Co-edited complete collection of France’s ancient Dunhuang manuscripts published in China
Published: Jan 14, 2021 06:10 PM

Book of the ancient Dunhuang manuscripts housed in France Photo: Xinhua News Agency

A collection of ancient Dunhuang manuscripts housed in France was published in China on Wednesday, a move that Chinese experts said will promote both the research on Dunhuang and ancient Tibetan studies.

The French National Library once published a selection of the Dunhuang manuscripts and related ancient Tibetan manuscripts in a French collection in France in the 1970s, but Wednesday's publication marks the first time that all the Dunhuang and Tibetan manuscripts in France's possession have been sorted and published together, said Cai Rang, adeputy director of the Institute for Overseas National Literature of Northwest Minzu University, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

The new collection was co-edited by the French National Library, Northwest Minzu University and the Shanghai Classics Publishing House. The collection is made up of 35 volumes that contain more than 28,000 high-definition plates of the original manuscripts, according to Cai. 

These ancient Tibetan documents, which date to the 7th to 10th centuries, include religious scriptures (Buddhist and non-Buddhist), historical documents, contract documents, legal provisions, medical documents, astronomical calendars, myths, legends and letters. These not only show all aspects of social and economic activities and ethnic cultural exchanges the Tubo period(629-842), but also act as an encyclopedia that reflects the entire civilization during that period, Yongdrol Tsongkha, a professor teaching Ethnology and Tibetology at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

About 50,000 to 60,000 ancient documents were unearthed at Dunhuang's Mogao Grottos in Northwest China's Gansu Province in 1900, including roughly 100,000 ancient Tibetan documents. Unfortunately, these valuable documents were scattered overseas, mainly in the UK and France.

"The Dunhuang manuscripts currently in the British Library and the National Library of France are the most important ancient national documents housed abroad, and a few are scatted in Russia and Japan," said Yongdrol Tsongkha. He also noted that he expects China and the UK to cooperate on a collection of the manuscripts kept in the British Library. 

"The publication surely has significant meaning for academic and historical research in Dunhuang and Tibetan studies around the world," he added.