Preserving Traditional Buryat Book Culture

The Tibetan collections at the Centre of Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs (Russian Academy of Sciences) and Aga Buddhist monastery are two of the largest in the world. These collections represent the unique traditional cultural heritage of Buryat people. The manuscripts were neglected for over a century during pre-Soviet and Soviet times as the religion of the people of Buryatia was banned.

The Tibetan Buddhist canon is one of the three most important canons of Buddhist literature in the world, and hence one of its most important bodies of religious literature. Generally, it consists of over 5,250 texts which are attributed to the Buddha. While the texts of the canon (Kanjur and Tanjur) and the collections of works by famous Buddhist authors (sumbums) were bought in large Tibetan monasteries and printing houses, popular texts for everyday use (ritual, educational, etc.) were printed in Buryatia.

During pre-soviet and soviet times, the people of Buryatia were persecuted, and their traditional religion was not allowed. The traditions were not passed on to the new generations, and without a relationship to the texts, many were simply lost and left unused and poor conditions due to neglect.

The project digitised 107 volumes of Chone Buddhist canon, along with 293 xylographs. The project created two laboratories for digitising cultural heritage in the Centre of Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs (Institute of Buddhist, Mongolian and Tibetan Studies, Russian Academy of sciences) and Aga Buddhist monastery, and students and staff were trained in digitisation skills. Copies of the material have been sent to institutions and universities across the world.

Project Details

Location: Russian Federation Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £24,000 Commencement Date: 07/2017 Project Status: Completed
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