Lost Dunhuang documents returned through joint publication

People's Daily Online, May 11, 2005

Beijing, China -- Since the return of all Dunhuang Chinese documents through publication in various forms, which were lost overseas in the 1980s, the project for the return of Dunhuang national documents through publication has once again started. The signing ceremony for the Dunhuang Western Region Tibetan documents jointly compiled and published by the Northwest Nationalities University, the French National Library, the British National Library and the Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House took place recently in Beijing.

It is reported that the Dunhuang Tibetan documents presently reserved in British National Library and the French National Library are the largest quantity of and most important national documents in ancient writing lost overseas and are of important historical data value, which involve a variety of disciplines.

The British and French preserved documents are valuable materials before Bodhidharma suppression of Buddhism, international studies of which remain in the cataloguing stage, and have not been made known in printed matter, it is all the more difficult for Chinese scholars to have a look at them, this situation has hampered academic prosperity and development.

Since the 1990s, domestic compilation and publication are focused on Dunhuang Chinese documents, representatives of which are 15 volumes of the "British preserved Dunhuang Documents" compiled by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and 17 volumes of the "Russian preserved Dunhuang Documents" and 34 volumes of "French preserved Dunhuang Western Region Documents" compiled and published by the Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the bulk of Dunhuang Western Region Chinese Documents" all came off the press. Publication of the most important Tibetan documents among the national documents in ancient writing have aroused the attention of domestic academic and publishing circles. The Northwest Nationalities University, as the earliest nationalities university set up in China, boasts the tradition of Tibetan studies and numerous senior researchers.

They took the lead to set up overseas national documents research institutes nationwide. Taking upon themselves the task of collating, studying and publishing national documents in ancient writing scattered in the libraries in foreign countries, they pushed forward the study, collation and publication of overseas national documents. They reached a major program with the Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House for the study, editing and publication of Dunhuang Tibetan documents and, through making early-stage preparatory work, they reached an agreement with British and French national libraries, to begin publication of the "French Preserved Dunhuang Tibetan Documents", the "French Preserved Dunhuang Non-Chinese Documents" as well as he "British Preserved Dunhuang Tibetan Documents".
Reports say, the publication of Tibetan documents this time will be much harder than the publication of Chinese documents whether in terms of scale or of academic perspective, the whole project is scheduled to be completed in two to three years, experts say this will be the second important development stage of the Studies of Dunhuang Caves.