Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chinese to preserve Tibetan books

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the China Tibetology Research Centre is launching a two-year effort to preserve 426 volumes of Buddhist scriptures on palm-leaf manuscripts, dating from the 7th to the 13th centuries C.E. For a short history of the development and impact of palm leaf manuscripts, see Palm Leaf. An impression of the literary and artistic effort that went into creating the vast Tibetan libraries can be gathered from the pictures and introduction to the exhibit, Guardians of the Sacred Word, that was on display in New York in 1996. The difficulties involved in such preservation work are described vividely in the report on similar efforts in Thailand.

The vast majority of the Tibetan libraries and their contents were destroyed during and after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1951. This new effort at preserving Tibet's manuscript heritage under Chinese sponsorship seems to be a remarkable policy reversal. I wonder how the Tibetan government in exile feels about this ...

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