Monday, 27 April 2015

A Web of Tangut Catalogues

Have I ever mentioned how great the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) is? One small criticism I do have, however, is that material is often scanned and put online without any description of the item. The situation is particularly bad in the case of Tangut, as so few people in the world can read Tangut. Dozens of Tangut Buddhist manuscripts held at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts (IOM) in Saint Petersburg have been digitized and made available online at the IDP website, but there is no accompanying description or bibliographic information for any of them, and not even the title of the text is given. This makes it difficult for the handful of scholars in the world who can read Tangut to usefully browse the Tangut collection on IDP, and next to impossible for everybody else.

Last year (July 2014), a project to digitize the Tangut collection at the IOM resulted in the addition of 213 digitized Tangut manuscripts to the Endangered Archives Project (EAP). These include all of the IOM items available on IDP, as well as a number that are still indicated as "Item being digitised" on the IDP site. The EAP entries for Tangut manuscripts are slightly more informative than the corresponding IDP entries, giving a title and brief physical description, but these are still far from sufficient for anyone doing research on these texts, and the title is incorrect in some cases (all 213 EAP items are specified as being parts of copies of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra, whereas six items are in fact copies of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra).

Anyhow, exactly a year ago I mentioned on twitter that I was a little disappointed that the IOM Tangut texts on IDP have no description or even a title, and @idp_uk replied that "ultimately we would like to put Kychanov's catalogue online. Till then, any help identifying the digitized mss is welcome!" From that time I started to work on an index of IOM Tangut items on IDP (and later EAP), but it was not until my friend Viacheslav Zaytsev very kindly provided me with a copy of Kychanov's 1999 Catalogue of Tangut Buddhist Monuments at the IOS of RAS in November 2014 that I decided to expand the scope of my index to cover Kychanov's catalogue. In the end I did not limit myself to Kychanov's 1999 catalogue, and after nearly six months intermittent work I have created a web of fifteen interlinked pages covering four separate catalogues of Tangut texts. I hope to expand and improve this web of pages over time, and plan to add a general index of all known Tangut texts in the near future (now available here).

Outlines of Tangut Catalogues

Indexes to Kychanov's 1999 Catalogue

General IOM Indexes

Indexes of Online Resources


Gorbachëva, Z. I. and E. I. Kychanov (З. И. Горбачёва и Е. И. Кычанов). Тангутские рукописи и ксилографы [Tangut manuscripts and xylographs]. Moscow: Oriental Literature Publishing House, 1963.

Grinstead, Eric. The Tangut Tripiṭaka parts 1–9 (Śata-piṭaka series 83-91). New Delhi, [1971].

Kychanov, E. I. (Е. И. Кычанов). Каталог тангутских буддийских памятников Института востоковедения Российской Академии Наук [Catalogue of Tangut Buddhist Monuments at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences]. Kyoto: Kyoto University, 1999.

Nishida Tatsuo 西田龍雄. "西夏譯佛典目錄" [Catalogue of Tangut translations of Buddhist texts], in Seikabun Kegonkyō 西夏文華嚴經 [The Hsi-Hsia Avataṁsaka sūtra] (Kyoto, 1975–1977) vol. 3 pp. 13–59.

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