Preservation of Tibetan Bonpo Manuscripts in Amdo (Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, PRC)

Compared to Tibetan Buddhism, Bon is still a niche topic of study that is emerging to the attention of an increasing number of scholars. Ngakpa (ritual experts) normally live in isolation, and access to the material is not possible. Digitising these manuscripts will allow more scholars to engage with canonical Bonpo literature.

The Tibetan manuscripts in the region of Amdo (Qinghai, PRC) create a fragmented and heterogeneous corpus of texts. They are kept in private library collections owned by the Ngakpa, ritual experts and tantric specialist of the Tibetan Bon religious traditions. The texts cover rituals, medicine, astrology, and divination, which is crucial to Tibetan studies and the cultural and social history of the region.

Due to ageing of Ngakpa masters, interruption of some transmission lineages, unsuitability of storage conditions, lack of knowledge about long‐term preservation, and no cataloguing of the individual collections, the material is currently exposed to the risk of gradual but complete loss, which in some cases may occur within the next few years.

Stemming from a previous digitisation project in 2016, the project digitised 22 volumes of material, creating 10,650 images. The texts date from the late-19th to the mid-20th century. Staff members were joined by a group of students at the Tibetan Studies College of Minzu University of China for two training workshops. This was a great opportunity for students to learn and practice digitisation skills to international standards. The owners of the materials were involved in the digitization process, which raised awareness on the importance of preservation.

Project Details

Location: China, Eastern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): University of Naples "L'Orientale" Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £30,403 Commencement Date: 03/2018 Project Status: Completed
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