International Dunhuang Project

IDP News Issue No. 44

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Issue No. 44, Autumn 2014

The Visitors’ Centre at Dunhuang

2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the Dunhuang Academy (founded in 1944 as the Dunhuang Research Centre and renamed in 1987 when it became a UNESCO World Heritage site) and also saw the official opening of the Visitors’ Centre. The former was marked with a special edition of the Academy’s journal with articles by leading scholars in the field (see Conservation article). The Centre was opened on 10 September 2014.

Visitors are now taken to the Centre en route to the Mogao Caves.The Centre is outside the town on the turn off to the caves and near the railway station and the airport. Here visitors watch a 20 minute film giving a brief historical introduction to the region and then move into a domed ampitheatre for a digital presentation on the caves and their art. Both have interpretation into English. Visitors then go shuttle buses to visit the caves themselves.

The lead architect was Cui Kai of the China Architecture Design and Research Group, who also designed Dunhuang City Museum. The film and digital dome projection were directed by Chen Jianjun.

The Visitors’ Centre was largely funded by the Chinese government with additional support from various public and private funders in China and worldwide, including the Dunhuang Foundation US.

The new Visitors’ Centre at Dunhuang, September 2014. Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy. Photographer: Sun Zhijun.

The film theatre in the Visitors’ Centre. Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy. Photographer: Sun Zhijun.

the digital dome projection in the Visitors’ Centre. Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy. Photographer: Sun Zhijun.

Conservation and Research on Excavated Textiles from Mogao

Zhou Yajuan

Dunhuang, an important Silk Road town, bears witness to the cultural diversity, the exchange of ideas and the vibrant trade in ancient times. Among its outstanding artefacts are a great number of textiles showing an incredible breadth of colours and textures. The textile legacy of Dunhuang, in particular the silk paintings, banners, sutra wrappers and other silk-made works of art, are an inexhaustible treasure-house yet to be fully explored. However, due to their extreme vulnerability, little research interest and attention has been given to the conservation of textiles from Dunhuang.

As the largest state-level specialised museum on textiles, China National Silk Museum, with government-authorised conservation qualifications for movable cultural relics, has always taken the textile identification and conservation as its duty-bound mission and responsibility. For years, the Museum has trained a professional conservation team and provided conservation treatments on more than 500 ancient textiles for museums and research institutions nationwide.

In 2013, Dunhuang Academy and China National Silk Museum co-launched a conservation and research project on textiles from the Dunhuang Mogao caves. Recently 58 pieces (sets) of Dunhuang textiles lent to China National Silk Museum for the exhibition ‘Thousands of Threads and Hundreds of Patchworks: Conservation and Research on Excavated Textiles from Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang’ were displayed in the Textile Conservation Exhibition Hall of the Museum in Hangzhou. The specialized exhibition not only gave the public unprecedented access to the textiles — displayed outside Dunhuang on such a grand scale for the first time — but also highlighted the achievements made in their conservation. The exhibition closed on 15 March 2014.

The exhibition consisted mainly of archaeological discoveries from Dunhuang, revealing the dedication of archaeologists during the excavation of Dunhuang textiles in the form of photographs and texts; the conservation and research on Dunhuang textiles from the Northern, Tang and Yuan dynasties, in particular the process and the results achieved by curators in China National Silk Museum; as well as worldwide collections of Dunhuang textiles in UK, India, Russia, Japan and other countries.

Desmond Parsons in Chinese Archives

Luo Huaqing

The Briton, Desmond Parsons, is considered to be the last foreigner to steal Dunhuang relics. Previously the official documents relating to his case had not been available to scholars, but there are five files of Republican era records in the Gansu Provincial Archives that record the whole story, making them a first-hand historical account of unquestionable significance.

According to these files, we learn that Parsons was a Special Correspondent for the The Peiping Chronicle when he left in 1935 for his tour of Dunhuang. This was a Party newspaper that was established under the name The Peking Leader and published from 1917 to 1931 by the Central Committee of the Kuomintang before being renamed. Parsons was travelling on a British passport validated for travel in China by the Chinese Consulate in London. Two people accompanied him, an interpreter from Jilin, Wang Mingzhou, and a servant from Beijing, Mao Dianrong. They arrived in Lanzhou from Xi’an on 12 March 1935, staying at the Jiangsu Hotel. They remained there for ten days, leaving for Dunhuang on 22 March.

After arriving at Dunhuang, they were assigned police ‘protection’ by the Magistrate Yang Can and proceeded on their tour of the Mogao Caves. We do not know Parsons’s motives for his actions, whether it was because of his admiration of the exquisite murals and statues, the thrill of following others in the ‘hunt’ for antiquities, or perhaps another reason. In brief, he managed to give everyone the slip and use tools to remove a beautiful image from a cave and then conceal it within his vehicle in an attempt to take it away with him. Fortunately his theft was exposed and ultimately prevented. It could be said that his actions to bore a striking resemblance to those carried out by Langdon Warner and others.

Parsons was subsequently taken to Anxi County Government offices and then, on 9 May, to Jiuquan via Yumen. His situation after this is not recorded in these archives.

File 1
Gansu Provincial Capital Public Security Bureau Petition 143 (16 March 1935)

The report of the Chief Qiu Jianmin of Public Security Bureau First Precinct, states: ‘The three men in question, the British reporter for the English-language The Peiping Chronicle, Desmond Parsons, his interpreter from Jilin, Wang Mingzhou, and a servant from Beijing, Mao Dianrong, arrived in Lanzhou from Xian on the 12th of this month and are staying at the Jiangsu Hotel. The Briton holds a British passport validated for travel by the Chinese Consulate in London, and further endorsed by the Beiping Municipal Government and the Hubei Provincial Public Security Bureau. They intend to travel on to Dunhuang. I hereby submit this report for examination [etc.].’ In view of the above, this office reviewed [the documents] and found no discrepancies, I hereby respectfully submit this humble petition via telegram to your ministry, in addition to the provincial government, for future reference.

Respectfully presented to Mr Wang, Head of the Gansu Provincial Government Civil Affairs Dept.
Bai Wei, Gansu Provincial Public Security Bureau Chief [seal] 16 March 1935




File 2
Gansu Provincial Public Security Bureau Petition 166 (27 March 1935)

The date of arrival in Lanzhou of The Peiping Chronicle reporter, the Briton Parsons, and others has already been respectfully submitted to your ministry. The report by Chief Qiu Jianmin of Public Security Bureau First Precinct states: ‘The three men who were previously reported as arriving in Lanzhou, namely Parsons, the British reporter for The Peiping Chronicle, the interpreter Wang Mingchou, and the servant, Mao Dianrong, left Lanzhou on 22nd of this month for their tour of Dunhuang [etc.].’ I hereby respectfully submit this humble petition via telegram to your ministry for future reference.

Respectfully presented to Mr Wang, Head of the Gansu Provincial Government Civil Affairs Dept.
Bai Wei, Gansu Provincial Public Security Bureau Chief [seal] 27 March 1935


案查《北平时事日报》记者英人巴慎思等到兰日期,业经呈报钧厅在案。此据第一分局局长丘键民报称:“查前来兰之《北平时事日报》记者英人巴慎思,及翻译汪铭洲,夫役毛殿荣等三名,于本月二十二日离兰,前往敦煌游历。理合报请鉴核。” 等情;据此,理合具文呈报钧厅电鉴备查。


File 3
Telegram from Dunhuang County Magistrate, Yang Can (22 April 1935)

For the attention of Lanzhou Provincial Chairman, Mr Zhu, and the Minister of Civil Affairs, Mr Wang: Regarding the travel of the Briton Parsons, special correspondent for The Peiping Chronicle, to the Thousand Buddha Caves, the County Magistrate assigned a police escort both for his protection and to monitor his actions. According to the investigation, Parsons violated the conditions for this visit, secretly using tools to remove a fine image from a cave and then hiding it in his vehicle, at which point he was discovered. I respectfully await your immediate telegraphic instructions whether to send him under escort to the government seat of Anxi County, deport him or release him.

Dunhuang County Magistrate, Yang Can
Respectfully yours.



File 4
Telegram from Gansu Provincial Minister of Civil Affairs, Wang Yingyu (27 April 1935)

Telegram from Gansu Provincial Minister of Civil Affairs, Wang Yingyu (27 April 1935) From Anxi to Dunhuang, for the attention of County Magistrate Yang: Telegram received and understood. Await result of Provincial Government investigation. Minister Wang. Much obliged.



File 5
Yumen County Government Express Mail (8 May 1935)

Lanzhou. For the attention of Minister of Civil Affairs, Mr Wang: In consultation with Anxi County Government, it is understood that today the Briton Parsons is being transported under guard to [Yumen] county I hereby enclose details of his onward journey and report to you his date of departure from the county via telegram for future reference. [etc.]. Such are my reasons [for writing]. In view of the arrival this morning of the aforementioned Briton Parsons in the county, police officers have already been selected to escort him under close guard to Jiuquan county on the 9th. In view of the above, I hereby report the departure date to your ministry for future reference. Yumen County Magistrate Wang Bingxin. Respectfully.



Sourced from Gansu Archives Information Network website.
陈乐道, ‘敦煌文物盗掠者英人巴慎思档案秘’。

Prospects for the Study of Dunhuang Manuscripts: The Next 20 Years

The conference, held at Princeton University from 6–8 September 2014, was co-organised by Professors Stephen F. Teiser (Princeton University) and Takata Tokio (Kyoto University). The conference covered research in all disciplines of Dunhuang manuscript studies, including religious studies, literature, history, linguistics, and palaeography. Twenty-nine papers were presented by scholars involved in the International Liaison Committee for Dunhuang Studies from greater China, Japan, Europe and the US. The conference was co-sponsored by Princeton University Buddhist Studies Workshop and the International Liaison Committee for Dunhuang Studies, with Major Funding from The Henry Luce Foundation.

Delegates at the Princeton Conference. Photographer: Frank Wojciechowski.

A Few of Our Favourite Things: Excerpts from the IDP20 Blog

From 1 November 2013 the IDP UK blog featured ‘A Few of Our Favourite Things’, a series of weekly posts showcasing IDP collection items selected by twenty of IDP’s partners, supporters and users. The final ten of these are introduced here. Read the complete series or view the items in a single catalogue or on a Pinterest board.

Helen Persson

LOAN:STEIN.344 (T.VI.b.i.009)

Well, I do like shoes and this peculiar looking and old shoe is very special. Although the shoe’s original functions were practical and protective, there is a clear design element to it. The utilitarian everyday object has decorative features as well, showing human desire to embellish even the simplest of artefacts. The entire sole is covered with tight knots of string, which would have the effect of the hob-nailed military sandals of the Romans or the climbing nails in a modern boot. The knots would have made walking on the sand in the Taklamakan Desert much easier. This type of sole can also be seen in the footwear of the terracotta soldiers from Xi’an, showing that this sort of footwear is not a single occurrence but most likely had a long tradition. It would most likely have been worn as an outer shoe, i.e. over a thinner cloth shoe.

Read the full post

Fan Jinshi


The painting has several interesting features. Firstly, the heads of the three younger disciples are very round with cute expressions. Second, the painting is very similar to murals found in Dunhuang Mogao Caves dating from the early Tang period. For example, the complex lingzhi mushroom (灵芝) design depicted on the canopy and the lotus seat is identical to that shown in the preaching scene on the east wall of Mogao Cave 329, dating to the early Tang. Third, the composition is very similar to the Pure Land and preaching scenes depicted in early Tang caves such as Mogao 321 and 329. This type of composition is thought to have originated from the preaching scene in the Sui-period Mogao Cave 390. These similarities indicate a close relationship between this piece and the murals of the same period at Dunhuang Mogao.

Read the full post

Stephen Teiser

Pelliot chinois 2583

This scroll is composed of thirteen sheets of paper originally written one at a time. Each sheet was a liturgy accompanying a single ritual act of donation on behalf of Dunhuang’s nuns, monks, and laypeople. Some of the rites were intended for healing sickness; others were documents used in memorial observances or the distribution of nuns’ clothing after death. Most of the prayers are short, occupying less than half a sheet.

The ensemble of the scroll’s two sides makes this my favorite manuscript in the Dunhuang collection. The texts offer elaborations of core Buddhist teachings plus hemerological calculation of lucky and unlucky days, all constructed on the back side of humble liturgies transferring merit to nuns, monks, and laypeople.

Read the full post

Nicholas Sims-Williams


While the main importance of this letter lies in the historical data it contains, what I find particularly affecting are the paragraphs with which it ends, a poignant last will and testament. Nanai-vandak regards the events described as bringing to an end the world as he knows it and foresees nothing but ruin and death for himself and the other Sogdian merchants in China. Since he does not expect to return home, he asks his correspondents in Samarkand to look after a large sum of money which he had left on deposit there, to invest it on behalf of the orphan Takhsich-vandak, presumably his son, who is still a minor, and to find him a wife when he comes of age. But of course his letter never reached its destination, so it is unlikely that its provisions were ever carried out.

Read the full post

Hans-Ulrich Seidt

MIK III 8426

The object I have chosen for the webpage of the International Dunhuang Project is not from the area of the former Soviet Union. It comes from China and is today part of the collections of the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin-Dahlem. The mural was brought to Berlin during the first decade of the twentieth century by the German expedition to Turfan. In my eyes this unique piece of art not only demonstrates the general wealth and prosperity along the ancient silk roads but also the multi-ethnic character of their urban trade centres.

Read the full post

Oktor Skjærvø

IOL Khot W 1

This records a legal case dated in year one of ‘the gracious lord, great king of kings of Khotan, Viśya Sīhya’, formerly unknown. The case concerns the sale (lease) of a man’s brother to do state work on behalf of the villagers of Birgaṃdara to help pay their debt. The cover contains a summary of the legal decision, as the complete decision could only be read by breaking the seal. This tablet was reused, however, to record another legal decision on its underside.

A number of such tablets have recently come to light in China which are shedding welcome new light on the history of Khotan in the late seventh to early eighth centuries.To me, however, it seems like IOL Khot W 1 was what started this new spate of discoveries. That is why I choose it as my favourite object.

Read the full post

Irina Popova


The text states that the ruler of Dunhuang Cao Zongshou and his wife Lady Fan issued an order to make cloth wrappers for Buddhist sutras and to supplement the lacunae in the library of Baoen Monastery. The document was dated the 15th day under the sign renyin of the 7th month of the 5th year under the reign of Universal Peace (Xianping) of the Song dynasty, which corresponds to 25 August 1002.

In the course of the research, printing and on-line publication of the Dunhuang collections from all over the world no other document with a full date from later than this has come to light, even if there is circumstantial evidence that such documents may exist. So then, this unpretentious short manuscript F-32/4 retains its complete timeless value.

Read the full post

Dan Waugh


Why this painting? In the first instance for the bowl, which to my mind embodies much of what the ‘Silk Roads’ are all about. It is one of the Middle Eastern cut glass bowls (numerous in the Sassanian period) which traveled along the Silk Roads all the way to Japan. But this banner evokes memories. When at the Mogao Caves for the first time in 1998, I was particularly struck by Cave 196, dated to 893–4, approximately the same time as the banner. Cave 196 is distinctive in that, unlike most of the other Mogao caves, it has preserved its original entrance hall and also some of its statues in their original position on the large U-shaped altar platform of the main hall. The best known of these is a bodhisattva of great beauty in the position of ‘royal ease’, whose features remind us of the bodhisattva depicted on the banner.

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John Falconer

Neg 1240(90)

In the decade before his untimely death in the early days of the Second World War, Robert Byron (1905–41) established an enduring reputation as an art and architectural historian. His extensive collection of photographs (British Library shelfmark: Neg 1240) is among the most enduring and valuable of his legacies, providing a unique record of the buildings encountered and described on his travels, many of them now inaccessible, altered or entirely destroyed. The image selected here is rare in including a human presence.

In his wanderings around the monuments of Herat, a city that has seen massive damage to its historic fabric in recent decades, he writes of feeling as one ‘who has lighted on the lost books of Livy, or an unknown Botticelli’.

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John Cayley


In the Chinese cultural sphere, practices of ‘copying’ calligraphy are understood as authentic and generative, and many of them are able to preserve, more or less intact, the aesthetic and cultural value of fine artistic works. In all their instantiations and despite their variously mediated transmission, such works of aesthetic writing may be definitively associated with a first author, with a single, named and often famous calligrapher. Or.8210/S.3753 is a freehand copy of a piece written by Wang Xizhi (303–361), China’s most famous calligrapher. Once his calligraphy had achieved the status of fine art treasure — within his lifetime — rare originals and more widely disseminated copies immediately became models for all calligraphy students and remain so right down to the present day.

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Obituary: Serguei Grigoryevich Klyashtornyj

On 21 September 2014 our esteemed colleague, the Russian scholar Professor Dr. Serguei Grigoryevich Klyashtornyj died at the age of 87 years after a severe illness. S. G. Klyashtornyj was one of the leading Russian Turcologists, the head of the Department of Central and South Asian Studies at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts for many years, vice chairman of the Russian committee of Turcologists at the Russian Academy of Sciences, honorary member of the Turkish Language Association and the Academy of Sciences of Kirgizistan and honoured professor of several foreign universities.

Publishing more than 300 books and articles, the main subject of his research which he continued almost to his death was the history of Central Asia focused on the Turkic peoples. He was highly regarded worldwide as a historian, archaeologist and philologist who made a significant contribution to the discovery and study of the Old Turkic epigraphic monuments.

Between 1960 and 1990 he was a member or the head of numerous archaeological expeditions in Kirgizistan, Siberia and Mongolia. He acted as editor or member of the editorial staff of numerous publications as well as Russian or international scientific periodicals and journals. He always took care of the following generation of Turcologists as a university teacher and as an academic supervisor of the doctoral theses of numerous students from Russia, Kirgizistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia, not a few of them are now regarded as excellent local specialists in this field.

In 2005 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference for his outstanding results in the study of the Old Turkic runic inscriptions. S. G. Klayashtornyj will be sorely missed.

Simone-Christiane Raschmann


The Archaeology of Tibetan Books

Agnieszka Helman-Wazny
Leiden: E. J. Brill 2014
HB, 311 pp., colour and B&W ills., €103
Brill Website

Huastuanift: Manihaist
Uygurlarin Tövbe Duasi
[Xuastvanift — a confession book of the Manichaean Uygurs]

Betül Özbay
Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları: Ankara 2014
PB, 256 pp., colour and B&W ills., 14TL
ISBN: 9789751628985

Buddhism Across Asia
Networks of Material, Intellectual and Cultural Exchange, vol. 1

Tansen Sen (ed.)
Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies/Manohar Publishers & Distributors 2014
HB, 483 pp., US$55.90
ISBN: 9789814519328
ISEAS Website

Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China

C. Pierce Salguero
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylavnia Press 2014
HB, E, 272 pp., 1 ills., US$55.00 | £36.00
ISBN: 9780812246117 (HB), 9780812209693 (E)
University of Pennsylvania Press Website

Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticism

Shayne Clarke
Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press 2013
HB, 296 pp., US$52
ISBN: 9780824836474
University of Hawai‘i Press Website

India in the Chinese Imagination
Myth, Religion, and Thought

John Kieschnick and Meir Shahar (eds.)
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylavnia Press 2013
HB, E., 352 pp., 20 ills., US$65.00 | £42.50
ISBN: 9780812245608 (HB), 9780812208924 (E)
University of Pennsylvania Press Website

Reconfiguring the Silk Road
New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity

Victor Mair and Jane Hickman (eds.)
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2014
HB, E., 136 pp., 31 colour, 9 b/w ills., $59.95 | £39.00
ISBN: 9781934536681 (HB), 9781934536698 (E)
University of Pennsylvania Press Website

Building a Sacred Mountain
The Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai

Wei-Cheng Lin
Seattle: University of Washington 2014
HB., 344 pp., 61 ills., US$60.00
ISBN: 9780295993522
University of Washington Press Website

Studies on Dunhuang Manuscripts

Zhang Yongquan

Lanzhou: Gansu Educational Press 2014
PB, 744 pp., CNY98
ISBN: 9787542324146

The Study of Buddhist Monasteries in Dunhuang the Post Tang, Five Dynasties and Early Song Period

Chen Dawei

Shanghai: Ancient Books Press 2014
HB, 375 pp., CNY88
ISBN: 9787532571765
古籍出版社 Website

Treasures of Dunhuang

Lin Shitian, Yang Xueyong, and Liu Bo

Beijing: NLC Press 2014
PB, 226 pp., 149 colour ills., CNY58
ISBN: 9787501352746

Writing, Painting and Sketching at Dunhuang

Sam van Schaik, Agnieszka Helman-Wazny and Renate Noller
Journal of Archaeological Science 53 (2015): 110-132
Download PDF (Link valid until 27/12/14)

Dunhuang Yanjiu
[Dunhuang Research]

Issue 145, 2014/3
ISSN: 10004016
This special issue is devoted to the 70th anniversary of the Dunhuang Academy and includes articles by the leading Chinese and Japanese scholars in the field.


Splendeurs des Han, essor de l’empire Céleste

Musée Guimet, Paris
22 October 2014 – 1 March 2015
This exhibition marks 50 years of diplomatic ties between China and France. Over 450 artefacts dating from the Han dynasty were loaned by 27 Chinese museums.

Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, UK
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015
Buddha’s Word is the first museum exhibition of Tibetan material in Cambridge. It is also the first time in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s history that its Buddhist collections will be showcased in an exhibition.

Dunhuang Culture and Art

Hong Kong Heritage Museum
28 November 2014 – 16 March 2015
Hong Kong Heritage Museum website
With 120 exhibits, the exhibition will introduce the origin, development, prosperity and decline of the Dunhuang Buddhist caves. The exhibits will include replicas of caves, copies of murals and sculptures, along with original Buddhist paintings and scriptures, other manuscripts and decorated tiles.

Travelling the Silk Road

Denver Museum of Nature & Science
21 November 2014 – 3 May 2015
The exhibition focusses on five sites along the Silk Roads, Xi’an, Turfan, Samarkand, Baghdad and Constantinople. It is accompanied by an educational interactive role-playing game and a programme of lectures and other events.

Luoyang and the Silk Road

Swedish Museum of World Culture, Stockholm
September 2015 – February 2016
This exhibition, in cooperation with the Henan Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, will display over 150 objects excavated from Luoyang and surrounding areas.


Critical Silk Road Seminar

Georgetown University
This is a year-long series of workshops funded by the John E. Sawyer Seminars program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These workshops are focused upon a critical examination of the Silk Road.
Forthcoming seminars include:
Silk Road Manuscripts and Antiquities: Collecting and Transmission (11 Dec.)
Dr Sam van Schaik (IDP) and Tamara Chin
Institutional Settings (9 April 2015)
Susan Whitfield (IDP) and Roland Lin Chih-Hung
Silk Road Seminar website

Merits of the Book: Buddhist Manuscript Traditions across Asia

University of Chicago
February 2015
For details contact Matthew Kapstein: m-kapstein[at]uchicago[dot]edu

Conference on M. Aurel Stein

Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi
24–26 March 2015
For details contact Radha Banerjee Sarkar: rbsarkar18[at]gmail[dot]com

Early Islamic Balkh History, Landscape and Material Culture

16–17 January 2015
Wolfson College, Oxford, UK
The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project (2011–2015) has been investigating the early Islamic history and archaeology of the city of Balkh, in Northern Afghanistan. This conference presents the interdisciplinary research of the Project’s international collaborative team, and hosts a discussion of the state of research on Balkh in the seventh to twelfth centuries AD.
Places are limited so please register early: balkh[dot]conference[at]orinst[dot]ox[dot]ac[dot]uk

Symposia Iranica

The Second Biennial Graduate Conference on Iranian Studies
Cambridge University, UK
8–9 April 2015
Established as the first student and early career scholar-focused forum in the field, Symposia Iranica is an unthemed, biennial international graduate conference that brings together both groups to celebrate, encourage and stimulate their interest and engagement with Iranian studies.
Symposia Iranica Facebook page

Tour: Following Stein’s Footsteps in Kashmir

Indus Experiences UK is organising a special tour to Kashmir in August 2015 following in Stein’s footsteps. The tour will stay for a few days in Srinigar visiting sites frequented by Stein, before travelling to Mohand Marg, north of Srinigar, the alpine meadows where Stein spent his summers. Further details wil be given in the next issue but places are limited and if interested contact: +44 208 901 7320 (yasin[at]indusexperience[dot]co[dot]uk).

For more information on Stein in Kashmir:
S. N. Pandita. Aurel Stein in Kashmir: The Sanskritist of Mohand Marg. New Delhi: Om Publications 2004. Kashmir Bhawan Centre, UK: HLF-KBC Website.

IDP Worldwide

IDP Sweden

Delegates at the symposium in Istanbul. From l to r: Lars Larsson, Erdal Küçükyalçin, Simone-Christiane Raschmann, Håkan Wahlquist, Göran Bäärnhielm, Ann Olsén Ehrnstén, Susan Whitfield, Eva Myrdal, Birgit Schlyter, Yukiyo Kasai, Emine Gürsoy Naskali, Patrick Hällzon. Photographer: Jonas Lindh.

The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII) hosted a symposium entitled ‘Cultural Treasures From the Silk Road in Swedish Arvhives’ from 11–14 October. The symposium brought together scholars from Sweden, Turkey, Germany, and the UK to discuss the work being done on the Hedin and Jarring collections. The symposium was organised by Birgit Schlyter, Director of the SRII and Professor of Central Asian Studies at Stockholm University, and Håkan Wahlquist, Keeper of the Sven Hedin Foundation and former Curator for the Asian Collections at the Museum of Ethnography, and both spoke about their work on the collections. Several other Swedish scholars also talked about the digitisation of the Jarring Library, the Hedin photographs and and other parts of the archives.

Scholars from Germany and Sweden included papers on other explorers, including Otani, Mannerheim and Renat.

The symposium was followed by the annual Gunner Jarring lecture, held for the first time in Istanbul, and given by Susan Whitfield of IDP.

Plans were also discussed for activities in 2015 to mark the 150th anniversary of Hedin’s birth, and it was agreed that the next issue of IDP News will be devoted to Hedin and Swedish collections. Participants were also told of the planned exhibition on Luoyang and the Silk Road, from September 2015 and an accompanying conference (see Conferences, full details in next issue).

The SRII, along with sister institutes in Rome and Athens, is now under threat. More details are given on the Institute website.

IDP Germany

Members of IDP Berlin, Simone-Christiane Raschmann, Abdurishid Yakup and Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst visited Turfan on the occasion of the conference ‘Turfan and Silk Road Economic Belt Forum. The Fifth International Conference on Turfan Studies’ from the 19–22 October 2014. The meeting was held under the very positive impression of the UNESCO World Heritage status recently conferred on Kocho and Yarkhoto, two of the oldest cities of the Turfan oasis, recognising the Chinese work of conservation and care of these sites and their more than two thousand years of settled cultures. The title of the meeting refers to the Chinese promotion since 2013 of a Central Asian trade network named ‘The Silk Road Economic Belt’.

The conference offered a broad range of excellent papers on economic, archaeological, historical and linguistic topics in a tightly packed programme. The simultaneous translation by two competent translators helped to make exchange fruitful.

The members of IDP Berlin all presented papers, on manuscripts in the Aratestate in Istanbul, on old Uygur astrological treaties and on the contribution of Iranian speakers to cultural transfer. Three other lectures may suffice to give an impression of the variety: Susan Whitfield (IDP UK) demonstrated how greatly religious communities were interested in trade and that a great deal of economic activity was involved in the construction of stupas and Buddhist monasteries in eastern Central Asia; Zulipiya Maimaiti (Turfan Museum) gave an impression of the leather garments and other leather objects preserved from the Turfan region; the paper by Kharjaubai Jantegin (Kazakhstan) on a subterranean chamber grave with ramp in Mongolia gave rise to a lively and friendly discussion about the origins of this kind of structure.

Yukiyo Kasai and Simone-Christiane Raschmann also gave a presentation at the Silk Road conference in Istanbul (see above).

IDP France

Romain Lefebvre, associate researcher at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) since 2013, has successfully completed the description of the Library’s Tangut (Xixia) fragments. Some of the fragments have been newly conserved by Françoise Cuisance. The conservation improved the decyphering and identification to reveal new content. The description of these fragments will soon be available on BnF Archives et Manuscrits, the online catalogue of the BnF manuscripts. Romain Lefebvre has also been awarded the Pasteur Vallery-Radot prize (€10,000) to research the Pelliot collections at the BnF. He visited IDP colleagues at the British Library in September to discuss potential collaboration and to attend the Tangut Day in Cambridge.

On the occasion of the visit of Melanie Malzhan to the BnF, it has been agreed that the description of the Tocharian fragments prepared by the CeTOM (A Comprehensive Edition of Tocharian Manuscripts) team will soon be available on BnF Archives et Mansucrits.

The Musée Guimet opened a major exhibition on the Han Dynasty (see Exhibitions). A workshop will take place on 4 December with the collaboration of CRCAO (Centre de Recherche sur les Civilisations de l’Asie Orientale) at which Chinese and French archaeologists will present their research.

IDP Russia

On 21 September 2014, Professor Dr. Serguei G. Klyashtornyj, the eminent Russian Turcologist, honoured professor of several foreign universities, who headed the IOM Department of Central and South Asian Studies for many years (up to 2013), died after an extended illness. The administration and researchers of the Institute bewail his death.

Obituaries are given by Dr Raschmann (below), and on the IOM website.

The IOM RAS was represented at the Princeton University International Conference ‘Prospects for the Study of Dunhuang Manuscripts: The Next 20 Years’ (see above) by its Director, Prof. Irina F. Popova, who gave the paper ‘A Fragment of Political Treatise in Dunhuang School Manual’, and who moderated Panel 5, ‘Networks and Comminication’ and the Concluding Keynote Lecture. Dr A. Zorin who gave the paper, ‘Fragments of Tibetan Texts Found at the Dunhuang Collection Kept at the IOM RAS: Eight Identified Fragments of Buddhist Canonical Texts.’

IDP Beijing

IDP NLC colleagues finished marking up a bibliography entitled An Index for the Reference of Dunhuang Manuscripts in NLC Collections: 1900–2001《國家圖書館藏敦煌遺書研究論著目錄索引: 1900–2001》. This bibliography is very helpful for understanding the research history of each item in the NLC Dunhuang manuscript collections. It was compiled by Mrs Shen Guomei, a librarian at NLC, and was published by NLC Press in 2001.

Mr Lin Shitian, Yang Xueyong and Liu Bo published their new book Treasures from Dunhuang 《敦煌遺珍》 in June 2014. Two of the authors, Lin and Liu, are IDP NLC staff. This book is included in the series on Chinese Rare Books by NLC Press (see Publications).

Liu Bo attended the International Academic Conference on Chinese Palaeography, which was held at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on 30–31 October 2014. He gave a talk on Dunhuang manuscripts that are copies of printed books.

Ms Luo Weiyan resigned in July after three years of service because of health reasons and Ms Zhao Qing was hired as the new imaging assistant. She began work on 1 August.

Mr Liu Bo returned to Beijing from Boston at the end of August. He had been working at Harvard-Yenching Library for a year as a visiting fellow, and completed an annotated catalogue of the rare Chinese local gazetteers held there.

IDP Dunhuang

Details of Dunhuang celebrations are given in Section 1.


An exhibition of Dunhuang textiles was held at the China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou (see Section 2).

The Museum Director, Dr Zhao Feng, visited IDP UK in April 2014 and gave a paper at the event, ‘Silk on the Silk Road’ (see IDP UK).


Silk on the Silk Road

An afternoon of lectures followed by a reception was the final event marking the year of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of IDP. Lectures were given by Susan Whitfield, Helen Wang (British Museum), Helen Persson (Victoria and Albert Museum) and Zhao Feng (Director, National Silk Museum, China, pictured right).

The lecture presentations and audio files are available to download on the IDP Blog.


We were sorry to say goodbye to Paschalia Terzi and Stephanie Santayana. Paschalia finished her research on Stein archives on an Erasmus studentship. She is planning to publish the results. Stephanie, who worked as a volunteer while completing her MA at UCL, finished her checking of the catalogue of the Stein paintings in the British Museum.

We welcomed four MA students from UCL in May and June on internships. Meghan Butt, Shaochen Wang, Tingting Wang and Na Zhang, helped with the sorting and cataloguing of photographic collections for IDP, along with translations and transcriptions.

Visitors to IDP over the past six months to discuss collaboration, ongoing and potential, have included Harlan Wallach (Northwestern University, USA), Zhao Feng (National Silk Museum, China), Susan Huntington (Ohio State University, USA), Lew Lancaster and Wayne de Fremery (University of California, Berkeley), Mimi Gates (Dunhuang Foundation US), Ian Johnson (Australia National University), Matthew Kapstein (University of Chicago), Charles Manson (SOAS), William McGrath (University of Virgina) , Agnieszka Helman-Wazny (University of Hamburg), Daniel Waugh (Washington University), Matthew Ciolek (Australia), Maria Menshikova (The State Hermitage, St Petersburg), and Lilla Russell-Smith (Museum for Asian Art, Berlin).

In addition, IDP welcomed several groups of students and scholars to view manuscripts, including from the Getty Research Institute (for potential loans for their 2016 exhibition), supporters from the Dunhuang Foundation US, students from the University of Heidelberg, French archaeologists and students at the Pratt summer school.

It continued to be a busy period for scholars viewing manuscripts in the Reading Rooms, with 24 readers viewing 444 manuscripts over this period.

Conferences and Papers

Sam van Schaik spoke on Tangut translations of Tibetan Buddhist manuscripts at the annual Tangut workshop in Cambridge, with Emma Goodliffe of IDP also attending ( Susan Whitfield (SW) gave lectures on IDP and Silk Road research at the following events.

Debbie Haine and Anne Ely of SBFT at the IDP Patrons Meeting.

IDP Patrons Meeting

The annual IDP Patrons Meeting was held in London on 11 June and followed by a tea for friends and supporters.


The Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT) held its annual reception and certificate presentation at The Royal Society on 26 June. Members of IDP attended and IDP also prepared a poster exhibition celebrating over two decades of collaboration between SBFT and the British Library.


Susan Whitfield and Vic Swift met with colleagues from IDP Paris in April to discuss ongoing collaboration.

During her visit to Istanbul, Susan Whitfield met with colleagues from Sweden to discuss ongoing collaboration, including on activities next year to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Sven Hedin’s birth (see next issue of IDP News). Subsequently, Michel Lee, Director, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, visited London to discuss their forthcoming exhibition on Luoyang and the Silk Road (see Exhibitions)

In Istanbul Susan Whitfield also met with scholars and cultural organisations in Turkey to discuss potential collaboration and the organisation of the next IDP business meeting, planned for Istanbul in April 2015.

Susan Whitfield travelled with Simone-Christiane Raschmann (IDP Germany) to Urumqi and Dunhuang, where they met with IDP partners, before attending and speaking at the Fifth International Conference on Turfan Studies.