SIMS Online Lecture Series
Between Central and East Asia: Chinese Manuscripts from Tenth-Century Dunhuang
Imre Galambos, University of Cambridge
Friday, September 17, 2021, 12:00 -1:30pm EDT (via Zoom)
Geographically, the oasis city of Dunhuang occupied a strategic position on the northwestern edge of the Chinese cultural sphere, connecting the Chinese states with Central Asia, known at the time as the Western Regions. During the tenth century, Dunhuang was inhabited by a multilingual population that produced a vast quantity of manuscripts written in Chinese, Tibetan and over a dozen of other languages. At the turn of the twentieth century, tens of thousands of these manuscripts have been discovered in a sealed-off Buddhist cave, leading to the development of entirely new fields of scholarly research and the decipherment of several long-forgotten languages. The manuscripts provide an unprecedented amount of information on the linguistic, economic, social and religious dimensions of contemporary life. Even though they were found together in the same cave, and had been produced by the same group of people, they are typically studied by specialists of respective languages and disciplines. In an attempt to bridge the linguistic barrier, this talk proposes to look at Chinese manuscripts in a wider context, connecting them with non-Chinese scribal cultures of Central Asia. One of my aims is to draw attention to the degree of interaction and mutual influence between these traditions, attesting to the mixed nature of local population.