Thursday, December 4, 2014

IDP News No. 44, Autumn 2014

The new Visitors’ Centre at Dunhuang, September 2014. Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy. Photographer: Sun Zhijun.

IDP News No. 44, Autumn 2014 is now available to view online or download as a PDF (798KB). The current issue includes the articles:

  • The Visitors’ Centre at Dunhuang
  • Conservation and Research on Excavated Textiles from Mogao
  • Desmond Parsons in Chinese Archives
  • Prospects for the Study of Dunhuang Manuscripts: The Next 20 Years
  • Our Favourite Things: Excerpts from the IDP20 Blog
  • Obituary: Serguei Grigoryevich Klyashtornyj

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lectures: Bronze Age Origins of the Silk Road

Dr Kristian Kristiansen (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Dr Idris Abdurusul (Honorary Director, Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, China), will look at Bronze Age tomb sites from two widely separated regions — Northern Europe and East Central Asia — to highlight some of the similarities between them and discuss their possible connections.

The lectures will be held at 19.00 on Thursday, 4 December 2014 at the University of Leuven, Brussels (Room 00.20, MSI I, Erasmusplein 2, 3000 Leuven).

This series of duo-lectures, “The Silk Road: Border Crossing”, is an initiative and experiment of the Belgian Institute for Advanced Chinese Studies in Brussels (BIHCS/IBHEC), in co-organisation with the Educational and Cultural Department of the Royal Museums of Art and History (KMKG/ MRAH) and supported by Asian Art in Brussels (AAB) and the International Dunhuang Project (IDP).

The duo-lectures are intended to encourage the audience to step out of their comfort zone and participate in ‘border crossing’, not only along the well-known ‘silk roads’ but also by addressing areas that are not traditionally connected with present-day China but that have seen similar developments.

Each session includes a 2x1 hour lecture by two specialists on different areas but similar topics. The sessions will be moderated by the president of the BIHCS/ IBHEC, sinologist and archaeologist, Ilse Timperman.

Future lectures in this series are as below, both to be held at:
Auditorium, Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels.

Sunday 14 December 2014, 10.30am

Early Monasticism and Anchoretic life in Egypt
Dr. Karel Innemée (Leiden University)

Early Monasticism on the Eastern Silk Road (Tarim Basin)
Dr. Susan Whitfield (International Dunhuang Project, British Library)

Sunday 25 January 2015, 10.30am

The Hellenistic East
Prof. Judith Barringer (University of Edinburgh)

Sculpture and the Question of Contacts between China and the Hellenistic East
Dr. Lukas Nickel (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)

For further details and a downloadable programme, see The Silk Road: Border Crossing page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Publication: Manuscript Cultures

Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field is a new volume from the Manuscript Cultures in Asia project at the University of Hamburg. It contains chapters on manuscript and scribal cultures in Europe, Africa and Asia. Two chapters are dedicated to manuscripts from Dunhuang: "Towards a Tibetan Palaeography" by Sam van Schaik and "Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts" by Imre Galambos. The volume is available from the publisher's website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Diamond Sutra on display: Text panel 4

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 fourth text panel of the Diamond Sutra on display (November-December 2014) contains the second half of section 15 through to all but the final line of section 17 of the Diamond Sutra.

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

15. The merits of maintaining this sūtra (cont.)

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

If there are people able to accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain this sūtra to others, then the Tathāgata is always aware of them and always sees them. Thusly, these people are carrying the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the Tathāgata. Why? Subhūti, those who are happy with lesser teachings are attached to views of a self, views of a person, views of a being, and views of a life. They cannot hear, accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it to others. Subhūti, in every place where this sūtra exists, the devas, humans, and asuras from every world should provide offerings. This place is a shrine to which everyone should respectfully make obeisance and circumambulate, adorning its resting place with flowers and incense.

16. Able to purify obstructions

“Moreover, Subhūti, suppose good men and good women accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra. If they are treated badly due to karma from a previous life that would make them fall onto evil paths, then from this treatment by others their karma from previous lives will be eliminated in this lifetime, and they will attain Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. Subhūti, I remember in the past, innumerable, incalculable eons before Dīpaṃkara Buddha, being able to meet 84,000 countless myriads of buddhas, and providing offerings to honor them all without exception. Suppose someone in the next era is able to accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra. The merits of my offerings to all those buddhas are, in comparison to the merits of this person, not even one hundredth as good. They are so vastly inferior that a comparison cannot be made. Subhūti, if there are good men and good women in the next era who accept, maintain, study, and recite this sūtra, and I were to fully explain all the merits attained, the minds of those listening could go mad with confusion, full of doubt and disbelief. Subhūti, understand that just as the meaning of this sūtra is inconceivable, its rewards of karma are also inconceivable.”

17. Ultimately without self

At that time, Subhūti addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, when good men and good women develop the mind of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, how should their minds dwell? How should they pacify their minds?” The Buddha told Subhūti, “Good men and good women develop Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi by giving rise to a mind thusly: ‘I will liberate all sentient beings. Yet when all sentient beings have been liberated, then truly not even a single sentient being has been liberated.’ Why? Subhūti, a bodhisattva who has a notion of a self, a notion of a person, a notion of a being, or a notion of a life, is not a bodhisattva. Why is this so? Subhūti, there is actually no dharma of one who develops Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.

“What do you think? When the Tathāgata was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, was there any dharma of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi?” “No, Bhagavān, and thus do I explain the actual meaning of the Buddha’s teachings: when the Buddha was with Dīpaṃkara Buddha, there was truly no dharma of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.” The Buddha said, “Thusly, thusly, Subhūti! There was no dharma of the Tathāgata’s attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. Subhūti, if there were a dharma of the Tathāgata’s attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, then Dīpaṃkara Buddha would not have given me the prediction, ‘In the next era you will become a buddha named Śākyamuni.’ It is because there was no dharma of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, that Dīpaṃkara Buddha gave me this prediction by saying, ‘In the next era you will become a buddha named Śākyamuni.’ Why? ‘Tathāgata’ denotes the suchness of dharmas. Subhūti, if someone says, ‘The Tathāgata has attained Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi,’ there is no dharma of a buddha’s attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.

“Subhūti, the true attainment by the Tathāgata of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi is neither substantial nor void, and for this reason the Tathāgata says, ‘All dharmas are the Buddha Dharma.’ Subhūti, all dharmas spoken of are actually not all dharmas, and are thus called all dharmas. Subhūti, this is like the body of a person that is tall and great.” Subhūti said, “Bhagavān, the body of a person that the Tathāgata speaks of, tall and great, is not a great body, and is thus called the Great Body.” “Subhūti, for bodhisattvas it is also such as this. If someone says ‘I will liberate and cross over innumerable sentient beings,’ then this is not one to be called a bodhisattva. Why? Subhūti, truly there is no dharma of a bodhisattva, and for this reason the Buddha says, ‘All dharmas are not a self, a person, a being, or a life.’ Subhūti, if a bodhisattva says, ‘I am adorning buddha-lands,’ then this is not one to be called a bodhisattva. Why? The adornments of buddha-lands spoken of by the Tathāgata are not adornments, and are thus called adornments.

‘The Diamond Sutra and Early Printing’

MARCH 2014 – AUGUST 2015

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

November – December 2014

4th panel printed text

January – February 2015

5th panel printed text

March – April 2015

6th panel printed text, including colophon

May – June 2015


Monday, October 20, 2014

IDP UK: Server down

We are experiencing some technical issues with our UK server and are working to fix them as soon as possible. Our international servers are working as usual, European users may use our French and German sites in the meantime. We apologise for any inconvenience.

UPDATE 21/10/14: Normal service has been resumed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Film Screening: The Silk Road of Pop

An evening of music and film will commence with a live performance by the London Uyghur Ensemble followed by a screening of the award winning documentary The Silk Road of Pop, a portrait of the explosive pop music scene among the Uyghur community in China’s Xinjiang Province. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the film directors.

Fri 28 Nov 2014, 18:30–­20:30
The British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
Admission Free

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IDP Interns: Shaochen Wang and Na Zhang (UCL)

IDP interns Shaochen Wang (left) and Na Zhang (right).


I am a postgraduate student from Institute of Archaeology in UCL and major in managing archaeological sites. I have spent one month working with the IDP, it is very interesting and attractive. Since I come from Xi’an, China, the starting point of the Silk Road, I found the most fascinating work experience in IDP was when we were rehousing some slides of old Xi’an, the City Wall, the Great Wild Goose Pagoda and so on. Most of the slides are made in 1980s or earlier, so I got a chance to know my hometown better and appreciate the vintage photographs, especially some ancient architecture that I am familiar with. Besides this, other interesting work in the IDP involved typing some documents regarding the Dunhuang Mogao Caves and translating some Buddhist words. It can be difficult sometimes but I have learnt a lot about Dunhuang and Buddhism through this experience and after this, I really want to visit Dunhuang by myself and see the caves and wall paintings that I have documented and translated.

And I also think that all the digital works and the online database of IDP are really wonderful. Having been shown the workflow of digital studio and some basic training of XML, I realized how complicated it can be and how difficult to maintain a database like that and I am really impressed. And special thanks to Emma Goodliffe, she was really kind and helpful and I really enjoyed the time working with the staff of the IDP and my classmate!


I am a full-year postgraduate student at the Institute of Archaeology at the University College London majoring in managing archaeological sites. I became an intern in the IDP at the British Library after a very friendly interview. Then I knew there would be an interesting journey with IDP waiting for me.

I studied archaeology in Xi’an which is the starting point of Silk Road and Dunhuang is a significant part of Silk Road as well. There is no denying that the manuscripts and murals at the Dunhuang Mogao Grotto are attractive and fascinating. People in that period were smart and creative. Based on these things, when I rehoused the slides about Dunhuang and the Silk Road, it seems like I am walking on that road. I enjoy the beautiful landscapes, chat with local people and touch the mysterious caves. After I knew the development of the conservation and preservation of the manuscripts, I realized that IDP did a great thing for both scholars and general public.

From the traditional method to the modern technology, people who are interested in the Dunhuang culture try their best to present this to the world. How nice that I can do the placement here!