit permission. If you intend to use the images for a publication, you should provide:

  • The print run of the publication (how many copies will be made).
  • The language/region the publication will be printed in.
  • The title of the publication/article.

Please note that the IDP pulls images from several institutions for which different copyright may apply. To use images of items that are not held in the British Library’s collection you will need to contact the owning institution directly.

Making a donation

All donations are used to further the conservation and digitisation of items at the British Library and the administrative work of the IDP London. Your support is greatly appreciated. There are many ways you could help.

You can also donate directly to the IDP to support other areas of our work. To do so, please visit the British Library website donation portal here: Make a Donation. You will be able to select ‘the International Dunhuang Project’ as the direct recipient of your funds during the process If you would like to discuss with us how else you could contribute, please contact us at [email protected].

Just as donors in the past paid a scribe to copy Buddhist texts in memory of loved ones or to distribute merit to the world, the IDP’s Sponsor a Manuscript Scheme enables anyone today to support the digitization of an item in the British Library’s collection and add a dedicatory message. Your dedication text will appear just as donor names and messages previously appeared at the end of manuscripts and at the bottom of paintings. Sponsors can select material based on price, subject matter, or staff need. For a list of objects ready to be sponsored and further information on the Scheme, please reach out to [email protected]

Giving feedback

We welcome comments about the work of the IDP, especially about the web pages, suggestions on what you would like to see and any difficulties or problems you have encountered. Please reach out at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can write to us at the address below:

The International Dunhuang Programme
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
United Kingdom