Abbot Wang Yuanlu, discoverer of the hidden Library Cave

The Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts

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Dunhuang manuscripts refer to a wide variety of religious and secular documents in Chinese and other languages that were discovered at the Mogao of Dunhuang, China, during the 20th century.

The majority of the surviving texts come from a large cache of documents produced between the late 4th and early 11th centuries which had been sealed in the so-called ‘Library Cave’ at some point in the early 11th century.

The Library Cave was discovered by a Daoist monk called Wang Yuanlu in 1900, and much of the contents of the cave were subsequently sold to European explorers such as Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot.

Diamond Sutra

The is a Mahāyāna (Buddhist) sutra from the genre of Prajñāpāramitā sutras. Translated into a variety of languages over a broad geographic range, the Diamond Sūtra is one of the most influential Mahayana sutras in East Asia, and it is particularly prominent within the Chan tradition, along with the Heart Sutra.

Dunhuang Go Manual

The or Dunhuang Go Classic or simply the Classic of Go is the earliest surviving manual on the strategic board game of Go. Dating from the 6th century, it exists as a single manuscript that was discovered in the ‘Library Cave’ of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, China by Aurel Stein in 1907, and which is now in the collection of the British Library in London, England.

Dunhuang Star Chart

The Dunhuang map or Dunhuang Star map is one of the first known graphical representations of stars from ancient Chinese astronomy, dated to the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Before this map, much of the star information mentioned in historical Chinese texts had been questioned. The map provides a graphical verification of the star observations, and are part of a series of pictures on one of the Dunhuang manuscripts. The astronomy behind the map is explained in an educational resource posted on the website of the International Dunhuang Project, where much of the research on the map has been done. The Dunhuang Star map is to date the world’s oldest complete preserved star atlas.

Old Tibetan Chronicle

The is a collection of narrative accounts and songs relating to Tibet’s Yarlung dynasty and the Tibetan Empire. The three manuscripts that comprise the only extant copies of the Chronicle are among the Dunhuang Manuscripts found in the early 20th century in the so-called “hidden library” at the Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang, which is believed to have been sealed in the 11th century CE. The Chronicle, together with the Old comprise Tibet’s earliest extant history.

Tibetan Annals

The Tibetan Annals, or Old Tibetan Annals (OTA), are composed of two manuscripts written in Old Tibetan language found in the early 20th century in the “hidden library”, the Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang in northwestern Gansu province, Western China, which is believed to have been sealed in the 11th century CE. They form Tibet’s earliest extant history.

Wang ocheonchukguk jeon

is a travelogue by Buddhist monk Hyecho, who traveled from Korea to India, in the years 723 – 727/728 CE.

One thought on “The Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts”

  1. Complementary list of texts discovered in the Mogao library cave:

    Non-Buddhist religious texts

    • Taoist texts, including the Hua Hu Jing, and the Xiang’er commentary to the Tao Te Ching
    • Jewish Selihot prayers
    • Nestorian Christian texts
    • Manichaean texts

    Non-religious texts

    • Social documents, such as contracts, account books and loan receipts
    • Philosophy, notably the Confucian classics
    • Literature, including Chinese folk songs and Classical poetry
    • History, both official and local
    • Geography, including the Wang wu tianzhu guo chuan
    • Medicine, including treatments for plagues and illnesses.
    • Astronomy, including the Dunhuang star map
    • Mathematics
    • Divination, including the Irk Bitig
    • Dictionaries, including fragments of the Qieyun
    • Music scores and dance notations
    • Recreational games (the Dunhuang Go Classic)
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