Thursday, February 25, 2010

Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang

Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang
is a new collection of articles on the tantric traditions of Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism, based on the Dunhuang manuscripts. The collection comes in part from a conference panel that was held at the end of a three-year IDP project to catalogue the Tibetan tantric manuscripts at the British Library. The collection was edited by Sam van Schaik of IDP in collaboration with Matthew Kapstein, of the University of Chicago and the École Pratique des Hautes Ètudes (Paris).

The book is organized on the theme of "rites and teachings for this life and beyond." For this life, there are chapters on wrathful rituals, tantric vows, and philosophical interpretations of tantric practice. And for the next life, there are chapters on mortuary rites (precursors of the “Tibetan Book of the Dead”) and the use of printed mantras and dhāraṇis as magical amulets to be buried with the dead, like the one at the top of this post, 1919,0101,0.249. The book is available now from Brill's website.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

IDP Report: November, December 2009 & January 2010

Download this report as a PDF (284KB).


  • November 2009: Sheng Yanhai from the Dunhuang Academy began a 5-month internship at the BL, taking over from his colleague Zhao Liang. Sheng will do photography and imaging work and will help to develop an educational programme for the Dunhuang Academy, based on the Mogao Caves.
  • 22 December: Imre Galambos visited the Central Library, Taiwan, to open talks about digitising their Dunhuang manuscripts.
  • 13–14 January: Susan Whitfield, Vic Swift and Alastair Morrison visited Stockholm to discuss collaboration on the Sven Hedin collections. They met colleagues at the Museum of Ethnography, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, the Royal Library, the National Archives and the department of Central Asian studies at Stockholm University.
  • A project is underway with the Bibliothèque nationale de France to create electronic versions of Pelliot tibétain catalogues, IDP is inputting and marking up the catalogues in XML (TEI), for subsequent conversion to EAD by the BnF, and the first marked-up volume has just been completed and sent to the BnF.


  • 2 November: Susan Whitfield gave a lecture for Christies, on Silk Road art.
  • 5 November: Susan Whitfield gave an interview to CBS News on the Dunhuang manuscripts.
  • 9 November: Susan Whitfield appeared on a Belgian TV programme about the Silk Road.
  • 14–15 November: Imre Galambos presented a paper on a Song dynasty manuscript and its earlier sources, at a National Library of China conference on ‘Ancient Chinese Texts’.
  • 29 November: Susan Whitfield lectured on the Silk Road exhibition at the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels.
  • 1 December: Susan Whitfield gave a lecture to students at Ghent University.
  • 20 December: Imre Galambos presented a paper on a Tangut manuscript, at a Tangut language conference in Taipei.
  • 18 January: Susan Whitfield gave two lectures, on art on the Silk Road and China, for SOAS Art of China course.


  • Imre Galambos: (1) ‘IDP: International collaboration for sharing resources’ in published proceedings of Chinese librarians’ conference, Macao, October 2009; and (2) ‘Manuscript copies of stone inscriptions in the Dunhuang corpus: Issues of dating and provenance’ in Asiatische Studien 63.4 (2009).
  • IDP News 33 (Spring 2009) was published and issue 34 will follow shortly.
  • Sam van Schaik with Lewis Doney: ‘The Prayer, the Priest and the Tsenpo: An Early Buddhist Narrative from Dunhuang’, in the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 30.1-2: 175-217.



  • Susan Whitfield will publish an article on Stein for The Great Explorers, Thames & Hudson.
  • Imre Galambos, ‘Japanese “Spies” Along the Silk Road: British Suspicions of the Second Otani Expedition (1908–09),’ in Japanese Religions.
  • Susan Whitfield, ‘Marc-Aurel Stein: Scholar on the Silk Road’, in Robin Hanbury-Tenison (ed.), The Great Explorers, London, Thames and Hudson, 2010.
  • Imre Galambos will visit the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo and Ryukoku University in Kyoto, in March.
  • Sam van Schaik, (1) ‘A New Look at the Source of the Tibetan Script’, Yoshiro Imaeda, Matthew Kapstein and Tsuguhito Takeuchi (eds.), Old Tibetan Documents Monograph Series, vol.III; (2) ‘The Origin of the Headless Script (dbu med) in Tibet’, Nathan Hill (ed.), Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages IV, Leiden, Brill and (3) ‘Towards a Tibetan Palaeography: Developing a Typology of Writing Styles in Early Tibet’, Jan-Ulrich Söbisch and Jörg B. Quenzer (eds), Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field, Berlin, de Gruyter.
  • Sam van Schaik and Imre Galambos are editing for final submission to de Gruyter (provisional publication date October 2010): Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-Century Buddhist Pilgrim.