The Library Cave and Dunhuang Manuscripts


Library Cave and Manuscripts.jpg

The Library Cave and manuscripts, photo taken by Marc Aurel Stein.


Source: International Dunhuang Project.

图片来源:国际敦煌项目。© British Library

From building of the first cave in the Mogao Grottoes in 366 A.D. by a wandering Buddhist monk Yue Zun to the discovery of the Library Cave in 1900 by an itinerant Daoist monk Wang Yuanlu, the Mogao Grottoes went through more than 1000 years of prosperity and decline. The Library Cave (numbered Mogao Cave 17 today) was found inside a hidden chamber in Cave 16. The sealing of the Library Cave in the early 11th century A.D. remained a mystery. The manuscripts discovered touched upon many aspects of people’s activities along the Silk Road over centuries: sutras of different religions, mostly Buddhism, but also Daoism, Christianity, and others; paintings in different styles, of various contents and on different materials; fabrics and artifacts that represent ancient embroidery and printing technologies; and secular documents that illustrate daily living in Dunhuang during different historical periods. The 19th century Westerners expeditions in Central Asia brought the Dunhuang manuscripts to different parts of the world after being buried for more than a thousand years.

Since the early 20th century when these manuscripts left Dunhuang, they were being collected and studied by major libraries, museums, and research institutions around the world. The most prominent were the British Library (Stein Collection 45,000 pieces), the Chinese National Library (expanded from 8,000 to 16,000 manuscripts), Bibliotheque nationale de France and Guimet Museum (Pelliot chinois collection of 30,000 books, coins, and many more), and Russian Oriental Institute (19,000 items). The remaining materials were collected in Germany, Japan, and Korea. The study of Dunhuang has thus become an explicit field of scholarly inquiry requiring international collaboration. The establishment of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) and digitization of Dunhuang materials made scholarly exchanges possible. With the aid of the IDP, we present in this exhibition 20 (sets of) items that showcased the multitude of Dunhuang manuscripts. These manuscripts open a fascinating window into distant history that provides a close, realistic, and vivid view into the physical, artistic, and spiritual lives of various cultures.  






References 文献:

  1. International Dunhuang Project (IDP). (12/11/2010). British Collections. IDP.
  2. International Dunhuang Project (IDP). (12/11/2010). Chinese Collections. IDP.
  3. International Dunhuang Project (IDP). (12/11/2010). French Collections. IDP.
  4. International Dunhuang Project (IDP). (12/11/2010). Japanese Collections. IDP.
  5. International Dunhuang Project (IDP). (12/11/2010). Russian Collections. IDP.
  6. Whitfield, R., Whitfield, Susan, & Agnew, Neville. (2015). Cave temples of Mogao at Dunhuang : Art and history on the Silk Road (Second ed., Conservation and cultural heritage ; 9th v). Los Angeles, California: Getty Conservation Institute.
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