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crystal sage

The Cave of the Thousand Buddhas

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Just came across this..

I wonder what happened to these documents.. manuscripts.. ?

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Dunhuang flourished as a center of Buddhist culture for many centuries. While other towns along the Silk Road were also graced with similar cave clusters, including massive temples and relief statues 100 feet( 30 m) high, what made Dunhuang more special was the legend of a lost library. The rumors of an ancient archive kept inside the Cave of a Thousand Buddhas had apparently been forgotten for almost 1000 years. These ancient texts were supposedly stored in a sealed room guarded by a lone, self-appointed monk.

Rumors of this lost library became a fact in the late winter of 1907 when Anglo-Hungarian explorer Marc Aurel Stein trekked 3000 miles94830 km) along the Silk Road to Dunhuang. Stein convinced the lone monk to open the storeroom and what he discovered surely surpassed all exptectations. A heard of Buddhist manuscripts, paintings, books and other writing were discovered in the hidden room. The multi-lingual manuscripts , including an undecipherable script, remained in excellent condition after 800 years, preserved so well by the dry desert air.

The most significant finds at the Cave of a Thousand Buddhas were ancient Chinese governmental records, along with irreplacable translations and trancscriptions of early bhuddhist texts. Some of the earliest texts date from the fifth centurey CE and their origin can be traced all the way back to India. The most significant discovery was the world's oldest known printed text, a copy of the Buddhist diamond Sutra, a work dated 868 CE - well over five centturies before Gutenberg printed his firts Bible in Europe. The majority of the books, many over a thousand years old, record the former days of greatness when China was amonthe the most vital empires in the world. Another vital empire, Great Britain, sent Sir Aurel Stein to acquire the manuscripts. Stein and French scholar Paul Pelliot secured a majority of the texts for a pittance from Abbot Wang, a caretaker in dire need of funds to restore the caves. Most of these works today are part of the Stein Collection in London's British Museum.

The cave of a Thousand Buddhas is located just outside the town of Dunhuang (Tunhuang). Early morning buses leave daily for the caves, which close in the early afternoon.

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Edited by crystal sage

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Sir Aurel Stein's expeditions began with a childhood fascination with the Silk Road. Stein was intrigued by the travels of Xuanzang. He became an archeologist and, at the age of forty, financed his first expedition into central Asia. In May of 1900, Stein set out for western China and the Taklamakan Desert. This trip lasted nearly two years. On this expedition, Stein wanted to follow in the footsteps of Xuanzang, identifying the Buddhist sites described by the traveler.

Entering the Taklamakan Desert, Stein uncovered Buddhist paintings and sculptures and Sanskrit texts. Still not satisfied, Stein traveled east to Niya, where he and his men made their first big discovery. At Niya they found over 100 wooden tablets written in 105 CE. These tablets bore clay seals, official orders and letters written in an early Indian script. No earlier Indian documents of day-to-day life have yet been discovered. Their discovery supports Xuanzang's claim that this region was conquered by Indians around 200 BCE. Stein also found numerous coins dating from the Han dynasty. Other finds included an ancient mouse trap, a walking stick, part of a guitar, a bow in working order, a carved stool, an elaborately-designed rug, as well as many other household objects. Stein's discoveries made him famous and convinced the Indian government to fund his second expedition.

After Stein's first expedition, other countries recognized the wealth of the Silk Road. In 1902, just two months after Stein's first expedition, Germany and Japan sought to unearth their share of Chinese treasures. As result, an "international race for the ancient Buddhist treasures of the Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts" began. This race involved archeologists from seven nations and lasted over a quarter of a century. The artifacts excavated ended up in more than thirty museums across Europe, America, Russia and East Asia.

• The Second Expedition

Stein set out on his second expedition, his most famous, in 1907. This trip targeted the sites of Lou Lan and Dunhuang. Stein wanted to be the first archeologist to explore these sites. Stein reached Lou Lan first, crossing the high mountains and the Lop Desert. There he found military records dated to 330 CE. These records described frontier warfare in the region, when the Chinese emperor was struggling to control the western regions.

Moving on from Lou Lan, Stein stumbled upon his greatest discovery, "The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas" at Dunhuang. Here Stein bribed Abbot Wang, the leader of the monastic group in charge of the caves, and smuggled away thousands of manuscripts written in Chinese, Sanskrit, Sogdian, Tibetan, Runic Turki and Uighur. Among these manuscripts were rich Buddhist paintings and the world's oldest printed document, The Diamond Sutra, from 863 CE.

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Handbook to the collections of Sir Aurel Stein in the UK

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I wonder what is available.. and what is hidden in storage?

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Edited by crystal sage

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Dunno about the docs but I just Google Image search for the cave of a thousand Buddhas.

Awesome.

:tu:

Edit: Found this also...

"But it was his second trip on which he uncovered thousands of manuscripts and paintings in the Cave of One Thousand Buddhas at Dunhuang, that was to establish him as one of the most important scholars of Buddhist history.

"Locally these items would have been traded, bought, sold and the collection would have been destroyed," she says. "He wanted these relics to be where experts could look at them. For him it was irrelevant where they ended up."

http://www.lafemmemagazine.com/civilization_and_archeology.htm

Edited by Eldorado

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The original Chinese takeaway

By Marcus George

BBC News Online

British adventurer Sir Aurel Stein sent home more than 40,000 relics from his explorations round Asia, most of which are still in the UK. Either one of history's heroes, or one of its greatest plunderers, the 60th anniversary of his death again raises the question of whether museums need to confront their own past.

While his life's work is celebrated in the western world, he is remembered in a very different way by countries whose heritage he "looted".

The heritage taken is China's parallel to the Greek claim on the Elgin Marbles - priceless friezes taken from the temple of the Parthenon in the 19th Century: both are unique cultural relics taken away by Europeans.

The Marbles are still housed at the British Museum; negotiations with Greece have ended with the museum adamant the historic statues are staying in the UK. A museum which is being built to house them in Greece is set to remain empty.

Cultural disputes

But what should happen to all this cultural heritage residing far from its origins?

Now the expertise to care for antiquities is universal, heritage institutions of the West have more difficulty maintaining their role as sole guardians of world heritage.

A resolution passed in the 1980s by the United Nations agency of education and culture, Unesco, urged the return of artefacts to their country of origin. It has subsequently chalked up several successes in helping to resolve disputes over cultural and historical items.

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Treasures

Most of the Stein artefacts at the museum are not on permanent show because of their delicacy. The Stein room is where the collection's most prestigious silk paintings live, far from public gaze. And in the vaults of the museum lie several thousand more artefacts - carved tablets, pots, figures - in darkness.

But not for long. Through the museum's digitisation process the whole collection will soon be accessible to the public on the internet.

A parallel digitisation programme, the International Dunhuang Project, is going on at the nearby British Library, a result of more than two decades of academic collaboration. The library, in collaboration with the museum, is also putting on an exhibition of Stein's manuscripts, paintings and artefacts next year.

Yet while the question of returning the Dunhuang treasures has arisen several times - the Chinese Worker's Daily carried a campaign for their return several years ago - Chinese authorities have never formally brought up the issue of the Dunhuang treasures.

....The British Library holds thousands of manuscripts Stein took from the sites he discovered, including the Diamond Sutra, dated 868AD, the first dated example of block printing.

By the mid 1920s, China refused permission for any further explorations in the region. Chinese officials had known about the existence of the Dunhuang caves but had not acted on it, says Susan Whitfield.

"China became very sensitive about allowing foreigners into the region. Lobbied by their own academics they restricted the access.

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The original Chinese takeaway

:lol::lol:

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