Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wakhan Fort

Issue XX of the AKTC Afghanistan newsletter has a report on the survey of the Kansir Fort in the Wakhan, believed by Stein to be an 8th-century Tibetan fort. The Wakhan was the site of a battle between the Chinese and Tibetan armies in 747, which I wrote about in The Soldier's Tale and visited a few years ago (my blog picture is taken there). The battle started on the banks of the Amu Darya (Oxus River) and continued up the valley, over the Baroghil Pass, now on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and then across the glacial Dakhot Pass. Forbidding topography.

Excellent news that AKTC are preparing a survey and drawings of the fort. The French Archaeological Institute are said to be interested in excavating there - Stein would have been very jealous!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Buddhism Education Pack

As part of the EU funded CREA project, IDP has produced a new set of downloadable educational worksheets in English, French and German on the subject of Buddhism for teachers and students. The worksheets aim to offer a general introduction to the topic and can be used together or individually to introduce ideas relating to the history and basic tenets of the religion, its transmission through Asia and its iconography and manifestation in printed documents, paintings and manuscripts from international museum and library collections.

IDP is currently working to expand its education pages online and this set of themed worksheets represents the first of a number of new resources that will appear on our web pages over the next few months. Please look out for upcoming resources on Chinese Astronomy and Astrology which will appear soon. We welcome your feedback on our resources and hope that you find them useful in your classroom, or for your own research. Please contact if you have any comments or suggestions, would like to order hard copies of this resource, or have an enquiry about other education services we can offer.

The image below shows Buddha preaching the Dharma in a detail from the Paradise of Śākyamuni. 1919,0101,0.6
© The British Museum.

The Dunhuang Star Chart

The Dunhuang Star Chart (Or.8210/S.3326) is one of the most important manuscripts in the British Library Dunhuang collection. Dating from the second half of the seventh century AD, it is an example of the coloured star-map of Qian Lezhi and almost certainly the oldest extant manuscript star-chart from any civilisation.

A new research paper authored by Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, Dr Françoise Praderie and Dr Susan Whitfield presents an analysis of the star atlas included in the medieval Chinese manuscript. Although partially studied by a few Chinese scholars, it has never been fully displayed and discussed in the Western world. The paper is available to view via our Research page.

A further resource on the Dunhuang Star Chart for schoolchildren and teachers is currently under development and will be available soon.

The images below show details of the circumpolar map and a bowman in traditional clothes.
© British Library Board.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra(Or.8210/P.2) at the British Library is the world's earliest dated printed book, and was made in AD 868. It was discovered by accident in the early twentieth century along with tens of thousands of other scrolls in a hidden cave at the Buddhist Mogao cave site in Dunhuang, northwest China.

The newly-conserved Diamond Sutra is now online via the IDP Database. A web resource about the manuscript is currently being developed and will include information and images about its conservation.

The Diamond Sutra can also be seen on the British Library's Turning the Pages.

The image below shows a detail from the frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra.
The video is of Mark Barnard, Manager of the Conservation Section at the British Library working on the manuscript.
© British Library Board

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hedin collections - on IDP?

Just back from a great visit to Stockholm discussing potential IDP collaboration on Sven Hedin material and an IDP Sweden - just need to find some funds! Many thanks to Swedish colleagues for their hospitality.