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Secrets of the Cave II: the “Library Cave”

By Sam van Schaik 11 March 2011

Black and white historic photograph of the inside of Cave 16, with Buddhist statues at the back and piles of scrolls in front of the wall and hatch leading to Cave 17.When Stein wrote about his discovery of a cave full of manuscripts at Dunhuang, he called it a “monastic library” but I don’t think he really considered this very seriously, and he didn’t offer any theories about why a Buddhist monastery would place its whole library in a cave. Then, later on, when scholars looked more closely at the manuscripts which had monastic library stamps, they saw that they came from a variety of different monasteries. Why would that be?

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