Tuesday, December 18, 2012

IDP Report July – December 2012


  • We were very sorry to say goodbye to Alastair Morrison, who was with IDP for ten years, but wish him well in his new post as Partnership and International Development Manager at Bournemouth University. Emma Goodliffe has joined as International and Data Support Assistant, taking over some of Alastair’s international work.
  • We also wish Kate Hampson, IDP Administrative Assistant for ten years, well in her retirement and welcome Sarah Mullan as her replacement.


  • In August the results of the IDP user survey were published online. A summary report will be published shortly. This was part of the AHRC grant intended to gain feedback for the redesigned web interface.
  • Work started on the design and implementation of a new database and website interface for IDP, being carried out as part of the AHRC grant. The core module of the new database went live for testing in November.


  • 23–26 October: Wikipedians, SOAS, UCL and Birmingham University students, scholars and IDP staff took part in the IDP Wikipedia Editathon during which they added, edited and updated material on Wikipedia.
  • 8–10 November: A two day conference, Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations, jointly organised with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology and SOAS, was held at the British Library Conference Centre. It was attended by over 150 people.
  • 14–18 November: Celebrations were held at the National Library of China (NLC) in Beijing for the 10th Anniversary of the launch of the IDP Chinese language site, including the opening of the ‘Documenting Dunhuang’ Exhibition at NLC, and a lunch at the British Ambassador’s Residence. Susan Whitfield, Vic Swift and Emma Goodliffe were joined by Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Chair of the British Library Board, HE Sebastian Wood, the British Ambassador to China, colleagues from IDP Dunhuang and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, scholars and press.

Visitors to IDP

  • 23 August: Mark Pollard from Oxford University met with SW and Sam van Schaik (SvS) to discuss the potential of scientific analysis of manuscripts for a AHRC Science in Culture bid.
  • 10 October: Lu Li from Nanjing University, currently a visiting scholar at SOAS, met with SvS to discuss a research project on Old Tibetan documents.
  • 24 October: Sir Matthew Farrer, Abraham Lue and Lady Pamela Youde joined IDP staff for the IDP Patrons meeting.
  • 25 October: Julian Henderson, Nottingham University, visited to discuss the AHRC Science in Culture bid with SW and SvS.
  • 26 October: Michael Willis, British Museum, and Nathan Hill, SOAS, met with SvS to plan an ERC Synergy bid.
  • 30 October: Anna Alomes of LSE met with SvS to discuss historical sources for the Tibetan Empire.
  • 31 October: SvS met Agnieszka Helman-Wazny to discuss the AHRC Science in Culture bid.
  • 8 November: SW, VS, SvS and EG met with the IDP Academic Advisory Committee to discuss the web interface, user survey and Wikipedia Editathon, and to plan for forthcoming events under the grant including a workshop in Nottingham.
  • 20 November: Emilia Smagur had a meeting with SW and SvS about a planned archaeological surveying expedition to Miran.
  • 20 November: Matiji Strlic from UCL (Centre for Sustainable Heritage) met with SvS and SW to discuss the AHRC Science in Culture bid.
  • 27 November: A group of paper analysts from Ryukoku University, Japan, led by Professor Ishizuka, visited to discuss paper fibre analysis and the upcoming March 2013 seminar.


  • In July Zhang Qin spent four weeks as an intern in the IDP Studio. She worked on the mark-up of various catalogues and books, including Ancient Khotan.

Collaborations and Partnerships

  • SW and SvS held various meetings with researchers concerning a proposed AHRC Science in Culture grant application. The V&A, University College London, Kew Gardens and Nottingham University agreed to be partners on the bid, working together on research across the sciences and humanities on manuscripts and textiles. Other researchers worldwide agreed to be part of an Advisory Committee.
  • 2 October: SW, SvS and EG met with Xu Shenggen from the Ningxia Academy of Sciences, China, to discuss a collaboration on Tangut manuscript conservation, cataloguing, digitization and publication.
  • 30 November: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou for working together on textile catalologuing and research on IDP.
  • 11 December: SW, VS and John Falconer (Lead Curator, Photographs) met with staff from the Royal Geographical Society and Nottingham University to discuss events under the existing AHRC Silk Road network, coordinated by Nottingham, including a workshop with participation by IDP at the RGS in February 2013. They also discussed the possibility of applying for an extension to the networking grant and a potential exhibition of historical and modern photographs at the RGS in January–March 2014.
  • 11 December: SvS and EG met with Zhao De’an, Director of the Northwest University for Nationalities (Lanzhou), and a team of researchers to discuss the publication of a series of facsimile volumes of the Stein Tibetan manuscripts.

Lectures & Conferences

  • 27 August: SW gave a lecture on the Silk Road for a Cambridge University Summer School.
  • 5 September: SW and VS attended an AHRC networking event organised by Nottingham University about the Silk Road and gave a presentation on IDP.
  • 12 September: VS met with representatives from the Documents and Archives Authority of Oman and gave a presentation about IDP.
  • 20–21 September: SvS gave a lecture on ‘Textual Transmission and Ritual Contexts’ at the Transfers of Buddhism Conference at Bochum University, Germany.
  • 23 October: SW gave two lectures for students on the Chinese Art Diploma at Christie’s Education.
  • 24 October: SvS gave two lectures, ‘History of Tibet and Nepal’ and ‘Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism’ at SOAS for the Asian Art diploma course.
  • 31 October: SvS gave a class on Tibetan History to SOAS students.
  • 21 November: SW gave a class and seminar on the Silk Road for SOAS MA students.
  • 29 November–1 December: SW attended the 20th Anniversary celebrations at the National Silk Museum, Hangzhou and gave two presentations.
  • 2–5 December: SW was the keynote speaker at the NODEM Conference in Hong Kong talking about IDP.
  • 7 December: SW was the dinner speaker for the Hong Kong University Museum Society talking on ‘Uncovering Silk Road Lives’.


  • 10 September: VS attended a DataCite workshop at the British Library.
  • 17 October: IDP staff met with British Library Wikipedian in Residence, Andrew Gray, for further training in preparation for the IDP Wikipedia Editathon event.
  • 18 October: VS and RR attended an Access and Reuse policy workshop organised by the British Library with a view to making IDP’s BL material available using Creative Commons and Public Domain licenses.
  • 22 November: EG attended the first in a series of Digital Scholarship training days organized in the British Library, which covered a range of topics, such as digital imaging, text encoding, and social media.

Forthcoming IDP Events

  • 7–8 March 2013: Workshop at Nottingham University under the AHRC grant, involving training sessions and workshops for students across disciplines.

IDP Publications

  • Sam van Schaik. Old Tibetan Texts in the Stein Collection Or.8210 (with Kazushi Iwao and Tsuguhito Takeuchi). Tokyo: The Toyo Bunko, 2012.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Dzogchen, Chan and the Question of Influence.’ Revue d’études Tibétaines 24 (October, 2012): 5–20.

Forthcoming Publications

  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Understanding Buddhist Architectural Transmissions Along the Silk Road Across Central Asia and China’, in Cambridge World History of Religious Architecture: Buddhism Volume, forthcoming, 2013.
  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Aurel Stein in the Taklamakan’, biographical entry in Springer Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, Extreme Environments, forthcoming 2013.
  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Creating a Codicology of Central Asian Manuscripts’. In Lynn Ransom (ed.), Writing the East: History and New Technologies in the Study of Asian Manuscript Traditions (Proceedings of the 4th Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age), Penn University, forthcoming 2013.
  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Custodians of the Past: The Importance of Documentation.’ In papers from the Buddhist Art Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art, forthcoming 2013.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Ruler of the East, or Eastern Capital: What lies behind the name Tong kun?’ in Imre Galambos (ed.), Studies in Chinese Manuscripts: From the Warring States to the Twentieth Century. Budapest: Eötvös Loránd University, forthcoming in 2103.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Towards a Tibetan Paleography: A Preliminary Typology of Writing Styles in Early Tibet.’ In Jan-Ulrich Sobisch and Jörg B. Quenzer (eds), Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field. Berlin: de Gruyter, forthcoming in 2012.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Red Faced Barbarians, Benign Despots and Drunken Masters: Khotan as a Mirror to Tibet.’ In Max Deeg (ed.), Religions on the Silk Road. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute, forthcoming in 2013.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Reconsidering Tibetan Chan.’ In Cristoph Anderl (ed.), Chan Buddhism — Dunhuang and Beyond: Texts, Manuscripts and Contexts. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, forthcoming in 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Digital Dunhuang — IDP at NODEM

The work of IDP was presented at the 2012 NODEM conference in Hong Kong. Speaking on a panel with Professor Wang Xudong, Deputy Director of the Dunhuang Academy, Susan Whitfield gave a brief history of the Dunhuang site and the work of IDP, before asking questions about how we prioritise our work given limited funds and the costs of digitisation and preservation of digital data.

This was part of two days of intensive and stimulating sessions from curators, designers, scholars and others generally focused on digital heritage. Professor Lew Lancaster (University of California at Berkeley) made an impassioned and powerful argument against use of the label 'Digital Humanities' — he pointed out that scientists do not feel so insecure about their use of technology that they need to label themselves as 'Digital Scientists'. He took the audience on his own journey learning to use digital tools to transform his research, especially on the use of 'blue dots' to see patterns and discover anomalies in the Buddhist Canon.

The conference was held in the Run Run Shaw Creative Centre at City University of Hong Kong, where exhibitions included two on Dunhuang by Sarah Kenderdine of the CityU Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment (ALiVE) in partnership with the Dunhuang Academy and the Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong. The exhibits were sponsored by Mr Gabriel Yu.

Friday, November 23, 2012

IDP Beijing — Tenth Anniversary Celebrations

We were in Beijing last week for celebrations at the National Library of China (NLC) of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the IDP Beijing Chinese language website in November 2002. Colleagues joined us from IDP Dunhuang and from Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology along with scholars and press. Opening speeches were given by Zhang Zhiqing, Deputy Director of the NLC, Baroness Blackstone, Chair of the British Library Board, HE Sebastian Wood, British Ambassador to China, Luo Huaqing, Deputy Director of the Dunhuang Academy, and Susan Whitfield, Director of IDP at the British Library.

The celebrations continued over two days, with Joanna Burke, Regional Director of the British Council, hosting a lunch for Chinese and British guests at the Ambassador's residence.

The picture above shows guests at the UK Ambassador's Residence in Beijing. From l. to r. (seated): Wu Xinyi, Emma Goodliffe, Vic Swift, Zhang Zhiqing, Susan Whitfield, Yu Zhiyong, Idris Abdurusul, Anwar Abulkasim. From l. to r. (standing): Luo Weiyan, Matkasim Tomur, Liang Xushu, Liu Bo, Sheng Yanhai, Lin Shitian, Chen Hongyan, Zhang Xu, Colin Chinnery.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Directions on the Silk Road: Beyond East and West

IDP's conference, 'Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein's Legacy and New Exploration', finished on Saturday after three days of stimulating papers by a enthusiatic and knowledgeable group of multidisciplinary international scholars.

One of the themes that emerged was the limitations of understanding Taklamakan cultures in terms only of east-west interactions. Several speakers spoke of the importance of pastoralist routes from desert to mountain and desert to steppe, while one suggested that we think in terms of circular routes of influences — perhaps conceptualising them as clouds rather than routes.

The papers and both formal and informal discussions showed both how little we understand about these cultures but also showcased the richness of the archaeological materials both from historical and modern explorations.

The papers were all recorded and will be put online on the conference website, along with details of forthcoming publications.

The image above shows the conference delegates and attendees in the British Library piazza.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

IDP International Conference: Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations

A few places are still available for the conference taking place on 8th-10th November. For more information see the conference web page. A PDF programme is now available. For those unable to attend we hope to video the talks and make them available online at a later date.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wikipedia Editathon

The IDP Wikipedia editathon was a great success for us. We managed to source around 100 images in response to the articles that were being worked on. 58 are currently available on Wikimedia Commons with either a Creative Commons or Public Domain license. The rest will be uploaded shortly and we plan to add more in the future. Some of the pages that our staff and wikipedians worked on include: Many thanks to all the wikipedians and students who came along to the event and to everyone else who contributed. We would like to give a special thank you to the British Library Wikipedian in Residence Andrew Gray who worked tirelessly to make the event run smoothly.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wikipedia editathon

Students from the MA courses Urban Archaeology and Managing Archaeological Sites from UCL are working on articles including Kucha and Farhad-Beg-yailaki. Thanks from IDP to all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wikipedia Editathon

Students from the Art and Archaeology of the Silk Road course at SOAS have joined IDP staff at the British Library for the editathon this afternoon. Students are working on articles including Silk Road transmission of art and Aurel Stein. Thanks to all the students who have joined in and apologies for the lack of chairs.

Wikipedia Editathon

IDP would like to thank students from Birmingham University who edited Wikipedia pages on Monday as part of their Silk Roads module. Articles edited include Balawaste and Endere.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wikipedia Editathon 23–26 October

IDP staff are downing tools for four days to create and edit Wikipedia articles related to the Silk Road and add images where appropriate. Throughout the week we will be visited by Wikipedians and students from UCL and SOAS. If you would like to join in, either in person or remotely, please see our Wikipedia page. If you are working remotely please do get in touch and let us know which articles you have worked on. We will post more during and after the event.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


28th September - 16th December 2012
Durham University, Oriental Museum

Stephen Livingstone and Bill Woods have worked together as artists and teachers for over twenty years and during this time they have introduced hundreds of young people to the wonders of the Oriental Museum's collection. Their investigations into many different aspects of Asian art and culture have resulted in a number of highly successful exhibitions of their student's work at the museum. Regular visits to the museum to draw artefacts, view exhibitions and participate in events has rubbed off on their own work too and this exhibition brings together some of their own personal responses to the collection.

For more information see the exhibition webpage and Stephen Livingstone's Blog.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Buddhist monks and tantric practices

After the collapse of Tibetan imperial power towards the end of the 9th century, the lineage of monastic vows (the vinaya) died out in Central Tibet. During the ensuing dark period, if the traditional histories are to be believed, the lineage of the vows survived only in the far northeast of the Tibetan cultural area. Now if that is true, we might hope to see some corroborating evidence among the Dunhuang manuscripts — and I think we do. Several manuscripts that (judging by their handwriting) seem to be from the post-imperial period contain classic texts on the monks’ vows, such as the Vinaya-vāstu and the Prātimokṣa-sūtra (see for example IOL Tib J 1). If we accept that the Dunhuang manuscripts containing vinaya texts were used by Buddhist monks, then an interesting issue arises: were these monks also writing and making use of the many tantric manuscripts also to be found in the Dunhuang collections, including those Mahāyoga texts containing violent and sexual imagery? Read more here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

IDP Vacancy: International Data and Support Assistant

IDP UK is looking for an International Data and Support Assistant. For full details see the British Library Careers site.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Public Lecture: Gramophones in Central Asia

Between 1902 and 1917, the Gramophone Company of London sent several of their recording engineers on epic journeys across the southern regions of the Tsarist Russian Empire, where they recorded the various cultures and ethnic groups they encountered. What resulted was an intimate view of pre-Soviet life, from the Caucasus mountains to the deserts of Russian Turkestan, in the form of several thousand commercial gramophone discs.

The names of many of the recording artists have passed into legend in their home countries, and their influence continues to reverberate. Using extensive archive documentation from the UK and elsewhere, Will Prentice will explore the hidden stories of the artists and recording engineers, and ask in what ways the recordings reflect the social history of the region.

Will Prentice received his MMus in ethnomusicology from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 1999. For the last 13 years he has worked as a sound archivist for the British Library, where he is currently Head of Technical Services within the Sound & Vision department.

Wed 5 Sep 2012, 13.00 - 14.00
Foyle Suite, Centre for Conservation, The British Library

Book online here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New Publication

A new collection of articles on the Tibeto-Burman languages, edited by Nathan Hill, has just been published. The volume contains several articles on the Tangut and Tibetan languages, including an article on Tangut-Tibetan bilingual manuscripts such as Or.12380/1842 by Arakawa Shintaro; a study of the ritual manuscript Pelliot tibétain 239 by Ishikawa Iwao; and an article on the origin of the Tibetan cursive or "headless" script by Sam van Schaik of IDP. The latter draws on the earliest examples of Tibetan writing from Dunhuang and elsewhere to argue that, contrary to traditional accounts, the cursive script developed directly from the original "headed" form of Tibetan writing. Click here to see to the book on the publisher's website.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

IDP Quarterly Report: April – June 2012

Download this report as a PDF (296KB)


Congratulations to Alastair Morrison (AM) who was awarded his PhD by SOAS, the University of London.

We are pleased to welcome Josef Koncazk, imaging assistant, who joined in June to cover for Abby Baker's maternity leave.

We were very sorry to say goodbye to Imre Galambos at the end of June. Imre joined IDP ten years ago as Overseas Project Manager and, more recently, was Research Project Manager. He is now moving to Cambridge University as Lecturer in pre-modern Chinese studies and we very much look forward to continuing to work with him and his students there.


  • 8 May: Susan Whitfield (SW) visited New York and met Jennifer Chi, Chief Curator at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), the Leon Levy Foundation, to discuss possible Foundation funding for a research project on Khotan and a follow-up exhibition at ISAW. Funding would include an element for collaborations with Nottingham University and Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology.
  • 8 May: New York: SW met Peter Little of the US-registered Dunhuang Foundation, who are currently fundraising for a visitor centre at the Dunhuang Academy. They agreed to add IDP to their list of needs for funders.
  • May: The Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation awarded IDP a grant of €14,000 for the November archaeology conference at the BL (see Forthcoming IDP Events, below).
  • May: The Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT) awarded five-year continuation funding for two staff at IDP China, including some funds for travel, based at the National Library of China in Beijing.
  • May: SBFT also agreed to fund Hu Wanglin, a former IDP intern, to visit London to help with arrangements for the November conference. Hu is based at the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology in Urumqi and spent six months to March 2012 in London.


  • 22 May: IDP held a technical meeting to discuss the updating of online resources over the coming year.
  • 1–29 June: IDP conducted an online survey to find out how the website is being used and to request feedback for improvements. The results will be published online.

Cataloguing and Digitisation

  • Photography from the 2011 fieldtrip was uploaded to the IDP website.
  • Several new translations of Tibetan texts are now online, including letters carried by a Chinese monk on pilgrimage to India in the late 960s. The translated letters are also published in Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-Century Buddhist Pilgrim, by Sam van Schaik (SvS) and Imre Galambos (IG), referenced in the IDP Report for October 2011 to March 2012.


  • 14 May: A half-day event in the British Library Conference Centre, jointly organised with Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (see previous report for details), was attended by around 150 people.

Visitors to IDP

  • 10 April: the Deputy Director of the Dunhuang Academy, Wang Xudong, visited with his wife and spent time in BL conservation, as well as discussing current and future collaboration with IDP. PhD student Li Na acted as translator and IDP co-hosted a lunch together with publisher Antony White.
  • 20 April: Matthieu Bonicel and Isabelle le Masne de Chermont from the Bibliothèque nationale de France visited Manuscripts, Digital Scholarship and IDP, to look at work in progress and discuss possible collaborations.
  • 26 April: a group of SOAS students visited, and viewed a selection of Central Asian manuscripts.
  • 15 May: Professor Fan Jinshi, Director of the Dunhuang Academy and a speaker at the 14 May conference centre event (above), returned to the BL to spend time with IDP looking at conservation and digitisation of manuscripts.
  • 15 May: doctorate student Jianlan Wang and lecturer Natalia Plechkova visited from Queen’s University, Belfast, in relation to ongoing research into silk gauze used in earlier conservation of the Dunhuang manuscripts. They spent time in Conservation Science and Preservation.
  • 25–29 June: school student Jane Barnard joined IDP for one week’s work experience.

Collaborations and Partnerships

  • 2 April: IDP hosted the second in a series of workshops of its Academic Advisory Group as part of the AHRC-funded project mentioned in the previous report.

Lectures and Conferences

  • 12 April: Vic Swift (VS) gave a presentation at a Brussels workshop on An East Asia Knowledge Infrastructure for Europe: Integrating State of the Art Electronic Resources for East Asian Studies, coordinated by the European Science Foundation and the IDEAS project.
  • 14 April: SW spoke about IDP at the Buddhist Art Forum held from 10 to 14 April at the Courtauld Institute. SvS also attended.
  • 20 and 21 April: SvS gave an invited lecture, ‘Tibetan Zen: Manuscripts, Communities and Rituals’, and a graduate student seminar, both at the University of Virginia.
  • 11 and 13 May: SW attended a University of Chicago conference on Chinese manuscripts and rare books and gave a lecture on the influences from Central Asia on the Chinese manuscript tradition.
  • 15 May: VS attended a BL talk on social media hosted by Euan Semple.
  • 1–2 June: SW gave a paper on Stein and Xuanzang at a conference, Xuanzang and the Record of the Western Regions (Xiyu ji) – Constructed Myth and Historical Reality at Cardiff University.
  • 8 June: SW gave a paper entitled ‘China’s Silk Road: Shaping our Perceptions of Medieval Encounters across Eurasia’ at a History Today public event, Encounters: Europe and the World from Antiquity to the Present Day.
  • 8 June: SvS attended a workshop on the Digital Avalokiteśvara Project, organised by Dorothy Wong, University of Virginia.
  • 21 June: AM attended the Community-powered Digital Transformations in Learning Workshop at UCL.
  • 25 to 27 June: SvS gave a paper entitled, ‘Manuscripts, Scribes and Rituals: An Examination of PT 116,’ and attended a workshop on palaeographic dating method at the conference Merkmals and Mirages, a Conference on Dating (Old) Tibetan Writing at the University of Munich.


  • 10 May: AM attended a day course on newsletter production.
  • 11 May: VS attended a half-day fundraising course organised by the BL.
  • 15 May: Rachel Roberts (RR), VS Josef Konczak attended a colour-management training course.
  • 18 May: IDP held an awayday to discuss the year ahead.
  • 13 July: IDP staff met with British Library Wikipedian in Residence, Andrew Gray, to learn guidelines in preparation for the IDP Wikipedia Editathon event in October.

Forthcoming IDP Events

  • 23–26 October 2012: IDP Wikipedia Editathon week, with international participation and events at the British Library and other IDP Centres. For further details see the IDP blog.
  • 8–10 November 2012: International conference at the BL, co-organised by IDP, SOAS, University of London and Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, on Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations. For further details see the conference web page.

IDP Publications

  • Sam van Schaik and Agnieszka Helman-Wazny, ‘Witnesses for Tibetan Craftsmanship: Bringing together paper analysis, palaeography and codicology in the examination of the earliest Tibetan manuscripts’, Archaeometry, 2012.
  • Sam van Schaik, ‘The Origin of the Headless Style (dbu med) in Tibet’, Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages IV, Nathan Hill (ed.). Leiden: EJ Brill, 2012.
  • IDP News 39 was published in May.

Forthcoming Publications

  • Imre Galambos, ‘Punctuation marks in medieval Chinese manuscripts’, in Sobisch and Quenzer (eds.), Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter.
  • Imre Galambos, ‘Correction Marks in the Dunhuang Manuscripts’ in Imre Galambos (ed.) Chinese Manuscripts: Copies and Originals. Budapest: ELTE University.
  • Sam van Schaik, ‘Towards a Tibetan Paleography: A Preliminary Typology of Writing Styles in Early Tibet’, in Sobisch and Quenzer (eds.), Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter.
  • Sam van Schaik, ‘Ruler of the East, or Eastern Capital: What lies behind the name Tong kun?’ in Imre Galambos (ed.) Studies in Chinese Manuscripts and Contexts. Budapest: ELTE University.
  • Sam van Schaik, ‘Reconsidering Tibetan Chan’, in Cristoph Anderl (ed.), Chan Buddhism – Dunhuang and Beyond: Texts, Manuscripts and Contexts. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
  • Sam van Schaik, ‘Dzogchen, Chan and the Question of Influence’, Revue d’études Tibétaines.
  • Susan Whitfield, Contribution on Buddhist sites on the Eastern Silk Road for The Cambridge World History of Religious Architect: Buddhist Volume.
  • Susan Whitfield, Stein biography for The Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology.
  • Susan Whitfield, ‘Creating a Codicology for Chinese and Tibetan Manuscripts’ for the Proceedings of the Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies.

IDP International Conference

A list of participants and papers for the November conference Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations is now available on our conference web page.

Worldwide Server Upgrades

Our upgrades are now complete and all the IDP servers are online. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, July 9, 2012

IDP Survey

We have received the results of the IDP Survey and will post some of our findings shortly. Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

IDP Worldwide Server Upgrades 10–11 July

We will be performing essential upgrades next Tuesday and Wednesday so certain servers may be temporarily unavailable. The UK site has already been upgraded and will be available throughout. We aim to complete the work as quickly as possible but apologise for any inconvenience that our users might encounter.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

IDP Wikipedia Editathon

During this coming October 23-26, IDP will host a Wikipedia editathon at the British Library. IDP staff at the British Library, and at other IDP centres worldwide, will spend a week creating and editing Wikipedia pages on Central Asian archaeological sites, explorers and artefacts. There will also be a public day in which the wider Wikipedia community will be invited to participate. The event is part of the AHRC-funded project Contextualising Texts: Enhancing the Research Potential of Buddhist Manuscript Material, and is being organized with the help of the British Library's Wikipedian in Residence, Andrew Gray. More information about the event will be posted here in the near future.

Friday, June 22, 2012

IDP User Survey: Final Week

The IDP User Survey will be online until Friday June 29th. If you haven't yet completed it please help us to reach as many users as possible and improve the IDP site. We appreciate your time and help.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

IDP Job Vacancy: Project Support Assistant

IDP is looking for a part time Project Support Assistant. For full details see the British Library Careers site.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stein as the ‘Buddhist Pausanias’

When Aurel Stein arrived in Lahore in 1888 it was following several decades of archaeological ‘rediscovery’ of Buddhism in the sub-continent, the sites of the historical Buddha having been identified in part owing to the writings of a seventh-century Chinese monk, Xuanzang.

Xuanzang was instrumental in Stein’s decision to set his archaeological goals further afield, on the ancient Silk Road, and thus contributed to the archaeological rediscovery of the towns and temples through which he had passed over a thousand years earlier. This contribution was not only due to his topographical knowledge—for which Stein dubbed him the ‘Buddhist Pausanias, in reference to the second-century writer of a guide to the sites of ancient Greece—but to the respect in which he was held in China: Stein employed his name shamelessly to plead his case for access to sites with local officials and for this he became Stein’s ‘patron saint’.

I discussed this relationship at a conference on Xuanzang organized by Max Deeg of Cardiff University. Other speakers were Timothy Barrett, Ven. Fayuan, Janice Leoshko, Victor Mair, Tansen Sen, Tokio Takata, Wang Bangwei, Dorothy Wang and Xin Yu. More details on the conference website.

PS. User survey now online to enable you to tell us how you use the IDP site and how you would like to see it improved. Please take time to complete this and tell your colleagues and students.

We very much appreciate your time and help.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

IDP User Survey Now Online

IDP is planning a major update of all its online resources over the coming year. We are keen to reach as many users as possible and, over the next few months, will be asking for your feedback.

The online user survey is to enable you to tell us how you use the IDP site and how you would like to see it improved. Please take time to complete this and tell your colleagues and students.

We very much appreciate your time and help.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blood Writing

Among the Chinese manuscripts from the Dunhuang cave there are several with colophons stating that they were written using the scribe's own blood. The practice of blood writing was popular in China for centuries, mainly, but not exclusively, in the Buddhist tradition. It was not uncontroversial, with some Buddhists considering it an extravagent form of asceticism. But for many it was a way of showing powerful sincerity in the act of copying Buddhist scriptures. Most of the Chinese manuscripts written in blood do not look particularly bloody; the ink is often indistinguishable from ordinary ink, and perhaps in these cases only a few drops of the scribe's blood were mixed in with the ink. On the other hand, the Tibetan manuscript shown above (IOL Tib J 308) has the appearance of having been written in pure blood. Recent tests by Renate Nöller, a conservation scientist specialising in pigment identification, and working with IDP, confirmed that the ink on this manuscript has a very high iron content. For more on this manuscript, and references to further reading on blood writing, see this post on earlytibet.com.

Friday, May 11, 2012

IDP News Issue No. 39

IDP News Issue No. 39 is now online. This issue is dedicated to the Taklamakan sites of Niya and Karadong visited by IDP in association with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology in November 2011.

The images above show Niya Stupa taken in 1901 and 2011 (Stein Photo 5/2(67) and Photo 1235/3(41)).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

IDP Conference

Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations

The British Library and SOAS, London 

8th-10th November, 2012 

Organised with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology

This conference will take place as part of Asian Art in London 2012

Over the past three decades there have been systematic archaeological excavations of sites belonging to the ancient kingdoms of Khotan in the western Taklamakan and Kroraina in the eastern Taklamakan and Lop Desert, in modern-day western China. These have been carried out by Chinese archaeologists, some in conjunction with Japanese and French teams.

The exploration of these kingdoms, however, began much earlier. Early in the 20th century Sven Hedin and Aurel Stein uncovered significant archaeological remains and archives and brought the importance of these cultures to the attention of an international scholarly public. The materials they excavated are now in various collections in Europe and worldwide, and their influence on modern understanding of Central Asian history and society is without parallel.

The conference will set the sites in context by looking at the historical geography and environment, the transmitted and excavated historical records, and archaeological archives in China and Europe. It will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, including field archaeologists from the Chinese, Sino-Japanese and Sino-French excavations of recent decades, archivists, curators and historians working on the Hedin and Stein collections, and historical geographers, art historians, and historians from universities with a strong research record in this area. This is the first conference on this topic.

The conference is being organised by the British Library, SOAS and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology. The opening lecture on November 8th will be held at the Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS. Proceedings on the 9th and 10th will be at the British Library Conference Centre.

There is a registration fee of GB£40 (£20 for students/OAPs) which will also cover refreshments over the two days. For further details or to register see the conference webpage.

The image above shows Niya, N.VIII., from the east, 12 November 2011. Photo 1235/2(153)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Publication

Old Tibetan Texts in the Stein Collection Or.8210 is a new catalogue of 88 Tibetan manuscripts from the Dunhuang cave, held at the British Library but previously neglected because they were catalogued in the sequence dedicated to Chinese Dunhuang manuscripts (Or.8210). The catalogue was begun by Professor Tsuguhito Takeuchi of Kobe University, who passed it on to Kazushi Iwao, who worked on it at the British Library with Sam van Schaik of IDP. The catalogue includes an beautifully illustrated astrological divination text, Or.8210/S.6878, and several other texts that offer new insights into Tibetan history and religion. The catalogue is the first in a new series published by the Toyo Bunko: Studies in Old Tibetan Texts from Central Asia. You can download PDF files of the whole book from the Toyo Bunko’s website, here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

IDP Report October 2011 – March 2012

Download this report as a PDF (296KB)


IDP made a successful bid to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a 14–month project entitled ‘Contextualising Texts: Enhancing the Research Potential of Buddhist Manuscript Material’ and work started in February 2012. The project aims to work closely with academics and their students to develop, test and implement an enhanced multimedia research interface giving free access to richly interlinked and reusable resources suitable for interdisciplinary research by historians, art historians, geographers and archaeologists. The project also aims to develop and expand existing networks with scholars in the UK and worldwide, but most especially in China.


  • Sixteen scrolls from Dunhuang, donated in 1915 by Arthur Bollerup Sørensen to the Royal Library in Copenhagen, have been added to the IDP database and website.
  • Wong Yinghui finished encapsulation and numbering of over a thousand Sanskrit manuscript fragments. Details were entered onto IDP by Ursula Sims-Williams and Susan Whitfield before they were digitised by Rachel Roberts and the images sent for cataloguing to the international team of scholars. It is planned that IDP will complete the long-term project to conserve and digitise the Sanskrit fragments in 2012–13, and for full catalogues and transcriptions to be completed within another two or three years. All are online on IDP.
  • Rachel Roberts, working closely with Catrin Kost at the British Museum, has completed photography of the BM Central Asian artefacts from Stein and other collections. All are online on IDP.


  • 1–13 October: The Dunhuang Academy hosted the first IDP Partners’ Meeting for around 30 staff from IDP’s participating institutions in China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Sweden and the UK. Discussions focussed on IDP’s future direction, with sessions on scope and content, research, technology, localisation and communication. A report on the meeting has been published in issue 38 of IDP News.
  • 5–25 November: a team from IDP and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology (IDP) photographed and videoed archaeological sites at Niya and Karadong initially excavated by Aurel Stein on his four Central Asian expeditions (1900-30). The visit was part of an ongoing collaboration with XJIA. Work is currently underway to prepare material for inclusion on the IDP database and website; and a full report will appear in the next IDP News and at the November conference (see forthcoming below).
  • 24–25 January: Susan Whitfield, Alastair Morrison and Vic Swift visited the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Musée Guimet in Paris to discuss new ways of linking and sharing data and images for the IDP website and making available more material, such as 3D objects, archives and photographs.
  • 15 February: Susan Whitfield, Alastair Morrison and Agnieszka Helman-Wazny visited Kew Gardens Herbarium to meet Dr Mark Nesbitt and discuss potential collaboration on paper analysis.
  • 30 February: Susan Whitfield attended the first meeting of the Advisory Board for the AHRC Research Network ‘A Persian Church in the Land of Pepper’ at de Montfort University.
  • 23–24 March: Sam van Schaik and Imre Galambos attended a meeting of the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia of Manuscript Cultures of Asia and Africa, at Hamburg University, Germany.
  • 27-28 March: Susan Whitfield attended a workshop as an advisor at the Dunhuang Academy as part of a Mellon-funded project.
  • IDP UK and Germany have supplied over 17,000 image links of Tocharian manuscripts for use on The Comprehensive Edition of Tocharian Manuscripts website hosted by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Vienna. The website is currently under construction although over 800 manuscripts are already available to view online with images pulled directly from the IDP UK database.


  • 20–26 October: Susan Whitfield presented a paper on developing a paleography and codicology for Asian manuscripts at the Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • 1 November: Susan Whitfield lectured on the Silk Road to students on Christie’s Education ‘Arts of China’ course.
  • 15–16 December: Imre Galambos presented a paper a conference entitled The Rise of Writing in Early China in Chicago and spoke on ‘Medieval Chinese Manuscripts with Multiple Dates’.
  • 16–17 December: Imre Galambos attended The International Symposium on the History of Normative Glyphs and their Variants, in Tokyo, where he spoke about huiyi characters.
  • 16 January: Susan Whitfield gave two lectures on the Silk Road to students on the SOAS Diploma course on Asian Art.
  • 2 February: Susan Whitfield spoke about IDP-CREA at the launch event of the ‘EU-China year of Intercultural Dialogue’ in Brussels.
  • 28 February: Imre Galambos lectured on ‘Modern Cultural Trends in China in the Light of Manuscript Studies’, at the Confucius Institute in Budapest.
  • 26 March: Vic Swift attended an event hosted by HistoryPin to launch new tools for libraries and museums.
  • 29 March: Vic Swift attended a Digital Transformations workshop for researchers and practitioners on the theme of Production and Creativity.


  • Imre Galambos: ‘The Northern Neighbours of the Tangut’ in Cahier de Linguistique – Asie Orientale 40, 2011, 69–104.
  • Imre Galambos: ‘An English Boy in Chinese Turkestan: The Story of Orlando Hobbs’. Studia Orientalia Slovaca 10.1, 2011, 81–98.
  • Imre Galambos: ‘Popular Character Forms (suzi) and Semantic Compound (huiyi) Characters in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts’. Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3, 2011, 396–409.
  • Imre Galambos and Kitsudo Koichi: ‘Japanese Exploration of Central Asia: The Ōtani Expeditions and their British Connections’. Bulletin of SOAS 75, 2012, 113–134.
  • Sam van Schaik and Imre Galambos: Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-Century Buddhist Pilgrim. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2012.
  • Sam van Schaik and André Alexander: ‘The Stone Maitreya of Leh: The Rediscovery and Recovery of an Early Tibetan Monument’. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, October 2011.
  • Sam van Schaik: ‘Dunhuang Texts’ and ‘Dzongchen (Rdzogs chen)’, in Oxford Bibliographies Online: Buddhism. Ed. Richard Payne. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.


  • 18 October: Zhao Feng of the National Silk Museum, China, visited to discuss collaboration.
  • 19 October: IDP hosted five members of staff from the digital library at Kew Gardens.
  • 28 October: IDP welcomed Dr Mandira Sharma from the National Museum Institute in New Delhi on a three-month internship researching archaeological sites in Central Asia. Mandira joined Chinese intern Hu Wanglin (see previous report), enabling the strengthening of institutional links between Central Asian scholars in India and China.
  • 5 December: Paul Smith, Director of the British Council’s Afghanistan office, visited to discuss current and future collaboration.
  • 5–8 December: Kazushi Iwao and Ai Nishida of Kobe University returned briefly to conclude their work with Sam van Schaik on a catalogue of Tibetan manuscripts in the Or.8210 sequence. The catalogue will be published in early April 2012 and an electronic version will be hosted on the IDP website.
  • 15 December: Professor Ken Seddon, Jianlan Wang and Natalia Plechkova visited from Queen’s University, Belfast, to present work carried out to date on the PhD project into the long term effect of silk gauze on manuscripts.
  • 3 February: Professor Julian Henderson from Nottingham University visited to discuss collaboration on various projects.
  • 13 February: Agnieszka Helman-Wazny, who is conducting ongoing paper and fibre analysis of the Dunhuang scrolls (see earlier reports), returned for one week, accompanied by Renate Noeller from the Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing in Berlin who is carrying out ink and pigment analysis using Raman spectroscopy. Their results will complement those of Sakamoto Shouji, who was a researcher with IDP through 2011.
  • 14 February: A delegation from the Qinghai Tibetan Culture Museum in Xining viewed Tibetan manuscripts and donated 90 volumes of Tibetan medical texts.
  • 16 February: Professor Dan Waugh, University of Washington, Seattle, visited to discuss collaboration on websites and resources.
  • 16 February: Aydin Azizzadeh from the Iran Heritage Foundation visited to look at IDP’s end-to-end workflow.
  • 16 March: IDP hosted academics from London, Nottingham and Birmingham Universities at a workshop to discuss IDP resources and their use in the classroom, as part of the new AHRC project.


  • 14 May 2012: there will be a Dunhuang-focused event in the BL Conference Centre co-organised by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office with lectures by the Director of the Dunhuang Academy (China), Director of the Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole (Hong Kong) and Susan Whitfield, and with an address by the Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University. This is in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the centenary of the University of Hong Kong. The lectures will be followed by a reception. Tickets are available on request.
  • 8–10 November 2012: Major International Conference co-organised by IDP, SOAS and Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, entitled ‘Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations’. This will be publicised as part of the events of Asian Art in London (1-8 November, 2012).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Digital Imaging Assistant Post

IDP has a position available for a part time digital imaging assistant. For full details please see The British Library Careers pages.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tocharian manuscripts online

IDP UK and Germany have contributed over 17,000 image links of Tocharian manuscripts for use on The Comprehensive Edition of Tocharian Manuscripts website. Hosted by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Vienna and funded by the START Program of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the aim of the project is to make all Tocharian texts available by providing photographs, text transcriptions, and English translations with a commentary on the respective linguistic, philological, and cultural aspects. The text material is made accessible through a database with various search options, both grammatical and philological.

The website is currently under construction although over 800 manuscripts are already available to view online with images from the British Library and the Berlin Turfan collections pulled directly from the IDP UK database.

The image above is of IOL Toch 103 which can be seen on IDP and on the CEToM site.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

IDP News Issue No. 38 now online

IDP News Issue No. 38, Winter 2011–12 is now available online. This issue is dedicated to the Diamond Sutra including an article on its history and transmission, a preliminary study of the paper of the printed copy found at Dunhuang, as well as extracts from new books on the Diamond Sutra, one of which showcases the conservation work recently completed at the British Library. We also report on the IDP partners’ business meeting held in October 2011 at the Dunhuang Academy, and the exhibition curated by the Dunhuang Academy on historical photographs of Dunhuang.

The image above shows a detail from the frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra (Or.8210/P.2).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Early Tibet: The First Tibetan Buddhist Biographies?

The vast amount of biographical and autobiographical literature produced in Tibet over the centuries is an interesting phenomenon. For a culture so pervaded by the Buddha’s teaching of non-self, there is an awful lot of writing about the lives of individuals. And, interestingly, this is something that was not done to the same extent in India, the primary source of Tibetan Buddhism. Biographical writing in Tibet began in earnest after the ‘later diffusion’ of Buddhism from the eleventh century onwards, in new lineages like the Kadam and Kagyu. So we don’t have much in the Dunhuang collections that could be called ‘religious biography’, but what we do have is intriguing, and I’d like to point out two manuscripts which might help us understand the origins of Tibetan Buddhist biographical writing.

Read more here.