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IDP-CREA Cultural Routes of Eurasia

IDP-CREA is a collaboration between six IDP partners in Europe (from the UK, Hungary, France and Germany) and three associate partners from China with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union. It will significantly expand IDP’s resources to include a French interface, more images and data, educational web pages and Google Earth layers illustrating the remarkable tales of the European explorers, archaeologists and scholars who travelled to Chinese Central Asia in the early years of the twentieth century. These will highlight a Eurasian culture that has existed for centuries — and which continues to this day.

Wall painting with two human forms, one pale and one dark, both with haloes and headdresses.
Wall painting from Kizil.
Museum for Asian Art, Berlin, MIK 8420

Through IDP-CREA, IDP plans to add significant European value to its activities and specifically to promote European awareness of its Eurasian heritage. The expanded partnership of European cultural institutions — to include the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), and the Musée Guimet in Paris and the Museum for Asian Art in Berlin (see IDP-CREA Partners and Activities) — will result in a French interface hosted by the BnF. When this goes live in early 2009 it will contain catalogues and images for all the Pelliot manuscripts from Dunhuang in the BnF, all the Pelliot Dunhuang paintings in the Musée Guimet and a selection of artefacts and historic photogaphs. This will mean that the IDP database will contain information on over 90% of the manuscripts and paintings from Dunhuang, and images of over 70%.

The expanded partnership will also enable collaborative research, resource-collecting and dissemination activities which will be used to bring alive the stories of European explorers and to make them accessible to a European audience through publications, lectures and educational events.

IDP-CREA also aims to strengthen links between European partners and their Chinese counterparts through collaborative activities which include a major exhibition with the National Library of China (see Western Eyes: An Exhibition of Historical Photographs of China taken by European Photographers), two educational workshops with the Dunhuang Academy, a research visit to the Turfan Academy to discuss collaboration, and a field trip with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology to take documentary photographs of the sites of the southern Silk Road.

European Commission Education and Culture DG logo.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

A central part of IDP-CREA will be the preparation of object biographies, telling the stories of artefacts such as this wall painting from Kizil (right). With an option to download Google Earth layers, the biography will trace the routes of the pigments, such as as lazurite and malachite, used by the artists; it will describe the object and then follow its journey — by camel, train and, sometimes boat — to a European museum; and will continue with the story of the object’s conservation and collection history, giving objects a context for European schoolchildren and others.

Further details and up-to-date reports on all IDP-CREA activities may be found on the IDP-CREA website.

IDP-CREA Partners and Activities

The IDP-CREA grant has enabled new partners to join fully in IDP activities. In Germany, the Museum for Asian Art will join the Turfanforschung in adding its knowledge and collections to IDP; the Bibliothèque nationale in France will host a French IDP website; and the Musée Guimet will also add content, paintings, artefacts and historical photographs. Brief introductions to these new members are given below, followed by a summary of activities to date.

Museum of Asian Art, Berlin

Grand nineteenth-century building on a street corner, historic sepia photograph.
Museum für Völkerkunde, Koeniggraetzerstrasse (later renamed Stresemannstrasse), 1905. Courtesy of SMB-PK, Museum of Ethnology, Berlin.

The Museum of Asian Art is part of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin and situated in Berlin-Dahlem, next to the Ethnology Museum (formely Museum für Volkerkunde).. 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, Southeast 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 a century scholars worldwide have exploited the Museum’s reserve collection for research in the art and history of Buddhism, Nestorianism, Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism.

Turfan research has long been characterized by close co-operation between European and Asian scholars. Mutual assistance on travels to the distant heart of Asia and an open exchange of information and research results is 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 and Humanities.

The Museum of Asian Art has already begun to digitise photographs of its objects for online access on IDP and is also working on the historical expedition photographs. These consist of 3000 images, hundreds of which depict archaeological sites and places which have changed or disappeared during the last century. They are an invaluable research resource.

The National Library of France (BnF)

The origins of the BnF can be traced back to the Louvre Library established by Charles V in 1368. The manuscript collections reconstituted by Charles VIII and Louis XII and, in particular, the collections confiscated during the Italian wars, were considerably augmented as a result of François I (1515-1547), who instituted the first legal repository for printed books. In this period the King’s Library included oriental manuscripts. Louis XIV and his Minister, Colbert, greatly enriched these collections by acquiring scholars’ own libraries and sending expeditions to the countries of the east: the Turkish empire, Persia and, from the eighteenth century, India and China. 

The BnF moved to a new building on the Richelieu site in 1868. After the opening of the François-Mitterand building in 1996, the manuscripts remained at the Richelieu site. They will be accessible throughout the current period of renovation, due for completion in 2010.

The catalogue of the oriental manuscripts (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, the Pelliot Collection etc.) is already available online on the BnF site. The digitised manuscripts are accessible in the Gallica system and the illuminated manuscripts in the Mandragore system. The complete catalogue of the BnF archives and manuscripts will be available in 2012.

The Guimet Museum

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 1930s, 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. From then until 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 (d. 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. 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, the 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. In 2008, Jacques Giès became President while also remaining Chief Curator of the Central Asia Department. 

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 The Guimet Museum website.

Pelliot Collections

Book cover for Pelliot's Carnets de route.

From 1906 to 1908 the French sinologist Paul Pelliot conducted an important archaeological expedition 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.

The resulting Pelliot collection comprises manuscripts in several ancient languages, today held at the BnF, 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.

Pelliot’s diaries of his expedition were published in 2008 under the direction of Jérome Ghesquière of the Guimet Museum and will be followed in 2009 by a publication on Paul Pelliot, his life and photography: Mission archéologique en Asie centrale, la mission Paul Pelliot, photographies et itinéraire 1906 – 1909.

Hardback, 480 pp. 7 plates, 59 
ISBN: 978-2-84654-185-5 
email: [email protected]

IDP-CREA Activities

Colleagues in discussion, sitting around a table.
Kinga Dévényi, Ágnes Kelecsényi and Klara Lang of LHAS in discussion during the Budapest workshop with Abby Baker, Imre Galambos and Susan Whitfield of IDP concerning digitisation of the photographs.

The Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (LHAS) in Budapest hosted a workshop on 12 –13 June 2008 for the partner institutions involved in IDP-CREA. Staff from all the participating European institutions attended to discuss the schedule and work programmes of IDP-CREA over the coming year. Workshop topics included detailed plans for the launch of the French IDP website, targets for training and collaboration between different national institutions, discussion concerning material for photography and digitisation, procedure for dissemination of publicity material throughout Europe, plans for educational activities, debate about the choices of artefact for object biographies, and research, liaison and events with the three Chinese associate partner institutions. IDP also discussed the programme of digitisation of the Stein photographs in the LHAS for IDP-CREA.

On 25 June 2008, four members from IDP-UK went to Paris for a visit hosted by the Musée Guimet to discuss IDP-CREA collaboration. Technical, legal and curatorial staff from the Musée Guimet and the Bibliothèque nationale de France convened to discuss the legal framework for the collaboration, the timetable, what to include and the technical issues. The object biographies were also discussed.

It was agreed that due to the forthcoming summer break in Paris and the amount of data to be incorporated into IDP, to schedule the launch of the test French IDP website for the end of 2008, with a full launch in spring 2009.

On 10-11 July, 2008, three members of IDP-UK went to Berlin for a visit to the German IDP-CREA participants, visiting both the Turfanforschung and the Museum for Asian Art. As with the Paris visit, technical, legal and curatorial staff from both institutions convened to discuss the legal framework for their collaboration, the timetable, what to include and the technical issues, as well as object biographies. Simone Raschmann of Turfanforschung showed work on her object biography, which will act as the template for others. It concerns a Turkic copy of the Sutra of Golden Light and its transmission.

Thanks to everyone in Budapest, Paris and Berlin for their organisation and hospitality.

Visit the IDP-CREA website for more information.

Western Eyes: An Exhibition of Historical Photographs of China taken by European Photographers, 1860-1930

John Falconer

Men in padded jackets sitting around a table, outside a thick city wall's checkpoint gate. Historical sepia photograph.
Donald Mennie, ‘The hour of rest, Peking’, c. 1910-20 courtesy of the British Library.

The photographs in this exhibition present a cumulative impression of China, through the prism of landscapes, architecture, people and historical events, photographed by and for westerners over three-quarters of a century, from the closing phases of the Second Opium or Arrow War in 1860, through to the work of amateur photographers in the 1930s. The motivations behind the production of these images were as varied as their content. The unique historical importance of Felice Beato’s photographic documentation of the Anglo-French Expeditionary Force which occupied Peking in 1860, was inspired both by commercial opportunism and a personal obsession with documenting scenes of conflict. While the photographers who followed in his wake were primarily inspired by the prospect of commercial gain, the best of the work produced in succeeding decades forms a compelling witness to the European fascination with Chinese life and culture. The more informal work of amateur photographers in the twentieth century perhaps lacks something of the technical and compositional skill of the professional photographers of earlier decades, but whether taken for private amusement, as an archaeologist’s visual notebook, or a reminder of places visited in the course of business, these varied viewpoints in total present a vivid expression of the inexhaustible variety and interest of China to European eyes.

Photography became practically available to the public with the announcement of the details of Louis Daguerre’s daguerreotype process in 1839, and with the almost simultaneous publication of the Englishman’s William Henry Fox Talbot’s photogenic drawing process in the same year. Photography was swiftly seen as an ideal vehicle for recording the customs, cultures and landscapes of distant countries. The technical limitations of the new medium, however, which required bulky equipment, complicated chemical procedures and long exposure times, in practice restricted its extensive use in areas remote from Europe. In Hong Kong, with its growing foreign commercial community, attempts were made to establish photographic studios from the mid-1840s, but such initiatives were sporadic and the lack of any substantial customer base at this period ensured that none of these firms survived for any length of time. And while there is evidence of photographers, amateur and commercial, attempting to break into the China market in the late 1850s, very little photography survives from the period before the Anglo-French invasion of 1860.

A man in Chinese official's robes with shaven head and beard, seated in a space with ornately carved wooden screens.
John Thomson, ‘Jui-lin, Governor-General of the two Kwang provinces, 1870–2’ courtesy of the British Library.

The commercial photographer Felice Beato arrived with the foreign army which occupied Peking in late 1860. The record he created, both of the course of the military campaign itself and of the architectural sights of Peking and Canton, represents the first large-scale photographic documentation undertaken in mainland China. The arrival of Beato also marks the point at which photography began to establish itself as a permanent presence in China. The increasing number of treaty ports opened to foreign trade at the conclusion of the Arrow War and the consequent rise in foreign merchants and residents, began to create a growing demand from these newcomers for photographic mementoes and souvenirs of China. In an age when photographic technology was complicated and uncertain for all but the most dedicated amateurs, it was the professional photographer who satisfied this demand, and from the early 1860s onwards, a steady growth can be seen in the number of commercial firms operating in the treaty ports, particularly in the more important trading centres of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Canton. The work of these firms, whose legacy survives in albums brought home as souvenirs by European traders, missionaries, military men and administrators, supplies a unique historical record of the people, places and events of nineteenth-century China, captured with an accuracy and evocative power unparalleled in any other medium.

It should also be noted, that although many of the most celebrated names associated with the development of photography in China from the 1860s onwards were westerners, Chinese photographers also made a significant contribution. Their subject matter was also largely directed towards satisfying European demands for views of characteristic scenes and types, and a number of these Chinese photographers created bodies of work of major documentary and artistic importance. A selection of the work of the most prolific and successful of these, the studio of Lai Afong, is also shown here alongside that of his European contemporaries. In the course of a career spanning the whole of the second half of the nineteenth century, Lai Afong created a unique record of Chinese life, whose artistry and taste won warm praise from John Thomson, the most famous of the European photographers attracted to China in the nineteenth century.

While the intrepid John Thomson is justly famous for his extensive travels through the Chinese Empire in the early 1870s, the subject matter of many of these early photographers was geographically limited to the areas surrounding the major treaty ports, both by the technical demands of transporting and using photographic equipment in the field, and by restrictions on travel outside areas designated for foreign access. By the early twentieth century, however, advances in technology had led to the manufacture of more simplified and portable equipment and as Europeans penetrated deeper into the lesser-known areas of China, they were increasingly accompanied by the camera. From this time on, therefore, the range of subjects and geographical variety was hugely increased by the images captured by amateur photographers, whether private travellers like the Marquess of Zetland, explorer-archaeologists such as Sir Aurel Stein, or British administrators like Sir George Scott.

From the static witness of the invasion of 1860, to the immediacy of the anonymous snapshots recording the birth of the Chinese Republic in the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, the camera has reflected and preserved a period of momentous political, economic and cultural change in China. The photographic record seen through the pictures in the present exhibition, starts with a period which saw the sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking (some of whose buildings survive only in the photographic documentation made by Beato before their demolition) and returns to Peking once more at its conclusion in Donald Mennie’s romantic and nostalgically-rendered documentation of a city and a way of life once more seen in the throes of change and development in the 1920s.

Interior shot of a space with items in display cases and framed on the walls.
The new National Library building in Beijing.

This exhibition, a collaboration between the British Library and the National Library of China, opened on 25th September in the new National Library building in Beijing. We should like to thank the curator, John Falconer, and all the staff at the NLC and BL who contributed to its success.

The British Library; The Royal Asiatic Society; John Swire & Sons Ltd.; Howard and Jane Ricketts; John and Judith Hillelson; London Missionary Society/Council for World Missions Archive; Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes; OMF International; United Reformed Church, SOAS (London); Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The Culture Programme of the European Union 
The British Council Connections Through Culture 
Lü Song Yuan Hotel, Silk Road Hotel Management Company.

We should also like to thank Robert Bickers of ‘The Historical Photographs of Old China’ project, based at the University of Bristol (

Book cover of the exhibition catalogue for the Western Eyes exhibition.

The catalogue (left) contains reproductions and captions for all five hundred photographs on display as well as an introductory essay by the curator, John Falconer. Published by the National Library of China in two volumes, it is available in hardback and paperback. Contact IDP for ordering details.

The Conservation of an Eighteenth-century Chinese Tao

Ruth Stevens

Rectangular box designed to cover a book, with a woven pattern, and a geometric design cut out of the front cover flap.
Chinese tao showing the outer lid open revealing the inner lid with the interlocking arrangement before repair.

Tao 套 ‬were first developed in the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) in China to house the thread bindings of the period1. A tao is made from a paper laminate board covered in paper or fabric which literally wraps around book volumes to protect them from abrasion, attack by pests, handling and storage. They are simple, cheap to produce, quickly made and very easy to replace. Two main styles of tao are used, the enclosed six-sided and the open ended four-sided tao2. Elaborately decorated tao have been produced to enclose high quality books and were not considered disposable. They were usually based on the enclosed design and included patterns cut from the inner lid and flaps to create an interlocking inner lid. One such tao (ADD.22689/2) is held in the British Library and is said to date from the eighteenth century although its provenance is not certain.

This tao is covered in patterned yellow silk with a grey dragon and multicoloured cloud motif. The base and internal sides of it are lined with cotton. The outer lid has a silk gauze and pink paper strip forming the colophon, which bears a gold inscription3. The outer lid opens to reveal an interlocking pattern formed from the inner lid and two flaps. The inner lid has had a geometric pattern cut away, which has then been attached to the flaps so that the patterns meet and join together when closed.

Rectangular book cover closed, highlighting the pattern of the silk cover and the geometric shape on the lid.
Chinese tao after repair and realignment, closed to show how the geometric cut out on the outer lid interlocks with the inner lid.

On close inspection it is apparent that the tao has been repaired, but no records exist to determine the type of repair or date. It appears that the original silk damask has been used to repair some hinges and some of this fabric has been moved, indicated by a change in the pattern direction. The most crucial repair is the pink cotton lining covering the entire inner surface of the tao, which, as a result of this intervention, has set the hinges too far apart and the tao no longer fits the book perfectly. Stresses produced by the badly fitting tao could have contributed to the later breakdown of the hinges post-repair.

The tao no longer fits the original book and is stored separately. The priority for its conservation therefore, is to consolidate and strengthen the structure so that it can be opened without incurring further damage to the vulnerable interlocking pattern.

The Boards

The board is made of laminated paper registering a slightly acidic reading of pH 4-5. The corners and edges are soft and weak due to abrasion and there are water damaged areas of the tao where the board is also soft. Insects have attacked the board leaving large holes and areas that have been eaten away.

Consolidating the boards became the first priority. Paste was made as dry as possible and spread into the delaminating layers of the board using spatulas and brushes. These areas were then weighted overnight until dry. Care was taken to protect the outer silk layer from moisture by using a barrier film (Bondina) between the outer surface of the board and the inner surface of the silk which was left in position until the board was dry.

Where the board had been eaten away, card was made to fill and strengthen these areas. A laminate of kozo paper was made to the desired depth, cut to fit the hole and then covered with toned Usumino paper for a smooth finish. The same technique was used to build up a damaged corner. No attempt was made to hide the repairs, merely to create a harmonious visual appearance.


The hinges consist of multiple layers of silk and cotton which provide flexibility and strength. These have been repaired, adding more layers to the original. Most of the hinges are broken along the outer brocade covering exposing the board and original hinge supports. The paper-lined yellow silk hinge pieces were used originally to set the hinge distances, and many had also split.

The broken and damaged hinges considerably affect the opening action of the tao. The internal cotton lining supports the hinges, but as this is the only substantial support, the opening action is consequently very loose. This looseness adds to the difficulty in meshing the patterns on the lid and flaps together, which then causes stresses upon opening and closing and will contribute to the eventual breakdown of the interlocking structure.

A strong cotton strip was chosen to support the hinging action of the boards, placed beneath the covering and original silk hinge supports directly onto the boards themselves. The material was tinted to resemble the original hinges using water-based cationic Cartasol® dyes. The cotton was then lined with lightweight Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, and secured to the boards by ‘reversible’ adhesive ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA).

Although most of the hinges were placed below the originals, some of them were placed over the second layer of silk due to restricted access. In these cases I decided to use wheat starch paste instead of EVA. Although EVA is stronger and provides a better surface bond to board, the wheat starch paste is more traditionally used with silks and is of sufficient strength to bond well between silk and paper. The moisture content was reduced as much as possible as silk is weakened by exposure to water.

Pattern Pieces

Both the raised and negative patterns of the interlocking panels show signs of insect infestation — boreholes typical of anobiids, and grazing of silverfish. More importantly however, some of the positive pattern pieces are slightly loose, and will continue to worsen with handling.

Mount board models were made to mimic the movement of the pieces and different methods were tried to stabilise them. The most successful option involved the removal of a layer of weakened board replacing it with a new laminate board made from layers of kozo paper and wheat starch paste.

Fortunately, the lining was easily taken up without the use of moisture using a thin spatula and a gentle pulling action, and because it was already in patches it could be taken up in small pieces. The inner silk lining was not flexible enough to allow it to be lifted along with the cotton, so it was cut away from the area required for the laminated pieces, and replaced afterwards. This method worked well and the repairs remained discreet once the cotton lining was eventually replaced.

The choice of adhesive was dependent on the strength of the bond required. The new laminated board piece was bonded to the old board using ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) for a strong surface-to-surface bond, while the textile pieces and patches were re-adhered using wheat starch paste, for a slightly weaker but flexible bond. Any unevenness in the height of the board was altered using layers of usumino paper and wheat starch paste. Sand weights were used to correct the resulting shrinkage of the materials used in the new laminate and the results monitored. The final fit was good although the pulling of the corners is still apparent and will continue to be a problem with this style of interlocking.


There are three types of silk found on this tao. The silk damask4 and the silk gauze are the most vulnerable. The former is brittle and fraying at the broken edges5. No wet or dry lining of the silk was undertaken as wet lining would introduce moisture and dry lining would use adhesives that can only be removed with toxic solvents. It was decided to minimise the actual treatment to the silk despite this being the most vulnerable part of the tao.This level of access for this object is low and the silk, although damaged, is quite stable in the environmental conditions at the British Library.

The lifting silk was placed directly onto the new board and hinge areas where it was necessary for the working of the hinge, using a dry wheat starch paste as this provided the strongest and most flexible bond for these high stress areas. The exposed edges of the silk were consolidated with a 2% methyl cellulose (MC2000) and Industrial Methylated Spirit (IMS) solution to prevent further fraying and very fine Stabiltex™ threads were used to hold the longer fibres down to the main silk layer.

After treatment the tao showed considerable improvement in the fit of the interlocking lid and the movement of the hinges. The appearance of the textiles were much improved although no cleaning was attempted, just consolidation.

This is a paper given at the 7th IDP Conservation Conference.


1. Needham and Ronan 1994: 233.

2. Pan Meidi 1995.

3. ‘Zhou Qianli shu hua zhu shou ce’.

4. Gan Hanyu 1992: 19: ‘The double-layered jin … that was fashionable during the Ming and Qing dynasties, also known as gaiji, was a double-faced plain weave of the damask type.’

5. Landi 2002: 33: ‘Silk in a damask weave will vanish from the warp surface leaving the weft in long unsupported strands.’


  • Becker, M. A., ‘The Deterioration Of Silk’ in International Course On Conservation Of Japanese Paper, Tokyo: National Research Institute For Cultural Properties, 2002: 57-63.
  • Cassar, M., Environmental Management: Guidelines For Museums And Galleries, London: Routledge 1994.
  • Clarkson, C., An Introduction To The Chinese Book. Ipc Course Notes, 2001.
  • Crighton, J. S., ‘Silk: A Study Of Its Degradation And Conservation’ in Tennent, N. (ed.), Conservation Science In The UK. May 1993, Glasgow, James & James, 1993: 96-98.
  • Gao Hanyu, Chinese Textiles Designs. London: Penguin Books 1992.
  • Ikegami, K., Japanese Bookbinding. Tokyo: Weatherhill 2003.
  • Helliwell, David (trans.), ‘The Repair and Binding of Old Chinese Books.’ The East Asian Library Journal 8.1 (1998)
  • Landi, S., The Textile Conservator’s Manual. 2nd Edition. London: Butterworth/Heinemann 2002.
  • Martinique, E., Chinese Traditional Bookbinding – A Study Of Its Evolution And Techniques. Taipei, 1983.
  • Needham, J. and C.A. Ronan (eds.) The Shorter Science & Civilisation In China: Vols. 4 & 5. Cambridge University Press 1994.
  • Nordstrand, O. K., ‘Chinese Double-Leaved Books And Their Restoration.’ Libri. 17.2 (1967).
  • Pan Meidi 潘美娣, Gu ji xiu fu yu zhuang zheng 古籍修复与装幀. Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe 1995.
  • Thomson, G., The Museum Environment. 2nd Ed. London 1986.

IDP Worldwide News



Two formally dressed men, seated, signing documents.
NLC Deputy Director, Chen Li, signing the MoU with Graham Shaw of the British Library.

Following a restructuring at The National Library of China (NLC) in Beijing, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Departments, previously separate, have joined and Zhang Zhiqing has been confirmed as the Head. The new department will be co-located in both the Baishiqiao site and the original library building in the centre of Beijing next to Beihai Park. Because the manuscript move is expected to take several years, the IDP digitisation studio will remain in the southern building at Baishiqiao for the time being. The new northern building [National Digital Library of China] opened on the 9th September and hosted the exhibition of historical photographs (See Western Eyes: An Exhibition of Historical Photographs of China taken by European Photographers).

During their visit for the opening of the exhibition, a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed covering collaboration on IDP for the next five years. NLC Deputy Director, Chen Li, is pictured above signing the MoU with Graham Shaw of the British Library.


Work on the digitisation of manuscripts has been continuing. In addition. Dunhuang staff have organised an educational workshop for October 2008 for local schoolchildren with a team from IDP-UK.

IDP Russian

IDP Russia is nearing completion of the digitisation of their Chinese scrolls from Dunhuang with over 10,000 images online. It is hoped that the catalogues for this material will also be available online in 2009. The digitisation studio started work on the Tangut manuscripts as part of an Endangered Archive Project grant. This material is being made available on IDP.

The Institute of Oriental Studies and the Hermitage are organising a joint exhibition to open on 8 December, 2008 entitled, ‘Caves of a Thousand Buddhas: Russian Expeditions to Central Asia at the end of XIX – beginning of XX centuries.’ This will celebrate the 190th Anniversary of the Asiatic Museum – Institute of Oriental Manuscripts.

IDP Japan

Colleagues seated at work benches, one looking at a document and one at its digitisation on a screen.
Digitisation of new fragments taking place in the IDP studio in Japan.

IDP Japan has started to digitise and carry out scientific analysis on the newly-found 221 Tachibana fragments from the Saigonji Temple.

The ‘Annual Research Report of the Digital Archives Research Center (Ryukoku University)’ was published in January. It has been a busy year for presentations. In March, Professor Enami and Sakamoto Shouji gave papers at the British Library on papermaking and the analysis of laid-lines. They also visited the British Museum before travelling on to Hungary where they gave papers to the Hungarian Academy of Social Sciences, along with Dr Galambos.

Members of IDP Japan gave presentations at the 25th Congress of the Japan Society for Scientific Studies on Cultural Properties on paper analysis of various manuscripts. Full details are online at: and

Professor Enami and Dr Sakamoto also gave a paper and visited the research centre for Buddhist manuscripts copied in the Nara and Heian periods. This project is being carried out by Professor Ochiai Toshinori (International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies). Together with Dr Akao Eikei (Kyoto National Museum) and Dr Minoura Naomi (International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies), they are analysing manuscripts from the Amanosan Kongoji temple in Osaka. The analysis performed so far shows that paper from the Heian and Kamakura periods is mainly composed of rice. The findings will be presented at the next IDP Conference.

IDP Germany

In late August this year the German Research Foundation agreed to finance the digitisation of the last group of fragments of the Berlin Turfan collection. In the course of this last stage of the digitisation project, the Turfan research group of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in cooperation with the Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage will digitise the ca. 14,000 Sanskrit and 350 Syriac fragments of the Berlin Turfan Collection. The project will last 34 months. Thanks to the grant an additional staff of three persons will add digital images of these fragments to the IDP database along with related metadata from the administrative database of the State Library and the printed catalogue volumes compiled by the colleagues of the research project ‘Union Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts in German Collections’ of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences The Berlin State Library will be in charge of the restoration and photography of the fragments. An additional budget for this part of the work was also approved by the German Research Foundation. At the moment the project is being prepared. It will start later this year.

IDP France

Thanks to the IDP-CREA project, IDP will be launched in France in early 2009 with a site at the Bibliothèque nationale de France hosting images and catalogues of Dunhuang material from the BnF and from the collections of the Musée Guimet. IDP-UK visited Paris in June 2008 to discuss the collaboration. Since then work has started on preparing the data and images for inclusion on IDP.

The Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (LHAS)

LHAS has organized two highly successful exhibitions: the first in late 2007 in Budapest, to commemorate the centenary of the discovery of the Library Cave at Dunhuang; the second in spring 2008 in Hong Kong, within the framework of the Hungarian cultural season in China. The aim of both exhibitions was to present information concening the achievements of Stein and his Hungarian background next to his contribution to Oriental studies and especially to the scientific description of Chinese Central Asia.

The Hong Kong exhibition, Fascinated by the Orient: Life and Works of Marc Aurel Stein, was held at the University Art Museum. Both exhibitions may be viewed online.

Ford Foundation Symposium

Delegates seated around a table with snacks.
Chinese and Indian delegates at the symposium including, right, the China Project Coordinator, Gaowa, and next to her, the IDP Coordinator in China, Zhao Daying.

The third and final 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, took place on 17-19 March, 2008 at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, India. The symposium benefited from the presence and encouragement at the opening ceremony of Shri Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, who stressed the importance of understanding Central Asia for the three countries in the project.

During the symposium, papers were presented on new collection research from China, and on the history of lesser-known Central Asian collections in Russia. Indian scholars traced Indian influences in Central Asia and introduced the Stein collection at the National Museum of India (NM). A paper from Dr Haewon Kim gave an account of the history of the Central Asian collections in the National Museum of Korea, Seoul.

During discussions, all scholars present, from India and overseas, requested the NM to increase its efforts to make the Central Asian Stein collection more accessible through the publication of catalogues and surrogates such as digital images. Dr K K Chakravarty, Member Secretary of the IGNCA, identified the need to construct a multi-lingual visual database of the NM Central Asian collections. He stressed the importance of integrating the collections with each other, and also with the physical landscape and peoples of the region. He reiterated the proposal to establish a Centre for Central Asian Studies at the IGNCA and appealed to scholars for advice on resources to be purchased. He concluded by stating that India can contribute like no other country in the field of iconography. Indian texts have been lost to India, but have been translated into other languages, and Indian scholars are keen to work on these texts.

Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, Founder of the IGNCA, attended the concluding session. She emphasized that world heritage is transnational, and that the scholars and curators present share their collections. She appealed to the delegates to collaborate further in their efforts to safeguard and develop the Central Asian collections, and to share institutional knowledge.

Personal links between scholars included Professor Wang Jiqing of Lanzhou University spending a day after the conference assisting Professor S K Choudhuri of Delhi University deciphering inscriptions in Chinese from the NM collections. Professor Zhao Feng, Director of the Silk Museum, Hangzhou and Dr Wang Le, of Donghua University, Shanghai, visited Dr B K Sahay, curator of Central Asian Antiquities at the NM after the conference and viewed Dunhuang textiles. It is hoped that collaboration will continue towards publishing a catalogue of Dunhuang and Central Asian textiles in the NM collection. Dr Sahay is currently exploring the possibility of making a working visit to the Silk Museum in Hangzhou.

IDP would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ford Foundation for its support and all the regional coordinators and institutions for hosting the three symposia over the two-year project, and to all the scholars who gave papers and contributed to discussions. We plan to build on the links established between China, India and Russia and hope to organise future events to enhance further collaboration.

See IDP’s educational research pages.

Recent Publications

Book cover for Kizil on the Silk Road.

Kizil on the Silk Road: Crossroads of Commerce and Meeting of Minds
Edited by Rajeshwari Ghose

Marg, vol. 59, No. 3, March 2008 
HB, 140 pp. 96. illus. Rs.2500/US$65 
ISBN 978-81-85026-85-5

This volume bring together a collection of papers by scholars in the field, including many by Chinese scholars whose work has not previously been available in English.

Subjects and Masters: Uyghurs in the Mongol Empire
Michael C. Brose

Studies on East Asia, vol. 28 
Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University Press, 2007. 
PB 348 pp. $50.00 
ISBN: 978-0-914584-29-2

This book examines case studies of several prominent Uighur individuals and families in Mongol China, focusing particularly on their actions as members of both the political and social elite.

Traces in the Desert Journeys of Discovery across Central Asia
Christoph Baumer

I.B. Tauris, London 2008 
HB, 240 pp. 64 colour illus., 5 maps, £18.99 
ISBN 978-84511-337-7

Mysteries of the Gobi Searching for Wild Camels and Lost Cities in the Heart of Asia
John Hare

I.B. Tauris, London 2008 
HB, £17.99 
ISBN 978-1-84511-512-8

The King of the Gobi
DVD, £15

Film of John Hare’s expeditions to the Gobi to set up a wild camel nature reserve. 
Proceeds to the Wild Camel Protection Fund

Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia
Elizabeth and Nicholas Clinch

Sutton Publishing, Stroud 2008 
HB, 342 pp. 8 pages of illus. £20.00 
ISBN 978-0-7509-4782-4

Book cover of Bomb Book and Compass.

Bomb Book and Compass: Joseph Needham and the Great Secrets of China
Simon Winchester

Viking Penguin, London 2008 
PB 316 pp. illus. £12.99 
ISBN: 978-0-670-91379-4

Published in the USA as 
The Man Who Loved China 

Probably more famous in China than in his home country, Joseph Needham was responsible for changing our perceptions of China and its scientific and technological advancements. In September, IDP co-hosted a lecture by Simon Winchester in which he told the story of this remarkable figure. 

Book cover for Tajikistan and the High Pamirs.

Tajikistan and the High Pamirs: A Companion and Guide
Robert Middleton and Huw Thomas

Odyssey Books and Guides 
Hong Kong 2008 
PB, 700 pp. colour illus. 
£18.95, US$29.95 
ISBN 978-962-217-773-4 

Odyssey will be bringing out a guide to Xinjiang in early 2009. 

The Art of Central Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Edited by Anupa Pande

Aryan Books International, 
New Delhi 2008 
Rs. 3500, US$100, €60 
ISBN 978-81-7305-347-4 
[email protected] 
[email protected]

Paul Pelliot: Carnet de route 1906-1908

see Paul Pelliot Collections

Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity
Edited by V. Lo and R. Yoeli-Tlalim

Journal of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine vol. 3.2, 2007 
Edited by V. Lo and R. Yoeli-Tlalim

Most of the papers in this issue were conceived for the conference ‘Medicine on the Silk Roads, held at the British Library and Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL in 2006. 

SilkRoad Newsletter
Volume 5.2 Winter 2007
Edited by Daniel Waugh

Online at:

Articles include
From the Editor’s Desktop: ‘Beyond the Sensational: The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums’ “Origins of the Silk Road”’ 
‘The “Silk Roads” Concept Reconsidered: About Transfers: Transportation and Transcontinental Interactions in Prehistory’, Hermann Parzinger 
‘The Byzantine Element in the Turkic Gold Cup with the Tiger Handle Excavated at Boma, Xinjiang’, Lin Ying 
‘Xiongnu Elite Tomb Complexes in the Mongolian Altai’


Front cover of the journal Kristi.

Maiden Issue of an Annual Journal in memory of (the late) Dr. Priyatosh Banerjee 
Rs. 300.00 in India 
$15.00 international plus P&P 
email: [email protected]

Kashgar Project

Cover of the book Kashgar: Oasis City on China's Old Silk Road.

Kashgar: Oasis City on China’s Old Silk Road
George Mitchell, Marika Vicziany and Yan Hu Tsui
Photographs by John Gollings

Frances Lincoln, 2008 
HB, 160 pp., 200 illus. £25 
ISBN 978-0711-229-136

Four thousand kilometers from Beijing, and over one thousand five hundred kilometers from the regional capital Urumqi, Kashgar is one of the most remote cities in the world. But until the early twentieth century it was known as the ‘pivot’ of central Asia, a key cog in the ‘Great Game’, and before that one of the principal way stations on the Silk Road. Today it remains one of the most complete historical urban centres in China with its celebrated Sunday Market.

This new publication forms part of the work of an international team based at the Monash Asia Institute, Monash University in Melbourne Australia. The team works in collaboration with the Xinjiang Normal University in Urumqi, and has the support of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Foreign Relations of theXinjiang Regional Government.

The Kashgar Project at Monash University continues to grow and scholars from several disciplines have joined us — archaeology, anthropology, geography, environmental science, information technology and music. The team is developing new methodologies for research in western China. New collaborations have also been established between the Asia Institute and the Oasis Institute at Monash and the Institute of Archaeology in Urumqi.

For further details on the project contact:- [email protected]

Erik Zürcher 1928–2008

We were very sorry to hear of the death, on 7 February 2008, the start of the Chinese New Year, of Emeritus Professor Erik Zürcher.

Professor Zürcher had a long academic career which started with the publication in 1959 of his brilliant thesis The Buddhist Conquest of China, and continued to the end — The Buddhist Conquest was reprinted in 2007 and in the same year he also published a volume of translations of conversations between the Jesuit Guilio Aleni and local Chinese literati.

After his doctorate, he continued his association with Leiden University, becoming Professor of East Asian History in 1962 and continuing in the post until his retirement in 1993. He also held the post of Director of the Sinological Institute at the University from 1975 to 1990. In 1969, after several years lobbying to raise funds, he founded the Documentation Center for Contemporary China. making Leiden an important centre for the study of modern China.

During this period he published numerous works, continuing to demonstrate his interest in Buddhist and its adoption and adaption by medieval China, but also extending his research into contacts between Christianity and China up to the modern period. He also acted as co-editor of T’oung Pao from 1976 to 1992, the oldest still extant sinological journal today. He received several honours in recognition of his academic work, including membership of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (from 1975) and election to Correspondant étranger de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres (from 1985).

Zürcher took his teaching duties seriously. He prepared handbooks of his courses and, in 1978, following a request from students, he began preparing slide series for classroom use. This resulted in a Chiang Ching-Kuo funded project for visualization of Chinese history, acknowledging the importance of the text and image in the teaching of history. This concern was furthered by his initiative to establish the Hulsewé-Wazniewski Foundation ‘for the advancement of teaching and research in the archaeology, art and material culture of China at Leiden University.’ 

My own experience was of a person generous with his time and knowledge: he responded promptly, fully and positively to requests for comments on work I sent him as a young scholar thus providing me with much needed encouragement. I am sure I will not be alone in missing one of the great scholars of this era.

Susan Whitfield


Educational Workshop

Two IDP volunteers sitting together looking at a book.
Many thanks to Mindy Chen and Alexandra Chalmer who worked as volunteers at IDP over the summer.

IDP hosted the first of three planned workshops for London Key Stage 3 school children on the topic of Buddhism in May 2008 as part of a Ford Foundation funded project. Over twenty children and five teachers from three schools attended. The workshop was facilitated by three IDP staff and freelance performance poet Francesca Beard.

While the session focused generally on Buddhism, it introduced the Dunhuang cave complex as a means of illustrating the importance of the Silk Road in the transmission of the religion across the continent of Asia. Practical sessions illustrating the development of the manuscript as a means of communication, and iconography in Buddhist art, were supplemented by an informal talk from practising teenage Buddhist Chandima Ratnayake from the London Buddhist Vihara Temple, based in Chiswick, west London. The workshop was very well received, and feedback from both teachers and pupils highlighted particular areas which could be built upon for future events.

Composite of pictures drawn by children inspired by Buddhist art at Dunhuang.

The workshop generated a number of printed and presentation resources, as well as ideas for craft based activities which could be re-created as hand-outs or put online for download as classroom resources. Students drew images of the Buddha as part of the session on Buddhist art (selection shown right). These have been scanned and will be incorporated on to the IDP education pages as an online ‘Thousand Buddha’ image wall, to which other children will be able to contribute.

The second workshop will be held in Dunhuang in early October 2008.

IDP Supporters — Helping Us Achieve IDP’s Goals

All the Dunhuang Chinese manuscripts digitised, catalogued and online

Ten years ago this goal seemed like little more than a dream, now it is well within reach. With secure funding, IDP could complete this within five years. The Chinese manuscripts from Dunhuang could all be online and accessible worldwide by the start of 2014.

The success of IDP and its efficiency and cost-effectiveness is attested to by the willingness of funders, such as Leverhulme, to provide continued funding. But Foundation funding is, by its nature, short-term. IDP has been externally funded since 1994 and has been successful in raising grants from many major foundations and sponsors. We are now running out of options.

Many of you have helped us get this far with your generous support. We now desperately need your continued support for this next push. With news of the successful application for a two year renewal to the Leverhulme grant, IDP UK has just managed to reach its target of raising funds to retain all its staff for the current financial year. It has also recently received exciting news of a very generous three-year grant, details of which will be given in the next issue. This will cover almost half the funding required for all IDP’s activities. Other smaller grants will cover some web, digitisation and educational work in 2009-10. But we now need to start immediately on making up the full funding for the coming years so we can concentrate on our core work. We only need £200K per year.

Many of you have already joined our Supporters’ Scheme. If just forty more of you sign up to become Jade Supporters pledging £5000 per year for at least five years then this will make up the full funding required. Or we only need 400 Lapis Supporters pledging £500 per year or 4000 Amber Supporters at £50 per year. All your donations count and go directly to our work.

We shall invite all Supporters to join us in annual countdowns to the completion date, with a guest speaker, presentations of progress from IDP, drink and food and a chance to meet other Supporters and IDP staff.

In the fifth year we shall hold a major event and worldwide press launch and invite all of our Supporters to join us to celebrate this landmark achievement.

Become part of this now. Details of our Supporters’ scheme can be found online or if you wish to become a Jade or Lapis Supporter please contact IDP directly.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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. 31, was published Spring-Summer 2008.
Editor: Susan Whitfield
Designer: Vic Swift
Picture Editor: Rachel Roberts

ISSN 1354-5914

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