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IDP Research Papers and Resources

As part of our mission to increase access to research on Central Asian collections, sites, and cultures, the IDP website hosts free-to-read PDF copies of relevant works by researchers and scholars. Some are research papers produced by or in collaboration with the IDP team, and some are useful resources to the field more generally. This blog post brings together these documents for purely research or personal use purposes.

You can also find articles and information on current research in the IDP Newsletter.

Enjoy It While it Lasts: A Brief Golden Age of Freedom of Scholarly Information? (English)

Paper published in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita (The Republic) in October 2000 (in Polish, translation by Matthew Ciolek).

Author: Dr. Susan Whitfield, The International Dunhuang Project

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The Question of Forgeries (English)

Introduction to a collection of papers from the 1998 Conference at the British Library.

Author: Dr. Susan Whitfield, The International Dunhuang Project

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Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra (English)

A web resource (under development) presented at the first symposium held under the project ‘Bringing Together Scholars, Scholarship and Scholarly Resources on the Silk Road (China — India — Russia) 2006–2008’ sponsored by the Ford Foundation in November 2006 at the National Library of China (NLC), Beijing.

Author: Dr. Radha Banerjee

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A Review of Tangut Buddhism, Art and Textual Studies (English)

A web resource (under development) presented at the second symposium held under the project ‘Bringing Together Scholars, Scholarship and Scholarly Resources on the Silk Road (China — India — Russia)  2006–2008’ sponsored by the Ford Foundation in April 2007 at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts (IOM) of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.

Author: Dr. Saren Gaowa

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Introduction to Descriptive Catalogue of the Chinese Manuscripts from Tunhuang in the British Museum (English)

The manuscripts described in this Catalogue once formed part of a huge collection which was discovered about fifty years ago in a walled-up chamber adjoining one of the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ (Qianfodong/Ch’ien Fo Tung) a few miles south-east of the Dunhuang oasis on the border of Gansu.

Author: Lionel Giles

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Introduction to a Catalogue of the Tibetan Manuscripts from Tun-Huang in the India Office Library (English)

This is the introduction to Louis de la Vallée Poussin’s catalogue of the Tibetan manuscripts in the Stein collection, written during the First World War. The introduction remains important in its own right for its palaeographical analysis of the Tibetan manuscripts.

Author: Louis de la Vallée Poussin

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Médecine, société et religion dans la Chine médiévale Manuscrits de Dunhuang et pratiques de santé (French)

Programme de recherche dirigé dans le cadre de l’Unité Mixte de Recherche UMR 8155 ‘Civilisations chinoise, japonaise et tibétaine’.

Author: Catherine Despeux (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales)

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Abstracts of the Medical Manuscripts from Dunhuang (English)

Abstracts of seventy-four manuscripts containing medical information held in the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, Ryūkoku University Library and Chinese archives.

Author: Wang Shumin

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A Chinese Medieval Treatment for Angina (English)

Research into the use of saltpetre to treat the symptoms of angina.

Authors: Anthony Butler and John Moffett

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Proceedings (Extract) of XII International Congress of Orientalists, Rome, October 1899 (English)

In the evening of 3rd October 1899, delegates to the XII International Congress of Orientalists assembled in the Great Hall of the University of Rome, to elect the presidents for each of the Sessions, to discuss the format and elect speakers at the opening ceremony the following day. In addition to scholars and academics from Italy, the host nation, participants came from all over the world; each country was represented by national museums, universities and academies.

Author: Lia Genovese

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Otani Kozui’s 1910 visit to London

Following the second Japanese expedition to Chinese Central Asia, Count Otani Kozui, the organizer and sponsor of the enterprise travelled to London and spent over half a year there. His primary aims were to make the results of the expedition known in the West and also to prepare for the new one, lead by the young monk Tachibana Zuicho.

Author: Imre Galambos

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Orthography of Early Chinese Writing: Evidence from Newly Excavated Manuscripts

This book is about the variability of Chinese writing in early China. The archaeological discoveries of the last few decades have provided an unprecedented amount of Warring States texts in the form of manuscripts and inscriptions on various objects. From the point of view of palaeography, an intriguing challenge is how to fit all this new material into the early history of Chinese writing. Since these new texts predate the Qin dynasty, they are able to provide the modern researcher with undigested data regarding the nature of writing in Warring States China. With the sudden increase of original documents, it has become clear that we need to revise our views regarding the nature of early writing, as well as the process and effect of the Qin unification.

The new material, the author argues, refutes the traditional linear model of the evolution of writing in China. According to this model, characters developed along a single line from the Shang oracle-bone inscriptions to Zhou bronze inscriptions, all the way to the Qin small seal and Han clerical scripts. The author that this view is not only an oversimplification but in many cases is incorrect. This model mirrors the ideologically motivated unilateral genealogy of traditional historiography which traced the mandate of Heaven from mythical emperors to the ruling house.

Author: Imre Galambos

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A Tenth Century Manuscript from Dunhuang Concerning the Gantong Monastery at Liangzhou

The Gantongsi monastery at Liangzhou is a site that has been traditionally linked with the cult of the monk Liu Sahe. In a group of Sino-Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang, a dated copy of an inscription from the monastery was found, shedding light on the significance of the monastery in the Buddhist pilgrimage movement during the tenth century.

Author: Imre Galambos

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Current status and future prospects of the Hanzi Normative Glyphs (HNG) Database

Following a presentation at the 2004 Autumn meeting of the Society for Japanese Linguistics, the Internet version of the Hanzi Normative Glyphs (HNG) database (headed by ISHIZUKA Harumichi) was launched in March 2005. Since then, every year new texts and relevant data have been added to the database. The objectives and methodology of this work was first published, with Ishizuka as the first author, in Nihongo no kenkyū 日本語の研究 (2005, vol. 1, no. 4), the official journal of the Society for Japanese Linguistics. Following the increasing amount of texts and data (62 texts, 4,554 unique characters, 432,596 character forms), this paper is an introduction to the current status of the project, its findings and future prospects.

Author: ISHIZUKA Harumichi

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The Dunhuang Sky: A Comprehensive Study of the Oldest Known Star Atlas

This paper presents an analysis of the star atlas included in 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. Although partially studied by a few Chinese scholars, it has never been fully displayed and discussed in the Western world. This set of sky maps (12 hour-angle maps in quasi-cylindrical projection and a circumpolar map in azimuthal projection), 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.

Authors: Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, Dr Françoise Praderie and Dr Susan Whitfield

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Star Atlas: Translation

A translation of the text of the Or.8210/S.3326. It starts from the first section which contains continuous text and ends with the author’s note. The second part is the technical text accompanying the astronomical charts.

Author: Imre Galambos

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A Technical Study of Portable Tenth-Century Paintings from Dunhuang in US Collections

This study examines several of the only known extant examples of portable tenth- century Chinese Buddhist paintings from the Mogao Caves, near Dunhuang, People’s Republic of China. Although extensive scientific research has been conducted on the wall murals, no comparable analysis has ever been undertaken on the paintings on silk and other textile supports from the Mogao Caves. The findings of this study expand on the established understanding of portable paintings from Dunhuang and identify further lines of enquiry in relation to the pigments, textiles and painting technologies associated with these objects. This study examines paintings in the collections of the Harvard Art Museums, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Freer Gallery, Washington, DC, drawing on multiple analytical methods including XRF, FTIR, Raman, AMS, SEM, MALDI and polarizing light microscopy as the first comprehensive and systematic investigation of these important artworks.

Authors: Matthew Brack and Erin Mysak

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Was there a Silk Road?

Is the ‘Silk Road’ a meaningful term? Is it being used simply to provide a historical legitimacy for our preoccupation with the dichotomy of east and west, the rising power of India and China and the waning of Europe, and our ambivalence towards globalisation? If it ever had any descriptive or analytic force for scholarship, is this now lost and should we discard the term entirely in our scholarly discourse as misleading at best and leave it for the marketers to exploit as a symbol of luxury and exoticism? This article argues that although the term ‘Silk Road’ has become a widely used portmanteau term, with apt clarification it is still a meaningful term for scholarship.

Author: Dr Susan Whitfield

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The Prayer, the Priest and the Tsenpo: An Early Buddhist Narrative from Dunhuang

The manuscript presented in this article, Pelliot tibétain 149, contains a brief narrative that is one of the first examples of religious history in Tibet. The narrative is an introduction to a Buddhist text, a prayer known as the Bhadracaryā-praṇidhāna. The story, like the later Tibetan Buddhist histories, begins in India, and continues through to the imperial period in Tibet, specifically the period of the reign of Tsenpo Khri Srong lde brtsan (r.756–c.800). In line with later Tibetan religious histories, but unlike the Old Tibetan Annals or Old Tibetan Chronicle, PT 149’s narrative focuses on religious lineage rather than royal succession.

Authors: Sam van Schaik and Lewis Doney

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When Objects are Beyond Conservation: Recovering Visual Information from Damaged Artifacts

A summary of recent analytical work on five Tang Dynasty wall painting fragments removed from Dunhuang in 1924.

Author: Sanchita Balachandran and Glenn Gates

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Fibre Analysis of Dunhuang Documents in the British Library

A study of the fibre composition of six Tibetan objects from the British Library.

Author: Agnieska Helman-Wazny

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