Friday, January 28, 2011

IDP News 35

The latest version of IDP News is now online. Articles include Following the Tracks of a Tenth-Century Buddhist Pilgrim and A Technical Study of Portable Paintings from Cave 17 in US Collections.

The image above shows a detail from the Eleven-Headed Guanyin, AD 985, painting on silk. 1943.57.14, ©Harvard Art Museums.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Secrets of the Cave I: "Sacred Waste"

The Tibetan manuscripts from the sealed cave in Dunhuang are still the earliest that we have (along with those from the Tibetan forts in the Taklamakan desert). So, some readers might be surprised to hear that there is absolutely no agreement about why they were put in the cave, and why it was sealed up. Our failure to answer these questions remains deeply problematic. How much can we say for sure about these sources for Tibetan culture and history if we don’t know these basic facts about the reasons they have survived to this day?
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

IDP Report: June – November 2010

Download this report as a PDF (168KB).


In October, both Susan Whitfield and Barbara Borghese returned to IDP. Following Susan Whitfield’s return full-time to IDP, a management group was set up and had an initial meeting to discuss the structure, role and future of IDP. After discussion among the whole team and some changes, the recommendations were implemented and work has now started on reviewing and completing existing projects, reviewing digitisation and quality control procedures and updating where necessary, and reviewing priorities and funding sources for the coming five years.


  • June–July: Imre Galambos spent a month at Princeton University Library doing research on Qing palaeography. While there, he gave a talk on ‘Works on Chinese palaeography from the 18th and 19th centuries’.
  • 23 June: Susan Whitfield and Alastair Morrison visited China, for a workshop at the Dunhuang Academy and meetings with IDP colleagues. They also had discussions on collaboration with the Director of the Turfan Academy, Li Xiao and, the following day, met the new Director of the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology to discuss a planned field trip and internship.
  • 9–18 July: Susan Whitfield, Imre Galambos and Vic Swift visited IDP Japan based at Ryokoku University in Kyoto, for a workshop/symposium. All three gave papers and a memorandum of understanding for continuing collaboration was signed by Wakahara Dosho, President of Ryukoku University and Susan Whitfield.
  • 21 July: Abby Baker attended a training day run by Museums, Arts and Libraries, on ‘Supporting creative curriculum approaches in primary schools’.
  • 25–30 July: Susan Whitfield, Imre Galambos, Alastair Morrison and Vic Swift visited IDP Russia in St Petersburg. They also discussed potential collaboration with colleagues at the Hermitage and attended the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC). PIAC delegates were given a tour of the Hermitage storage facilities outside St Petersburg, including a visit to vaults holding the murals from Turfan which were formerly held in Berlin.
  • 16–17 September 2010: Susan Whitfield attended a workshop at de Montfort University, speaking about the experience of IDP in setting up a networking project.
  • 29 October 2010: Susan Whitfield visited Nottingham University to talk to Julian Henderson about potential collaboration on Silk Road projects.
  • November 2010: Susan Whitfield and Lukas Nickel of SOAS’s Art and Archaeology Department applied for an AHRC research grant for Ilse Timperman to research tomb cultures of the Tarim Basin.
  • 8 November: Susan Whitfield, Alastair Morrison and Vic Swift visited the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford to look at Stein material.
  • 10 November: Susan Whitfield gave a talk at the London book launch of The Caves of Dunhuang by Fan Jinshi, on which she was translator and consultant editor.
  • 11 November: Sam van Schaik met Nathan Hill (SOAS) to discuss the Tibetan Rāmāyana manuscripts in the Stein Collection. A transcription appears on the Old Tibetan Documents Online website.
  • 11–12 November: Susan Whitfield visited Germany where she met (1) Professor Michael Friedrich and students (including Agnieszka Helman-Wazny who will start work on a research project on identification of paper fibres with IDP in December) at Hamburg University’s Research Project on manuscript cultures of Asia and Africa; and (2) colleagues in Berlin, from the BBAW and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, to discuss ongoing collaboration.


  • 8–15 August: Liu Bo, IDP Manager at the National Library of China, Su Bomin, Head of Conservation at the Dunhuang Academy, and Wubuli from the Xinjiang Cultural Relics Bureau made a working visit to IDP London. They also visited the British Museum and the V&A, and participated in a workshop at the Courtauld Institute.
  • 22 September: Jan Hybner, a PhD student from the Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in Prague, visited the BL, including IDP and the conservation department.
  • 25 October: Avijit Chakrabarti, an intern with BL Preservation, visited the IDP studio.
  • 8 November: IDP hosted eight visitors from Ryukoku University during their visit to the BL.


  • 1 September: Imre Galambos and Sam van Schaik gave presentations at the Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages Symposium, held at SOAS. Imre spoke on ‘Reconstructing a lost Song edition of Zhuge Liang’s Jiangyuan on the basis of its Tangut translation’ and Sam on ‘The Sutra of the Ten Virtues: one of the earliest Buddhist texts’.
  • 4 September: Sam van Schaik spoke at a British Museum study day on ‘Digitising Cultural Heritage’.
  • 5 September: Imre Galambos visited Wiltshire (UK) in search of material on Hobbs, who travelled with the 2nd Otani expedition to Xinjiang and died there in 1911.
  • 7–9 October: Imre Galambos and Sam van Schaik attended a conference at Hamburg University on ‘One-Volume Libraries: Composite Manuscripts and Multiple Text Manuscripts’. Sam gave a paper on ‘Tibetan Zen Mis- cellanies, The Roles of Pedagogy, Patronage and Liturgy in the Creation of Multiple Text Manuscripts’, and Imre spoke on ‘Manuscripts as products of accumulation: The case of a tenth century Chinese manuscript from Dunhuang’. Both were appointed website editors, Sam for Tibetan and Imre for medieval Chinese.
  • 19–22 October: Imre Galambos attended a conference at the University of Minorities in Beijing, on ‘Ancient Manuscripts and Literatures of the Minorities of China’ and gave a paper on translation fidelity in Tangut renditions of Chinese military texts.
  • 26 October: Susan Whitfield gave a lecture to students at Christie’s.
  • 29 October: Susan Whitfield spoke at a Cambridge event on the theme of digital scholarship and world history.
  • 4 November: Susan Whitfield accepted the Casa Asia annual prize in Madrid, awarded to IDP for its website. She then gave a lecture at Casa Asia in Barcelona, on the Silk Road and the Dunhuang Library Cave.
  • 6–8 November: Imre Galambos attended conference at Fudan University in Shanghai, on ‘Ritual, Religion and Institution in Medieval China’ and gave a paper on taboo characters in Buddhist manuscripts from Dunhuang.
  • 8 November: Susan Whitfield gave a talk at Oxford School of Archaeology.
  • 10 November: Imre Galambos met Professor Qiu Xigui, China’s foremost palaeographer.
  • 11 November: Susan Whitfield gave a lecture and graduate seminar at the University of Hamburg, on Manuscript Culture in Asia and Africa.
  • 21 November: Susan Whitfield attended a Colloquium on Digital Humanities at Chicago’s Northwestern University.
  • 23 November: Sam van Schaik spoke about the Lotus Sutra on the Silk Road, at a British Library conference centre event.
  • 30 November: Sam van Schaik gave a lecture to SOAS students on the palaeography of early Tibetan manuscripts.


  • Imre Galambos, ‘Scribal Notation in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts: The hewen and chongwen Marks’, in Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa, Hamburg University.
  • 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.
  • Susan Whitfield, ‘A Place of Safekeeping? The Vicissitudes of the Bezeklik Murals’, in Neville Agnew (ed.), Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings from the Second International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites, August 25-30 2004, Los Angeles, Getty Conservation Institute, 2010.
  • Susan Whitfield, The Caves of Dunhuang (translator and consultant editor), London, London Editions, 2010