The Vajracchedikā or Diamond Sutra is one of the most popular Buddhist texts in East Asia. The famous printed copy of a Chinese translation is currently on display at the British Library. But Aurel Stein also found manuscripts of Diamond Sutra in other languages, including Tibetan, Khotanese and Uighur. And the oldest extensive copy of the text in the original Sanskrit was found by Stein in Dandan Uilik, a Buddhist temple site near the ancient city of Khotan.
In a recent study of this manuscript, Paul Harrison has greatly improved on previous readings, offering a much better version of the text. He has also discovered more text by tracing the impression of ‘ghost folios’, lost pages whose impression on the existing pages survives in the faint outline of letters in mirror image.
These readings were helped by the photography of new infrared images of the folios of the Sanskrit Diamond Sutra manuscript, which was done in the IDP digitisation studio at the British Library. The manuscript is spread over several shelfmarks, comprising IOL San 382–387, 419–422, 424–427. All of these can be seen on the IDP website, with the colour photographs of each folio accompanied by the infrared images.
Paul Harrison’s article is in the new volumes of the British Library Sanskrit Fragments series, edited by Seishi Karashima and Klaus Wille:
Paul Harrison, “The British Library Vajracchedikā Manuscript: IOL San 383–387, 419–427,” in The British Library Sanskrit Fragments Vol.III.2, pp.823-866. Tokyo: The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, 2015.