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The Diamond Sutra - Introduction

Image of the Frontispiece to The Diamond Sutra
British Library Or.8210/P.2
Copyright © The British Library (Stein Collections)

This copy of the 'Diamond Sutra' is the world's earliest, dated, printed book (AD 868). A central text of Indian Buddhism, the Diamond Sutra was first translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in about AD 400. Carved wooden blocks were used to print this copy on a scroll made from seven panels of paper. 40,000 similar scrolls were found in 1900 when the sealed-up door of a cave was revealed during restoration work at a Buddhist monastery near Dunhuang, in Chinese Central Asia. The cave had been sealed in about AD 1000 and had remained hidden since then, the desert air providing perfect conditions for the preservation of the paper and silk scrolls inside. You can view the 'Diamond Sutra' along with thousands more images of scrolls from Dunhuang on the International Dunhuang Project website.

The 'book' comprises a scroll that is approximately five metres in length. This version allows each section of the document to be looked at in turn; the original text of course appears continuously and is read by turning the scroll from left to right.


This version of Turning the Pages does not require the Shockwave plug-in. It foregoes the interactive animation that lets you 'virtually' turn pages and brings you the same high-quality images of our greatest books in standard web pages.

You can listen to the audio files on these pages with Windows Media Player

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