Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 2

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Treasures Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission.

The second text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (July-August 2014) contains sections 7-12 and the first half of section 13 of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the second text panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

7. No obtaining, no expounding

“Subhūti, what do you think? Has the Tathāgata obtained Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi? Is there any dharma the Tathāgata has spoken?” Subhūti replied, “Thus do I explain the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings: there is no fixed dharma of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, nor is there a fixed dharma the Tathāgata can speak. Why? The Tathāgata’s exposition of the Dharma can never be grasped or spoken, being neither dharma nor non-dharma. What is it, then? All the noble ones are distinguished by the unconditioned Dharma.”

8. Emerging from the Dharma

“Subhūti, what do you think? If someone filled the three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels in the practice of giving, would such a person obtain many merits?” Subhūti replied, “Very many, Bhagavān! Why? Such merits do not have the nature of merits, and for this reason the Tathāgata speaks of many merits.” “If a person accepts and maintains even as little as a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, speaking it to others, then his or her merits will be even greater. Why? Subhūti, this is because all buddhas, as well as the dharmas of the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the buddhas, emerge from this sūtra. Subhūti, what is called the Buddha Dharma is not a buddha dharma.

9. The appearance without appearance

“Subhūti, what do you think? Does a srotaāpanna have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of a srotaāpanna?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Srotaāpanna’ refers to one who has entered the stream, yet there is nothing entered into. There is no entry into forms, sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas. Thus is one called a srotaāpanna.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Does a sakṛdāgāmin have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of a sakṛdāgāmin?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Sakṛdāgāmin’ refers to one who will return once more, yet there is nothing which leaves or returns. Thus is one called a sakṛdāgāmin.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Does an anāgāmin have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of an anāgāmin?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? ‘Anāgāmin’ refers to one who will not return, yet there is nothing non-returning. Thus is one called an anāgāmin.”

“Subhūti, what do you think? Does an arhat have the thought, ‘I have obtained the fruit of an arhat?’” Subhūti replied, “No, Bhagavān. Why? There is truly no dharma which may be called an arhat. Bhagavān, if an arhat has the thought, ‘I have attained the Arhat Path,’ then this is a person attached to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Bhagavān, the Buddha says that among arhats, I am the foremost in my practice of the Samādhi of Non-contention, and am the foremost free of desire. However, Bhagavān, I do not have the thought, ‘I am an arhat free of desire.’ If I were thinking this way, then the Bhagavān would not speak of ‘Subhūti, the one who dwells in peace.’ It is because there is truly nothing dwelled in, that he speaks of ‘Subhūti, the one who dwells in peace.’”

10. The adornment of pure lands

The Buddha addressed Subhūti, saying, “What do you think? In the past when the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, was there any dharma obtained?” “No, Bhagavān. When the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha there was truly no dharma obtained.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Do bodhisattvas adorn buddha-lands?” “No, Bhagavān. Why? The adornments of buddha-lands are not adornments, and are thus called adornments.” “Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should thusly give rise to a clear and pure mind—a mind not associated with abiding in form; a mind not associated with abiding in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas; a mind not abiding in life. Subhūti, suppose a person had a body like Mount Sumeru, King of Mountains. Would this body be great?” Subhūti replied, “It would be extremely great, Bhagavān. Why? The Buddha teaches that no body is the Great Body.”

11. Unconditioned merits surpass all

“Subhūti, suppose each sand grain in the Ganges River, contained its own Ganges River. What do you think, would there be many grains of sand of the Ganges River?” Subhūti said, “There would be extremely many, Bhagavān. The number of Ganges Rivers alone would be countless, let alone their grains of sand.” “Subhūti, I will now tell you a truth. If a good man or good woman filled such a number of three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels in the practice of giving, would he or she obtain many merits?” Subhūti said, “Extremely many, Bhagavān.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Just so, if good men and good women accept and maintain even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, speaking it to others, then the merits of this surpass the former merits.

12. Venerating the true teachings

“Moreover, Subhūti, if one speaks even a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra, you should understand that this place is like the shrine of a buddha. In every world, the devas, humans, and asuras should provide offerings to it. How much more so for those capable of accepting and maintaining the entire sūtra? Subhūti, you should know that this is a person with the highest and most exceptional Dharma. Wherever this sūtra dwells is the Buddha or an honored disciple.”

13. Receiving and maintaining the Dharma

Subhūti asked the Buddha, “Bhagavān, by what name should we revere and maintain this sūtra?” The Buddha told Subhūti, “This sūtra is called the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā, and by this name you should revere and maintain it. Why is it called this? Subhūti, this Prajñāpāramitā spoken by the Buddha is not a perfection of prajñā. Subhūti, what do you think?


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

July – August 2014

2nd panel printed text

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text

May – June 2015

Colophon

July – August 2015

Frontispiece

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One of the world's first banknotes

Paper money originated in China and flourished along the Silk Routes. One of the earliest surviving banknotes was found in the lost city of Kharakhoto (Turkic for “the black city”). Kharakhoto was once a stronghold of the Tangut Empire, before it fell to the armies of Genghis Khan in 1227. The banknote is in two separate pieces now held at the British Library, Or.12380/2286 and Or.12380/2287, and it dates to the period of Mongol rule in the 13th century.

Paper money began in the 9th century when merchants began depositing their money with local banks in return for promissory notes. These notes the passed from hand to hand, used as money in themselves. Once this practice became widespread, successive Chinese rulers first tried to ban or regulate this practice, before the Song Dynasty established a monopoly on printing banknotes in the 11th century. The government monopoly continued under the Mongol rulers of the Yuan dynasty, the era in which the banknote from Kharakhoto was printed.

This particular banknote was printed in the early 1260s, at the beginning of Kublai Khan’s reign. We have Marco Polo’s account from around this time recording his impressions of paper money: these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; on every piece a variety of officials have to write their names and put their seals… Anyone forging it would be punished with death. And the Kaan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money which costs his nothing that it must equal in amount all the treasure in the world.

The Kharakhoto banknote is digitized and available on the IDP website, along with two brief articles. The first, by Beth McKillop, discusses the discovery of the banknote and its context in Chinese history. The second, by John Burton, describes how the banknote was preserved by the British Library's Oriental Collections Conservation Studio.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Stein Exhibition of 1914 and the Secret Invitation List

As reported in a previous post, the first exhibition of Stein material opened in the gallery of the new north extension to the British Museum on 7 May 1914. In the second of this series of blog posts on the exhibition, we look at the opening of exhibition though the eyes of Miss Lorimer, Stein's ‘Recording Angel’.

Photo 1280/1(1) Miss F. M. G. Lorimer. Courtesy of Christina Lorimer.

‘This letter has been written over several days, and now it is the 8th and the opening of the New Galleries came off yesterday. The ceremony was very short, and the Mighty stayed in the building only for a short half-hour after, in the course of which they walked through the Gallery & Mr Binyon’s top floor Exhibition, and personally inspected Mr Dodgson, Mr Binyon, and the architect, so that you will see how much time they had to look at the exhibitions themselves. The Private View in the afternoon was most unfortunately affected by the weather; for there was a succession of heavy thunder-showers and it became extremely dark. After a time they put on the lights in the gallery but the lights at the top of the cases themselves were not yet finished, so that one could not see anything at all well; some of the India Office were at the ceremony in the morning, and also Dr van Lecoq who has just been out here for two days, and Prof. Rapson.

Dr van Lecoq has brought back 150 cases from his last expedition, and seems in very good health and spirits. He has been enquiring most heartily for you.

I do not think any of the other foreign scholars invited, M. Foucher, M. Pelliot, etc. were able to come.

I send two copies of the guide separately.’1

Stein had sent a telegram with a list of invitees to the private view but, as Miss Lorimer tells Stein in her next letter, dated 9 July 2014, it arrived too late. As she reports, she was not allowed access to the original invitation list.

‘I was extremely sorry that I did not get your telegram, asking me to draw up a special list of invitees for the Private View, until after the opening. It did not arrive until 10 days later, and I found it when I came back from my holidays at the end of May. I am the more sorry that I did not think of doing it myself, as I cannot now find out completely who were asked and I fear there were some regretable omissions. The invitation list was drawn up by the Director and all invitations sent by his office, although he invited supplementary suggestions from the Keepers, of people professionally interested or Museum benefactors. I saw Mr. Binyon's list, but not Dr. Barnett's, and I am afraid I took too much for granted that the latter was asking all our own collaborators; but I believe their lists were too limited.

…When I got your telegram I thought the simplest thing would be to look through the official list of invitees, and be able to assure you probably thereafter of the invitation of a good number of your personal friends in the country; but when I made the request to the Director (it seems quite innocuous, but even so I made is in as harmless light as possible) I got the decidedly amusing reply that the Director considered the list Trustees' matter and too confidential to be communicated!—list of invitations to a public function which had already taken place a month before! So I cannot now find out, though it would have been so much more satisfactory to know.’2

Sadly Stein's response to this is too faint to read on the microfilm copies that I have access to here — a transcription will await my next visit to Oxford. In the meantime, I am back to the British Museum archives in search of the elusive invitation list.

1 MSS. Stein 94/157, letter from Miss Lorimer to Stein, this section dated 8 May 1914.
2 MSS. Stein 94/167-9, letter from Miss Lorimer to Stein, dated 9 July 1914.

Monday, June 9, 2014

BD02745《無量壽宗要經》

GUEST POST AUTHOR: LIU BO

Liu Bo is Manager of IDP China at the National Library of China, and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University cataloguing their collections of ancient Chinese local histories.

最近,中國國家圖書館IDP工作室數字化了BD02745《無量壽宗要經》。這件敦煌遺書長達161釐米,由四張紙粘連而成,抄寫114行。《無量壽宗要經》是吐蕃統治敦煌時期(786—848)非常流行的一部佛經,這一個卷子也是吐蕃時期抄寫的,小字密行,具有顯著的吐蕃時期寫經的特點。

這個寫卷的末尾,有一個簽名“呂日興”。這位呂日興的身份,現在已經難以查考了。也許他曾是這卷經書的所有者或者施造者,也許他只是校勘人或讀者。寫卷的背面,署有“金”字。這是敦煌金光明寺的簡稱,它表明這個經卷是金光明寺的財產。金光明寺院在沙州城以西,在吐蕃時期和歸義軍時期,是一所大寺院,後唐同光年間(923—926)有僧人62人,頗為興盛。歸義軍節度使曹元忠曾在該寺做法事。寺內有寺學,索勳的孫子索富通就曾在該寺學習。寺內也有藏經,這個卷子就是其中之一。

這個卷子見證是過敦煌佛教的繁榮興盛,能在藏經洞中留存至今,可謂幸運。感興趣的人士,可以通過IDP網站仔細欣賞這一件千年前的佛經。

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wang Xudong: Digital Caves of Dunhuang

GUEST POST AUTHOR: LIU BO

Liu Bo is Manager of IDP China at the National Library of China, and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University cataloguing their collection of Chinese local histories.

Dr. Xudong Wang, Associate Director of Dunhuang Academy, delivered a lecture at Sackler Museum, Harvard University on Friday, 11 April 2014. The topic was Digital Caves of Dunhuang: Present and Future, which is just what I am interested in. Dr. Wang introduced the Digital Caves of Dunhuang Project, showed us how they digitize the murals, statues and caves.

It is difficult to digitize murals, because the surface of the wall is not a smooth one, and statues and caves are much more difficult. Their work is very different from IDP. IDP mainly digitizes manuscripts, which are flat or can be flattened with a glass plate if they are not. So Dunhuang Academy uses specially-made equipment to work, and spends more time to manipulate and join the images. Now they can take photographs of twenty caves a year, but can only manipulate four or five of them. As we know, there are 735 caves at Mogao near Dunhuang, and more than 400 of them with murals! It is really a large job. They also face some challenges, such as the metadata schema which is still being studied. Actually, people cannot manage images well without metadata.

Dunhuang Academy will build a large database to show murals and statues in the Mogao Caves. Dr. Wang showed some images and digital caves, all the pictures were wonderful, all details were displayed very, very clearly. I have visited the Mogao Caves two times in the last five years, but I am still astonished by the quality of digital caves, it was a different and nice experience. I thought we could get more information from the digital images than watching murals in the caves with the help of a torch. Fortunately, some scholars have already benefited from digital caves, as Dr. Wang explained.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 1

The whole text of the earliest dated printed book — the Diamond Sutra — will be on display at the British Library for the first time over a period of eighteen months between March 2014 – August 2015.

Following extensive conservation, the Diamond Sutra scroll currently remains in separate panels giving the unique opportunity to show all the panels in turn (see timetable below). Each panel will be on display for two months in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library, open to all and with free admission. Each panel will then be shown in turn, remaining on display for two months. The frontispiece will be shown again for the final display in July and August 2015.

The display also includes a copy of a Chinese almanac printed just a decade later, in AD 877, and two pages from a printed copy of the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit with a phonetic transcription in Chinese, an early example of Korean printing using moveable type and the earliest examples of Japanese printing, the Million Charms of Empress Shotoku. See this earlier post for more information on these.

The first text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (May–June 2014) contains the opening six sections of the Diamond Sutra.

See the whole of the Diamond Sutra online on the IDP website.

The following English translation of the first panel (by Lapiz Lazuli Texts) is based on Kumārajīva's Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit:

1. The cause of the Dharma assembly
Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was in Śrāvastī, residing in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park, along with a great saṃgha of bhikṣus, twelve hundred and fifty in all. At mealtime, the Bhagavān put on his robe, picked up his bowl, and made his way into the great city of Śrāvastī to beg for food within the city walls. After he had finished begging sequentially from door to door, he returned and ate his meal. Then he put away his robe and bowl, washed his feet, arranged his seat, and sat down.

2. Elder Subhūti opens the question
From the midst of the great multitude, Elder Subhūti then arose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, and knelt with his right knee to the ground. With his hands joined together in respect, he addressed the Buddha, saying, “How extraordinary, Bhagavān, is the manner in which the Tathāgata is skillfully mindful of the bodhisattvas, and skillfully instructs and cares for the bodhisattvas! Bhagavān, when good men and good women wish to develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, how should their minds dwell? How should they pacify their minds?” The Buddha replied, “Excellent, excellent, Subhūti, for it is just as you have said: the Tathāgata is skillfully mindful of the bodhisattvas, and skillfully instructs and cares for the bodhisattvas. Now listen carefully, because your question will be answered. Good men and good women who wish to develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi should dwell thusly, and should pacify their minds thusly.” “Just so, Bhagavān. We are joyfully wishing to hear it.”

3. The true way of the Great Vehicle
The Buddha told Subhūti, “Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should pacify their minds thusly: ‘All different types of sentient beings, whether born from eggs, born from wombs, born from moisture, or born from transformation; having form or no form; having thought, no thought, or neither thought nor no thought—I will cause them all to become liberated and enter Remainderless Nirvāṇa.’ Thusly sentient beings are liberated without measure, without number, and to no end; however, truly no sentient beings obtain liberation. Why? Subhūti, if a bodhisattva has a notion of a self, a notion of a person, a notion of a being, or a notion of a life, he is not a bodhisattva.

4. The wondrous practice of non-abiding
“Moreover, Subhūti, bodhisattvas should not abide in dharmas when practicing giving. This is called ‘giving without abiding in form.’ This giving does not abide in sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or dharmas. Subhūti, bodhisattvas should practice giving thusly, not abiding in characteristics. Why? If bodhisattvas do not abide in characteristics in their practice of giving, then the merits of this are inconceivable in measure. Subhūti, what do you think? Is the space to the east conceivable in measure?” “Certainly not, Bhagavān.” “Subhūti, what do you think? Is the space to the south, west, north, the four intermediary directions, or the zenith or nadir, conceivable in measure?” “Certainly not, Bhagavān.” “Subhūti, for bodhisattvas who do not abide when practicing giving, the merits are also such as this: inconceivable in measure. Subhūti, bodhisattvas should only dwell in what is taught thusly.

5. The principle for true perception
“Subhūti, what do you think? Can the Tathāgata be perceived by means of bodily marks?” “Certainly not, Bhagavān. The Tathāgata cannot be perceived by means of the bodily marks. Why? The bodily marks that the Tathāgata speaks of are not bodily marks.” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Everything that has marks is deceptive and false. If all marks are not seen as marks, then this is perceiving the Tathāgata.”

6. The rarity of true belief
Subhūti addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, will there be sentient beings who are able to hear these words thusly, giving rise to true belief?” The Buddha told to Subhūti, “Do not speak that way. After the extinction of the Tathāgata, in the next five hundred years, there will be those who maintain the precepts and cultivate merit, who will be able to hear these words and give rise to a mind of belief. Such beings have not just planted good roots with one buddha, or with two buddhas, or with three, four, or five buddhas. They have already planted good roots with measureless millions of buddhas, to be able to hear these words and give rise to even a single thought of clean, clear belief. Subhūti, the Tathāgata in each case knows this, and in each case perceives this, and these sentient beings thus attain immeasurable merit. Why? This is because these beings are holding no further notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, or notions of a life. They are holding no notions of dharmas and no notions of non-dharmas. Why? If the minds of sentient beings grasp after appearances, then this is attachment to a self, a person, a being, and a life. If they grasp after notions of dharmas, that is certainly attachment to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Why? When one grasps at non-dharmas, then that is immediate attachment to a self, a person, a being, and a life. Therefore, you should neither grasp at dharmas, nor should you grasp at non-dharmas. Regarding this principle, the Tathāgata frequently says, ‘You bhikṣus should know that the dharma I speak is like a raft. Even dharmas should be relinquished, so how much more so the non-dharmas?’


‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015
FREE ENTRY

Monday 09.30 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.30 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.30 - 20.00
Thursday 09.30 - 20.00
Friday 09.30 - 18.00
Saturday 09.30 - 17.00
Sunday 11.00 - 17.00
Public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

Sir John Ritblat Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
MAP

May – June 2014

1st panel printed text

July – August 2014

2nd panel printed text

September – October 2014

3rd panel printed text

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text

May – June 2015

Colophon

July – August 2015

Frontispiece

Friday, May 9, 2014

Video: The Dunhuang Star Chart

This film from bonnetbidaud.tv features the medieval Chinese manuscript Or.8210/S.3326 discovered in 1907 by the archaeologist Aurel Stein at the Silk Road town of Dunhuang and now housed in the British Library. This set of sky maps displaying the full sky visible from the Northern Hemisphere, is up to now the oldest complete preserved star atlas known from any civilisation. It is also the earliest known pictorial representation of the quasi-totality of Chinese constellations.

Director : BLUMBERG Jérôme
Scientific direction : BONNET-BIDAUD Jean-Marc
Producer : CNRS Images (2009)
Duration [20'00]

Further reading on IDP:
The Dunhuang Chinese Sky: A Comprehensive Study of the Oldest Known Star Atlas by Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, Dr Françoise Praderie and Susan Whitfield.
Star Atlas: Translation by Imre Galambos.
Chinese Astronomy, an educational resource by Abby Baker.