University of Arizona

The Paper Roads

Typology of Paper in Early Manuscripts from Central Asia

Diamon Sutra

This talk explores the early history of paper in Central Asia based on systematic, codicological, and microscopic studies of collections found in Dunhuang, Turfan, and other places along the Silk Roads.

The objects in this study, a total of 350 Chinese, Tibetan and other manuscripts, are drawn from the Stein Collection kept at the British Library in London, UK, the Turfan collection in the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW) and the Berlin State Library (BSL), Germany; the Pelliot collection in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris; and the Oldenburg collection in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St. Petersburg, Russia.

A broad range of types of paper were detected for these early manuscripts. By using the technological study of paper combined with codicological and textual information, research has aimed to explore the possibilities for dating this material and recovering the histories of regional production and usage of writing materials in scriptoria, which are determined by the manuscripts’ cultural backgrounds.

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