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A group of people looking at a glass case containing textile materials.
Professor Zhao Feng, Director of the National Silk Museum, showing visitors around the exhibition, ‘Silks from the Silk Road: Origin, Transmission and Exchange’ at the West Lake Museum. They are viewing the clothes of the Yingpan burial.

In 2013 the discovery of four wooden models of pattern looms in a tomb dating from the 2nd century BC in Chengdu, southwest China was named as one of the ‘Ten Archaeological Discoveries’ of the year. In 2014, China National Silk Museum joined with Chengdu Museum, the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Zhejiang College, Zhejiang University of Technology on the research project ‘The Reconstruction, Research and Presentation of the Pattern Weaving Technology in the Han Dynasty — Taking the Looms Unearthed from the Laoguanshan Tombs of the Han Dynasty in Chengdu as an Example’ under the ‘Compass Plan’ of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. One of the outcomes of the research was the reproduction of a full-size operable prototype of one of the pattern looms and this was unveiled at the West Lake Museum, Hangzhou, on 11 October 2015.

This issue of IDP News covers the several related events on Silk Road textiles organised by the China National Silk Museum, including an exhibition, an international symposium and the founding of a new research association. The opening article is one of the papers given at the symposium, on the discovery of textiles to be used for the paper-making industry at the other end of the Silk Road, near Jericho.

A line map.
Judea in the 9th to 13th centuries

Silk For Paper: A Textile Hoard Found Near Jericho

Orit Shamir and Alisa Baginski

Silk has been discovered in Israel from sites dating to the Byzantine period and from the early Islamic period onwards. The most important textile assemblage was discovered in a cave near Jericho (Qarantal Cave 38) during excavations carried out in 1993 on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The cave consists of several connected spaces and the textiles were discovered in only one of these, assumed to be a storage area.

Preserved by the arid climate of the Judean Desert, the 768 textiles, 34 basketry fragments and 98 cordage fragments discovered display a remarkable variety of materials and techniques, suggesting diverse geographical origins.

The original dating of the material based on their archaeological context to the early ninth to late thirteenth centuries AD has since been confirmed by Carbon-14 analysis.

Many developments in the early medieval period can be observed by studying the textiles. Some of these took place in foreign regions — Persia, India, China and Europe. Others were probably local but are thus far unique to this site, such as the combination of a linen warp and cotton weft.

474 textiles fragments have been analyzed and catalogued. An additional 285, too small or fragile to be cleaned or handled, have been counted and defined by the material they are made from. Most significant are the silk fragments made by various techniques, some of which required sophisticated looms.

A black and white photograph of a cave entrance in a cliff face.
Qarantal Cave 38, near Jericho

The textiles are torn, cut and patched, and many have been reused, sometimes more than once. Many are composed of several different textiles or of several pieces of the same material stitched together. Others have been cut into rectangles, odd shapes or strips. All are small and worn. Some were stained (with substances that could not be removed by the usual cleaning methods) and some were partially burned.

Some of the reused textiles are of high-quality material and design, only affordable by the elite. It can be assumed that most of these were originally parts of clothing, such as tunics, although no complete garment is found. Others can be recognized as bags, wrappers and strips for tying.

Materials, Techniques and Designs

The largest group are made of cotton (285), with almost the same number of linens (261). There are also 134 pieces with a linen warp and cotton weft and 5 pieces with a linen warp and a weft of both cotton and linen. However, I shall concentrate here on the silks.

Nine linen textiles are decorated with coloured silk tapestry bands of brown, beige, gold, red, green, black, blue and yellow. The motifs of these bands show swimming birds (possibly ducks) and birds’ heads. Others have linen tabby and silk tapestry depicting swimming birds and other unrecognizable motifs in the cartouche. Many such textiles originating in Egypt have been dated to the tenth and eleventh centuries. The find also included one mulham (silk warp with hidden cotton wefts).

The silks show a loose Z-spun warp while the weft is | (floss). They are in various weaves including tabbies, 3:1 twill and a soumak. The eighteen pieces of compound weaves include double-faced compound tabbies, weft faced compound twills and lampas weaves. They have geometric, floral or interlaced patterns or show birds, animals or remains of Arabic inscriptions. These are all luxury textiles woven on sophisticated looms such as the drawloom.

Unique to Cave 38 are two block-printed silk plain weave textiles with no twist of the fibres.

A brightly dyed piece of textile material.


The silk fragments were not produced locally as silk was not cultivated in the region. Nor were they likely to have been imported from China based on the designs and spin direction.

Compound-weave silks have been discovered in Egypt, for example, at Antinoë (Geijer 1982). One piece discovered at ‘Avdat in Israel also originated from Egypt (Baginski and Tidhar 1978). In the Byzantine period and after the Islamic conquest, textile centres in Syria were already producing such textiles (King 1987; Otavski 1995): some have been preserved as relic-wrappers in the treasuries of European churches (Muthesius 1997) and a few have been found in excavation near Rayy (Iran). The silks could therefore have been imported from Syria, Byzantium, Mesopotamia or Persia.

A piece of textile material made up of different patterned textiles stitched together.
Fragment of five textiles from Cave 38 stitched together. The main fragment is silk weft-faced compound tabby. The cartouche shows pairs of birds facing each other, with a branch with leaves in between.


Given that no other artefacts from this period, apart from a few ceramic shards, were found in this room of Cave 38 we can assume it was not used as a dwelling. There is also no indication of spinning or weaving at the cave, or of textiles repairs or tailoring.

Why then were so many used textiles stored here? It can be hypothesized that the people who placed them there were rag collectors or merchants who had collected them for the paper industry. Paper-making had been introduced by the Arabs from China through Central Asia in the eighth century AD and became popular in the region. Linen, cotton, and date-palm leaves and fibres were used as raw materials. The Arabs’ massive use of cotton for paper-making was a feature of this industry, utilizing the waste products of the local cotton-based textiles industry (Amar, Gorski and Neumann 2010; Hunter 1978).

A piece of fragmentary patterned textile.
Silk, weft-faced compound tabby with design of octagons with stylized plants and geometric motifs.

Because of the unrest due to the frequent fighting between the local population and the various conquerors who invaded the area in the tenth-thirteenth centuries, perhaps the merchants were unable to return to the cave to retrieve their textiles. This idea, that this was a store of raw material for paper-making left by merchants, is supported by the large number of textiles found in this one cave. This contrasts with the much smaller number of medieval textiles found in other caves in the Judean desert.

A very fragmentary piece of textile with two different coloured sections.
Linen decorated with silk tapestry. Photographs by Clara Amit and Tzila Sagiv, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


This is a shortened version of a paper given by Orit Shamir at the conference in Hangzhou. A longer version has previously been published in the Textile Society of America.

Orit Shamir is Head of the Department of Museum and Exhibits and Curator of Organic Materials, National Treasuries Department, Israel. She has researched and published widely on textiles. Her articles are available online.

Alisa Baginski is a retired senior lecturer of textile history. She was the creator of the textile study collection at the Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion at Ramat-Gan, Israel. She has published widely on textiles, among others ‘Later Islamic and Medieval textiles from excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority.’ Textile History 32.1 (2001) 81-92.


  • Amar Z, Gorski A. and Neumman N. 2010. ‘The Paper and Textile Industry in Light of an Analysis of the Cairo Genizah Documents.’ In B. Outhwaite and S. Bhayro (ed.), From a Sacred Source, Genizah Studies in Honour of Professor Stefan C. Reif. Leiden – Boston.
  • Baginski, A. and Tidhar, A. 1978. ‘Dated Silk Fragment from ‘Avsat.’ Israel Exploration Journal 28:113.
  • Geijer, Agnes. 1982. A History of Textile Art. Bath: Sotheby’s Publications.
  • Hunter, Dard. 1978. Papermarking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft. New York: Dover Publications.
  • King, D. 1987. ‘The Textiles Found Near Rayy about 1925’. Centre International d’étude des Textiles Anciens (CIETA) Bulletin. 65: 34-59.
  • Muthesius. A. 1997. Byzantine Silk Weaving AD 400 to 1200 AD. Vienna: Institut Für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik der Universität Wien.
  • Otavski, K. 1995. Mittelalterliche Textilen I. Riggisberg: Abbeg-Stiftung.

Silks from the Silk Road: Origins, Transmissions and Exchange

An international symposium and exhibition, Hangzhou, China, 12–13 October 2015

The importance of the role of silk on the so-called ‘Silk Roads’ has been questioned since the adoption of the term in 1877, but a recent conference in Hangzhou sought to return silk to a central place in Silk Road studies.

A posed group photograph of a large group of conference attendees in an outdoor space with plants.
Delegates at the conference outside the West Lake Museum, Hangzhou, October 2015.

The conference, organized by Professor Zhao Feng, Director of the China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, brought together scholars from across the world working on the archaeological, historical, artistic and technical aspects of silk and other textiles from this period. The meeting of scholars also provided an opportunity for the formal establishment of a new international association, IASSRT, (introduced opposite) and a tour of an exhibition at the West Lake Museum. This included the unveiling of a reproduction of a recently excavated Han period pattern loom.—

Tong Mingkang, Deputy Director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage along with more than 120 Chinese and foreign representatives from 20 countries attended the opening ceremony. Kishore Rao, the director of World Heritage Centre of UNESCO, and Gustavo Araoz, the president of ICOMOS sent congratulatory messages.

Two days of presentations followed, covering much of the geographical and chronological scope of the Silk Roads. A brief report is given here and details of the forthcoming publication of the proceedings will be given in a future issue.

The papers fell into three broad categories: reports on archaeological discoveries of silk and silk in collections worldwide; scientific and technical analyses; and research on silk from textual sources.

The land routes of the Silk Road were well represented by the first category, both by the speakers and the subjects of their presentations. They included speakers from:

There were also presentations on silks on the maritime routes (Lee Chorlin from Singapore), and in southeast Asia (Judith Cameron on Vietnam; Suttirat Kaewaporn/Sarttarat Muddin on Thailand and Mariah Waworuntu on Indonesia).

Zhao Feng proposed a collaboration to map all the archaeological discoveries of silk, allowing the participants and other scholars and archaeologists to pool their knowledge for the benefit of all.

The papers on scientific and technical analysis included an exciting report by Professor Yang Hong on a collaborative project between the National Silk Museum and Bryant University, USA, to explore the feasibility of isotopic testing to determine the source of silk. Early results on the proportions of heavy oxygen — taken up by the mulberry leaves — are promising, suggesting that it will be feasible to differentiate between silk produced near the sea and that far away. This is especially relevant when looking at silks found in the Tarim, in northwestern China, many of which might have originated from sericulture centres on the eastern seaboard, such as Hangzhou.

Dominique Cardon, senior researcher at CNRS, France and an expert on dyes, discussed analytic techniques to identify the sources of colorants used on ancient textiles and the possibilities to understand the cultures and their contacts along the Silk Road.

Zhang Baichun and Chen Wei discussed the Chinese drawloom, very relevant in light of the 2013 model loom discovery.

Speakers in the third category discussed silk terminology across languages and cultures: from ancient Greek and Rome (Marie-Louise Nosch, Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research ), Gandhara (Lin Meicun, Peking University), Khotan (Duan Qin, Peking University) and China (Dagmar Schaefer, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Germany).

There were also two papers discussing the concept of the Silk Road and the role of silk, by Rong Xinjiang of Peking University and Susan Whitfield of IDP.

With most of the presenters having good illustrations for their talks and excellent simultaneous translation there was much to discuss. A welcome dinner was generously hosted by Zhejiang Cathaya International Co. Ltd. in a villa on the banks of West Lake.

The symposium was possible thanks to the support of Silk Road Holding Group Co., Ltd, Huzhou.

International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles

Delegates at the Hangzhou conference took part in a signing ceremony for the foundation of a new scholarly group, the International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles (IASSRT).

Initiated by Zhao Feng of the National Silk Museum, IASSRT is intended to connect institutions along the Silk Road (including universities, museums, libraries, archaeological institutions, research insitutes, etc.) for collaborative research and the sharing of knowledge and resources. The founding members included the following institutions:

  • China National Silk Museum
  • IDP, British Library, UK
  • Needham Research Institute (NRI), UK
  • McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research,
    University of Cambridge, UK
  • Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), Germany
  • University of Padova, Italy
  • Bryant University, USA
  • The Danish National Research Foundation’s Center for Textile Research (CTR)
  • Israel Antiquities Authority
  • Nasledie, Ministry of Culture of Stavropol Region, Russia
  • Institute of Ancient History and Archaeology of the Northern Caucasus, Stavropol, Russia
  • Institute of Archeology of Academy of Sciences of Republic of Uzbekistan
  • ASEAN Traditional Textile Art Community Indonesia (ASEANTTAC)
  • Queen Silikit Textile Museum, Thailand
  • Korea National University of Culture Heritage
  • Institute for Ancient Chinese History, Peking University
  • Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Collaborative Innovation Center for the Cooperation and Development of the Belt and Road of the Zhejiang University
  • Fashion • Art Design Institute, Donghua University
  • Community of Chinese Museums along the Silk Road
  • Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, China
  • ICOMOS Xi’an International Conservation Centre
  • Chengdu Museum

The Association will be committed to the investigation into cultural heritage resources and database construction, research on key technologies for identification and protection of textiles, exchange of human resources and the establishment of cooperative laboratories, cooperative exhibitions related to Silk Roads textiles, and inheritance and innovation of traditional textile techniques, in order to promote the researches on the silks from the Silk Road in an all-round way. In the next five years, it is proposed to carry out a cooperative resource investigation along the Silk Road, and establish MSRS (Mapping Silk Road with Silk), GTT (Glossary of Textile Terminology on the Silk Road) and other specialized research projects to promote communication and cooperation among the association members and look forward to the participation of more research institutions and individuals.

Reproduction of a Model Pattern Loom from Sichuan

From July 2012 to August 2013, Chengdu Institute of Archaeology and Jingzhou Cultural Heritage Conservation Center established a joint team to carry out rescue archaeology at the tombs of the Western Han Dynasty located in Laoguanshan, Tianhui Town, Chengdu. They excavated four tombs with earth pits and wooden coffins dating from the period of Emperor Jingdi (157–141 BC) to Emperor Wudi (141–88 BC) in the early Han Dynasty. The occupant of the tomb 2 was called Wan Dinu. Four models of wooden pattern looms and various textile-related tools were unearthed from this tomb, and, for this, it was included in 2013 Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries in China.

A person standing at a microphone, giving a talk in a museum space.
Chen Yao, Deputy Director of the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture, at the press launch of the full-scale protoype of the excavated model loom, West Lake Museum, Hangzhou.

The four pattern looms were complex and accurate models made of bamboo and wood, one larger than the others. Remains of coloured silk threads were found on their warp beams. Textile tools, such as warping, rewinding, weft winding tools, and 15 painted wooden figurines engaged in the textile production were also discovered. It could be deduced that these reproduced the scene of production of Shu Silk (Chengdu silk) in the Han period.

Technically, all four looms are hook-shaft pattern loom (or the pattern loom with one hook and multi-shafts). They would have woven patterns with two foundation shafts and many pattern shafts. The foundation shafts are linked and driven by a pair of upper pulleys and a pair of lower treadles. The pattern shafts are fixed in a frame with grids, positioned by a beam with the ratchet on the top of the loom and shafts are selected with a pair of pendent wooden hooks. The patterns are produced through raising the pattern shafts by means of the treadles via the sliding frame or connecting rod.

The models had 10-20 pattern shafts and produced patterns with short warps and long wefts. However, based on silks excavated dated from Warring States to the Han periods, we would expect more looms with more pattern shafts. Such hook-shaft pattern looms can be classified into two categories based on their different transmission methods. The larger one can be called the sliding frame-type hook-shaft pattern loom and the three smaller ones the connecting rod-type hook-shaft pattern loom.

The core technology of a pattern loom lies in the programming of patterns stored in the shaft of the loom or in the shaft connected with the shaft hole. Joseph Needham attributed the invention of the pattern loom to China and stated that the Chinese character 机 (ji) — which became the generic term both for machinery and for wisdom — originated from the shape of the loom. This indicated the importance of the loom in the scientific and technological history of China. The programming of patterns, not only exerted a great influences on silk production across Eurasia but also had a direct influence on the invention of many modern technologies of the world, such as telegrams and computers. The models of pattern looms unearthed from the Laoguanshan Tombs filled a void not only in Chinese but also in the scientific and technological history of the world. Furthermore, such looms were once used to produce the Sichuan brocade from the Han to Tang periods, one of the most representative of silk weaves produced in China at that time. Weaving technology as well as silk was transmitted along the Silk Road, having great significance for the spread of Chinese culture.

As part of the research, a full-size operable prototype of the model pattern loom was reproduced. This was unveiled at a press launch at the West Lake Museum on 11 October 2015 (pictured above) and followed by presentations by several Chinese scholars on the technology of the looms and comments from several international scholars.

The cover of the book From Dunhuang to Alexandria.
From Dunhuang to Alexandria: New Acquisitions in Art and Archaeology of the Silk Road.

Zhejiang University: Dunhuang and Silk Road Studies

Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, has long been a centre for Dunhuang and Silk Road studies both in manuscript studies and in art and archaeology. A new building for the Museum of Art and Archaeology is currently under construction and the University recently reinforced its commitment and position as a centre of Silk Road studies in China with the acquisition of almost 2000 historical publications on the Silk Road. This important purchase, by the University Vice-Chancellor, Luo Weidong and Professor Miao Zhe, includes many rare volumes, such as the expedition reports of Stein and others and early catalogues.

A selection of these volumes were displayed in Zhejing University Library I, ‘From Dunhuang to Alexandria: New Acquisitions in Art and Archaeology of the Silk Road’, held from May to October 2015. The exhibition was curated by Professor Miao Zhe with the help of Chen Yafei.

A group of colleagues posed for a photograph outside, with a dog.
The research team at Zhejiang University headed by Professor Zhang Yongquan.

The University has an active programme of international speakers and in 2014 launched a new journal, Zhejiang University Journal of Art and Archaeology (ISBN: 9787308139571). Professor Miao Zhe is Chief Editor and the first issue includes contributions by scholars from China and worldwide.

Zhejiang University has an outstanding tradition of research in the collation and the palaeography of the Dunhuang manuscripts. Former researchers who produced rich results in these fields included Professors Jiang Liangfu, Jiang Lihong and Guo Zaiyi among others. Today Zheijiang University is working in collaboration with Peking University and other research institutes to take forward research under the ‘One Belt One Road’ programme.

Included in this is a research team headed by Professor Zhang Yongquan which is developing research on Silk Road languages and manuscripts. This includes compilations of dictionaries of the language of the Dunhuang manuscripts and of variant characters found on the manuscripts. The team is also collating the chapters or sections of texts found on dispersed manuscripts.

IDP has been working over the past few years with Professor Zhang to conserve and digitise manuscripts for the publication of a collection of Dunhuang bianwen (Professor Zhang is working with Professor Xiang Chu on this).

Collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy

Dunhuang Academy (DHA) and Zhejiang University (ZJU)have collaborated since 1999 to develop several systems. These have included a virtual restoration system for missing or faded sections of the Dunhuang murals. The system can restore them to their original appearance and simulate the process of colour change over time by modelling the colour changing curves. Another system developed under this collaboration uses the information of the lines and patterns of the Dunhuang murals to simulate the creation of murals. This has been used to produce designs for the textile industry. Both institutions also agreed to work together to develop a real-time environmental monitoring system.

An agreement was signed in 2010 to establish a laboratory in Dunhuang for developing techniques to protect cultural heritage, to develop a system for the automatic capture of and joining of Dunhuang murals, and to reach targets in nurturing talent. This last scheme enables four DHA staff to study for their Masters in Engineering at ZJU, and 15 ZJU students to do postgraduate study.


  • Lu, Dongming, Pan Yunhe 2011. Digital Preservation for Heritages: Technologies and Applications. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag: 192.
  • Shi Xifan. et al. 2006. ‘Color Changing and Fading Simulation for Frescoes Based on Empirical Knowledge from Artists.’ In Zhuang Y. et al (eds.). Advances in Multimedia Information Processing PCM: 7th Pacific Rim Conference on Multimedia, Hangzhou, China: 861-869. Heidelberg: Sprinter Verlag.

Recent Publications

Book cover for Abenteuer Seidenstrasse.

Abenteuer Seidenstrasse: Die Berliner Turfan-Expeditionen 1902–1914

Caren Dreyer
Leipzig: E. A. Seemann 2015
PB 272 pp., 59 colour and 267 B&W ills. €34.95
ISBN: 9783865023667

Cave Temples of Mogao at Dunhuang: Art and History of the Silk Road

Roderick Whitfield et al.
Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation
Institute 2015 (rev. ed.)
PB. 158 pp. 155 colour and 25 B&W ill., map, US$29.95
ISBN: 9781606064450

Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia

Christopher I. Beckwith
Princeton: Princeton University Press 2015
HB, 304 pp., US$29.95, GB£19.95
ISBN: 9780691166445

佛教古寫經 : 李嘉誠基金會收藏
Buddhist Sutra Manuscripts From the Collection of Li Ka Shing Foundation

Puay-Peng Ho
Hong Kong: Li Ka Hsing Foundation 2015
ISBN: 9789881401205

Book cover for Tibetan Zen.

Tibetan Zen: Discovering a Lost Tradition

Sam van Schaik
Boston and London: Snow Lion 2015
PB, 240pp., US$21.95
ISBN: 9781559394468

Spreading Buddha’s Word in East Asia: The Formation and Transformation of the Chinese Canon

Jiang Wu and Lucille Chia, editors.
New York: Columbia University Press 2015
HB, ebook, 432 pp. 30 B&W ills. US$75, GB£52

Picturing Technology in China: From Earliest Times to the Nineteenth Century

Peter J. Golas
Hong Kong: HKU Press, 2015
HB, 252 pp., 18 colour, 92 B&W illus.HK$430, US$56
ISBN: 9789888208159

The Silk Road and Cultural Interaction between East and West

Rong Xinjiang
Beijing: Peking University Press 2015
HB, 386 pp., CNY60
ISBN: 9787301260845

Book cover for From Mulberry Leaves to Silk Scrolls.

From Mulberry Leaves to Silk Scrolls: New Approaches to the Study of Asian Manuscript Traditions

Justin Thomas McDaniel and Lynn Ransom, Editors
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2015
HB, 288 pp., 58 colour, 4 B&W, US$49.95, GBP35.00
ISBN: 9780812247367

丝路之绸: 起源,傳播與交流

Silks from the Silk Road: Origin, Transmission and Exchange

Zhao Feng
Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press 2015.
PB, 220 pp. colour and B&W illus. RMB360
ISBN: 9787308150910


Eurasian Studies II

Yu Taishan and Li Jinxiu, eds.
ISSN: 22020578
[email protected]

Bulletin of the Asia Institute 25

Carol Bromberg, ed.
ISSN: 08904464
[email protected]
This issue contains articles by Professor Sims-Williams, ‘A Bactrian Document from Southern Afghanistan’, Harry Falk, ‘A Bronze Tub with Brahmi Inscription from Swat’ and others.

Book cover for the publication Cave Temples of Mogao at Dunhuang.

Exhibitions and Conferences

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road

Getty Center, Los Angeles
May – September 2016

In the Gobi desert of northwest China, some 500 decorated Buddhist cave temples with spectacular wall paintings and sculpture bear witness to the intense religious, artistic and cultural exchanges along ancient trade routes. The in situ art and the dispered objects from the Library Cave, comprise the only complete artistic environment to survive from early medieval China. In addition to objects from the site, the exhibition features three full-scale replica caves by contemporary artists at the Dunhuang Academy. It celebrates nearly thirty years of collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and the Dunhuang Academy to conserve and protect this World Heritage site. Publications wil include an updated edition of the 2000 publication, Cave Temples of Mogao at Dunhuang (details opposite) and a catalogue (details in next issue of IDP News). A symposium will be held during the exhibition, details below.

Symposium: Cave Temples of Dunhuang: History, Art, and Materiality

In honour of the life and work of Fan Jinshi at Mogao
Getty Center and UCLA
Los Angeles
19–21 May 2015

Cosmopolitan Metropolis Along the Silk Road — Luoyang During Tang Dynasty China

Museums of World Culture, Stockholm
12 September 2015 –
28 February 2016
The exhibition is produced in collaboration with the Henan Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage.

Dunhuang — The People’s Song

Shanghai Himalayas Museum
29 November 2015 – 20 March 2016
This exhibition will show replicas of eight of the Dunhuang caves, twelve copies of painted sculptures, sixty reproductions of wall paintings (by Chang Shuhong, Duan Wenjie, Chang Shana and other masters), twenty-five replicas of the Library Cave’s silk and paper paintings and twenty historic artefacts (ten ornamental floor tiles and ten scrolls from the Library Cave).
Among the eight replica caves, of the originals all — except for the Mogao Cave 17 (Library Cave) — are closed for preservation reasons, so this Shanghai exhibition will be the opportunity for the public to admire them. Cave 275 is the earliest.
This exhibition at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum departs from the past: for the first time, it will establish a dialogue between classical Dunhuang art and contemporary art. Through pieces such as Nam June Paik’s ‘Blue Buddha’ and Qui Zhijie’s ‘Some people always tend to believe’, the exhibition will take the public through a visual experience of the Dunhuang caves upon which they will re-examine contemporary art creations on Buddhism and/or religion. The exhibition will be accompanied bu a series of lectures by Fan Jinshi, Wang Xudong and other Dunhuang experts.

Tang — Art from the Silk Road Capital

Art Gallery NSW, Sydney
9 April – 10 July 2016
Never before seen in Australia, this exhibition showcases some 130 spectacular objects from the Chinese province of Shaanxi, which demonstrate the high artistic achievements of the Tang dynasty (618–907). It also includes an immersive digital presentation using virtual-reality technology.

59th Annual Meeting of the PIAC

Ardaham, Turkey
26 June – 1 July 2016
The general theme of the 59th meeting will be Statehood in the Altaic World. Those wishing to attend should inform the Secretary-General on by 15 December 2015 on [email protected].

The Written Legacy of Dunhuang

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, St Petersburg
1–3 September 2016
In 2016 we celebrate the 90th anniversaries of the birth of two outstanding scholars who made an important contribution to the study of the written legacy of Dunhuang: Lev Nikolayevich Menshchikov (1926–2005) and Leonid Ioakimovich Chuguevsky (1926–2000). To commemorate this a Jubilee Scholarly Conference will be held in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, RAS Saint Petersburg.
The conference will focus on those fields of Dunhuang Studies, whose progress was greatly influenced by the research activities of Lev Menshikov and Leonid Chuguevsky, namely: the study of literary monuments and social documents from Dunhuang.
Each contribution will be limited to 15 minutes. The conference’s working languages are English, Russian and Chinese. Applications and abstracts (250 to 300 words) should be sent by 1 December 2015 to both e-mail addresses below. The application should include:
1. Paper title;
2. Name and academic title;
3. Affiliation and position;
4. Postal and e-mail addresses.
Confirmation will be sent by 15 December.
[email protected]
[email protected]

New Perspectives on Buddhist Visual and Manuscript Cultures of the Silk Road

Georgetown University
15 April 2016
Organized by Michelle C. Wang and Miki Morita this interdisciplinary forum will focus on the visual and manuscript cultures of Dunhuang and Turfan/Kucha. Stanley Abe (Duke University) will deliver the keynote lecture.
For further information, contact: Michelle Wang [email protected]

Two colleagues looking at a partially unrolled scroll.
Wang Xudong, Director of the Dunhuang Academy, with Wong Wingyui, conservator of Dunhuang scrolls at the British Library. Photographer: Gayle Whitby.

IDP Worldwide

National Library of China

NLC provided a new camera lens and other accessories in August. With this, the whole set of digitization equipment of IDP NLC studio was upgraded. We placed a new computer in the Dunhuang and Turfan Documents Reading Room to give access to the IDP database, and librarians often introduce IDP to readers there.

Up to 20 October 2015, we have digitized 3,306 Dunhuang manuscripts, and uploaded 137,106 images to the IDP database.

Ms. Emily Rodgers, student of Johns Hopkins University, USA, visited IDP NLC studio. IDP NLC staff showed her IDP studio and our work. We also showed her the conservation studio and Dunhuang manuscripts exhibition hall of NLC.

Mr. Lin Shitian, Mrs. Saren Gaowa and Mr. Liu Bo were elected to be council members of the Institute of Dunhuang and Turfan Studies of China in August 2015.

Dunhuang Academy

The Dunhuang Academy curated the exhibition, ‘Dunhuang: The People’s Song’ at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum. They are also currently working on the exhibition to be held at the Getty Center in 2016.

Two groups visited IDP UK from the DHA, the first consisting of Sun Zhijun, Fan Xuesong and Yang Jing who visited for a week in August. In late September/early October, Director Wang Xudong and Wang Huimin of the Archaeology Department, visited to hold talks with IDP and to attend a workshop on Open Data at Oxford University.

2016 will mark the tenth anniversary of the Dunhuang Academy becoming an IDP Partner and we discussed planning events in Dunhuang and London to celebrate this. These included a conservation workshop in Dunhuang, to be attended by Wong Wingyui (pictured above with Director Wang).

IDP France

Romain Lefèvre, Research Associate, completed his description of the BnF’s Tangut fragments. Over the summer he organised several conferences.

Mr Lefèvre and Mrs Cuisance, Conservator at the BnF, studied the fragments together, and their work revealed a number of additional characters, which is quite promising.

The Tangut texts are now available on the BnF online catalogue of archives and manuscripts (

The BnF and the Musée Guimet will both be loaning objects to the forthcoming Dunhuang exhibition at the Getty Research Institute.

IDP Germany

Yukiyo Kasai and Simone Rachmann presented papers on the Old Uygur manuscripts at an international conference in St Petersburg. The conference, entitled ‘Languages and Literatures of the Turkic Peoples’ was held from 26-28 October 2015. The organizers expressed their firm intention that this would be the first of a series of conferences of this type bringing researchers in the field from Russia and worldwide to St. Petersburg, a former centre in the field of Turkish studies. The 2015 conference was dedicated to the 180th anniversary of the Department of Turkic Philology at the St. Petersburg State University.

During the first day 71 papers were given in three concurrent sessions. Among them was the presentation of a new online database of Turkic Runiform inscriptions (László Károly), further papers concerning the Runiform inscriptions (Irina Nevskaya, Li Yong-Song), the Old Uyghur Turfan manuscripts (Yukiyo Kasai, Simone-Christiane Raschmann, Dai Matsui), and problems of the Old Turkic language (Nikolay N. Telitsin).

The second day was run under the framework of the 30th Kononov Memorial Lecture with 13 papers. Presenters included Peter Zieme, Hiroshi Umemura and Mehmet Ölmez concerning the lexical situation of Old Turkic, some aspects of an Uygur family from the Turfan area around the 13th century and further notes on the Old Uygur Sutra of Complete Enlightnment and an unknown commentary.

The exhibition ‘Literature and Culture of Turkey’ was opened on the second day in the new building of the National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg) in the presence of the conference participants and the Library’s president, and Professor Nikolay N. Telitsin, Head of the Department of Turkic Philology (Saint-Petersburg State University, Faculty of Asian and African Studies).

Posed photograph of colleagues displaying the signed Memorandum of friendship and cooperation.
The signing ceremony between Lushun Museum, China and Ryukoku University.

IDP Japan

A memorandum of friendship and cooperation between Lushun Museum in China and Ryukoku University was signed on 27 October 2014, on the centenary of the Otani Third Expedition’s return to Japan.

Director Wang Zhenfen of the Lushun Museum and Irisawa Takashi of the Research Society for Central Asian Cultures signed a cooperation note in Japanese and Chinese.

Dr. Peter Zieme (former director of Turfanforschung in Germany) together with Lushun Museum curators and research staff from Ryukoku University participated in this signing ceremony.

On the following day, an international conference was held entitled ‘International Exchange and Cooperation for Research on Collected Materials from Central Asia.’

IDP Russia

In 2016 the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts celebrates the 90th anniversaries of the birth of two outstanding scholars who made an important contribution to the study of the written legacy of Dunhuang: Lev Nikolayevich Menshchikov (1926–2005) and Leonid Ioakimovich Chuguevsky (1926–2000). To commemorate this occasion a Jubilee Scholarly Conference will be held in the Institute.

2018 will be the 200-year anniversary of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts and an international conference is planned. As part of the anniversary celebrations a guide to the manuscripts will be published. Details will be given in future issues of IDP News.

IDP Sweden

Headshot of Eva Myrdal with a microphone.
Eva Myrdal opening the conference in Stockholm.

A one-day conference entitled ‘Asia and Scandinavia: New Perspectives on the Early Medieval Silk Road’ was held on 11 September to coincide with the opening of the Luoyang exhibition. The conference was organised by the National Museums of World Culture in cooperation with the National Historical Museums (SHMM) in Sweden and with the support of The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences.

To set the scene the convener, Eva Myrdal from the National Museum of World Cultures (pictured left), opened the day with a introduction to the early medieval Silk Roads, Susan Whitfield looked at the concept of the Silk Road and the role of trade, and Charlotte Hedenstierna Jonsson discussed the archaeological evidence for contacts between Scandanavia and Asia during the Viking Age.

Thereafter papers followed on specific sites or objects/material and on the broader topics of trade, exchanges and dissemination along the Silk Road. The former included Guo Wu on amber found in China, Janken Myrdal on the plunge urn across Eurasia, Tong Tao on silks from a site in Western Tibet, Annika Larsson on Asian textile finds from eastern Sweden, and Cecilia von Heine on Islamic coins found in Sweden. Other presentations were by Jiang Bo on maritime archaeology in China, Eva Andersson Strand on textile use, trade and exchange, Li Jinxiu on a chieftan from the An State in Tang times and Karl-Johan Lindholm on trade in inland Scandanavia in the first millennium.

The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul launched a Facebook page for updates about their work on digitization of materials from the Gunnar Jarring Central Eurasia Collection at the Institute. Most of the ‘Kashgar Prints’ are now available on the homepage and we are in the process of uploading travel literature with documentation and additional information.

Experts in the field are invited to make their own contributions to this database by commenting on what is presented on the site or making suggestions as to future selections of materials for digitization (the complete list of travel literature in the collection can also be found on the homepage).


Nicholas Sims-Williams, wearing gloves, looking at a bowl.
Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams examining a Sogdian inscription in Korla with Professor Rong Xinjiang and Bi Bo.


We are delighted to welcome Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams as an IDP Patron. Professor Sims-Williams spent his career at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He is a leading scholar of Iranian languages, concentrating on the Middle Iranian languages represented in the manuscripts from Central Asia, in particular Sogdian and Bactrian. He is also Chairman of the Corpus Inscriptonum Iranicarum.

IDP welcomed two new members of staff. Vania Assis joined IDP as a conservator working primarily on the unconserved Tangut material from Karakhoto in preparation for digitization as part of the Ningxia collaboration. She will also train with the conservator Wong Wingyui, an experienced conservator who has worked on the Chinese scrolls from Dunhuang for two decades. Before that he worked on Dunhuang paintings at the British Museum.

Mélodie Doumy becomes IDP Curator and Researcher, helping with all the IDP curatorial activities and with international partnerships.

We again welcomed interns from University College London as part of their MA courses. Qiongpei Kong and Catherine Xinxin Yu joined us in May and Ye Shen and Hongxin Zhu in June.

Conferences and Papers

Susan Whitfield gave presentations at the conferences in Stockholm and Hangzhou, and IDP became a founding member of the Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles. While in Hangzhou she gave a talk introducing IDP to students and faculty at Zhejiang University and discussed potential collaboration.

Dunhuang was the subject of a workshop held in Oxford on Open Data. One session took Dunhuang as a case study for opening, linking and sharing data, and Susan Whitfield gave papers along with Wang Xudong, Director, Dunhuang Academy, Linda Tadic, CEO of Digital Bedrock, Heather Viles, University of Oxford and Tim Williams, UCL. They discussed work to bring digital images of the murals together online with the manuscripts, paintings, and other artefacts.


During his visit to the UK, IDP hosted Wang Xudong, Director of the Dunhuang Academy and his colleague, Wang Huimin, in London. We held discussions regarding future collaboration and planned events in autumn 2016 in Dunhuang and London to celebrate ten years of working together under an MoU concerning IDP.

A small reception was held in honour of Wang Xudong’s visit, giving the conservators of the British Library an opportunity to showcase their work. We were pleased also to welcome Mr Wang Yin and colleagues from the Dunhuang Culture Promotion Foundation to the reception. The Foundation is supporting an exchange visit of four Buddhist scholars from Dunhuang and Tiantai Monastery to the British Library later this year. Mr Chris Hudak, Director of the Dunhuang Foundation US, was also present.

Lecture and Reception

Professor Craig Clunas of Oxford University gave a fascinating lecture on November 6, held by IDP in partnership with Freud Museum London. The lecture, ‘Aurel Stein, Sigmund Freud and The Other’ was followed by a reception.

Colleagues looking at images laid out on a desk.
Mélodie Doumy and Vania Assis, new members of IDP UK staff, at the conservation open day and reception, October 2015.


IDP completed digitization of over 3000 Tangut fragments from Karakhoto as part of the joint project with Ningxia Archives. Funding is assured to enable the conservation and digitization of a further 1000 fragments from this collection. Ningxia and IDP are now working together over the next few months to seek further funds to enable completion of all the material in the Stein collection. There are thousands of as yet unconserved and unnumbered fragments. If you would like to support the conservation or digitization of this unique material please contact IDP.

The Tibetan material from Karakhoto in the Stein Collection is currently being conserved and digitized with the support of Professor Takeuchi of Kobe University. The complete catalogue of this material, with images, will be published in early 2016 by Professor Takeuchi.

A desk table in the outdoors, with a dog lying down under the chair.
Stein’s writing table on Mohand Marg, with Dash. Courtesy of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Stein Photo 3/3(37).

Tour: Following Stein’s footsteps in Kashmir

Indus Experiences UK is offering a special tour to Kashmir from 10-21 August 2016 following in Aurel Stein’s footsteps. The tour, which will be limited to a small group, will include time in Srinigar visiting some of the Stein’s old haunts. This will be followed by a few days trekking to Mohand Marg and camping at this alpine meadow beloved by Stein. The tour will follow the route travelled by Stein when he left Kashmir via Bandipora for his Central Asian expeditions, stopping en route at the ruins of a monastery at Huskara where the 7th-century pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, stayed on his own travels. As well as a knowledgable tour leader, specialists will give lectures on Stein and Kashmir in both Delhi and in Srinigar.

Indus Experiences tour website
Phone: +44 208 901 7320
email: [email protected]

Download this newsletter as a PDF

This digital version of IDP News is based on the print version of the newsletter and some links and content may be out of date.

This issue, No. 46, was published 2015.
Editor: Susan Whitfield
Picture Editor: Josef Konczak

ISSN 1354-5914

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