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Unique compendium of ancient Tibetan texts to be published this year

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(TibetanReview.net, Apr05’22) – A 30-volume compendium of ancient Tibetan texts, many of them not seen before, is to be published this year by Northwest China’s Gansu Province, reported China’s globaltimes.cn Mar 28, citing an announcement by the Gansu Ethnic Publishing House Mar 27.

The book contains a lot of valuable historical materials that have not been seen by the public, including documents about the culture and history about the Tubo period (633-842) on the Tibetan Plateau, Dang Chenfei, head of the publishing house under the Reader Publishing Group, has said.

What China calls the Tubo period refers to Tibet’s Yarlung Dynasty, the most powerful in the plateau country’s history and which was a scourge to China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Tibetan dynasty even briefly captured China’s ancient capital Chang’an in 763AD and concluded with Chinese emperors peace treaties which said words to the effect that “Tibetans will be happy in Tibet, and the Chinese in China”. These were engraved on stone pillars, of which one could still be seen in Tibet’s capital Lhasa.

The compendium is stated to contain more than 6,700 manuscripts from 14 institutions, including museums, libraries and research institutes in Gansu Province.  Most of the content is stated to consist of ancient Buddhist texts.

“The multi-volume book is a milestone in the sorting and preservation of Dunhuang Tibetan manuscripts as it is the first collection to be printed as text instead of photos of the documents. It will promote the further development of Dunhuang ethnic Tibetan manuscript research around the world,” Dang has said.

The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, which had been closed for thousands of years, were opened in 1900 for the first time, and a large number of ancient manuscripts, prints and works of art were unearthed. They are regarded as major discoveries in modern archaeological history in the world. 

Besides writings in ancient Chinese, documents written in the Tibetan script make up the majority of documents found in the Dunhuang collection, making this new book series a written record of Tibetan literature, the report said. 

Presently, over 5,000 Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang are scattered all over the world, including more than 4,200 in the National Library of France, over 1,400 items in the British Library, and also sporadic collections in Russia, Japan and other places, the report noted.

In recent years, a publishing house in Shanghai negotiated with foreign collection units and successively published the Dunhuang manuscripts in French, English, and Russian, including the Dunhuang Tibetan catalogues in English and French, the report cited the publishing house as saying.

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