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The Beginning and End of the Dunhuang Manuscripts

When May 23, 2018
from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Rooms 8 & 9
Contact Name
Contact Phone 01223 338331
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China Research Seminar talk given by Prof. Stephen F. Teiser, Princeton University.

The Beginning and End of the Dunhuang Manuscripts

Who could fail to be excited by speculation about the entombment of the Dunhuang manuscripts in a small side-chapel at the Mogao Caves (Gansu) at the dawn of the second millennium, and the not-unrelated tales about their discovery by the great explorers of central Asia at the beginning of the twentieth? Accounting for the end or storing away of the Dunhuang corpus is indeed important, but my focus is instead on how the manuscripts began. I survey the multiple origins of the manuscripts, the range of religious and social institutions producing the texts, and the variety of people who created them. The talk considers how the beginning—the creation, use, and recycling—of the manuscripts can provide invaluable information about institutions of literacy, social life, and religious practice on the Silk Road.

Stephen F. Teiser is D.T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies and Director of the East Asian Studies Program at Princeton University. His books include The Ghost Festival in Medieval China (1988), The Scripture on the Ten Kings and the Making of Purgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (1994), and Reinventing the Wheel: Paintings of Rebirth in Medieval Buddhist Temples (2006). His 2014 Guanghua Lectures at Fudan University are forthcoming as Yili yu fojiao yanjiu 儀禮與佛教研究 (Ritual and the Study of Buddhism, Beijing: Sanlian chubanshe).

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