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

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)