Major exhibition on Buddhism will open at the British Library this autumn

Gold painting of Amitabha Bodhisattva (Amida Buddha) in a scroll containing the Lotus Sutra, Japan 1636 (c) British Library Board

Buddhism at the British Library (25 October 2019 – 23 February 2020) will explore the roots, philosophy and contemporary relevance of one of the world’s major religions, from its beginnings in north India in the 6th century BC to having over 500 million followers across the world today.


Featuring rare and colourful scrolls, painted wall hangings and folding books, Buddhism will highlight the outstanding art contained within Buddhist manuscripts and early printed works by shining a light on the British Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world, reaching far beyond a UK audience.

Exploring the three main schools of Buddhism – Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana – across 20 countries over 2,000 years, the exhibition will highlight the theory, practice and art of Buddhism, examine the enduring iconography of Buddha and consider what it means to be Buddhist today.

Encompassing one of the richest collections of Asian manuscripts in the world, the British Library holds finely illuminated copies of Buddhist scriptures, literary works, historical narratives, and works on Buddhist cosmology, ceremonies and ritual practices.

From sacred scriptures written on tree bark, palm leaves and gold to silk scrolls of major sutras, Buddhism was pivotal in developing writing and printing techniques to transmit ideas and educate people across Asia.  

Jana Igunma, lead curator of Buddhism at the British Library, said:

‘Buddhism continues to inspire diverse artistic expression and lifestyles and, with the concept of mindfulness becoming mainstream, we are excited to host the British Library’s largest ever display of Buddhist collections, shining a light on the Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world.’

Buddhism at the British Library will be accompanied by a programme of events and a richly-illustrated book, Buddhism: Origins, Traditions and Contemporary Life, which will be available in hardback and paperback from the British Library shop and all good bookshops. 


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Notes to Editors

British Library opening hours are here and ticket prices are as follows:

Full Price: £14.00

Senior 60+: £12.00

Student / Registered Unemployed / Disabled / National Art Pass / Child 12-17: £7.00

National Art Pass Senior: £6.00

Members / Child 11 and Under: £0.00

Group visits (10 people or more) will receive a 10% discount on their ticket price and be eligible for special food and drink offers.  For more information, please visit www.bl.uk/groups

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.


The British Library’s Membership scheme is a way for people to support the work of the British Library, while also gaining access to benefits including: unlimited free access to exhibitions, access to the exclusive Members’ Room (with a guest), access to the Knowledge Centre Bar (with up to three guests), 20% discount in British Library restaurants and cafés, 20% discount in our Shops, priority booking for events, along with four free tickets to British Library events. Membership is available at a range of prices and full details are available at www.bl.uk.  Membership is separate from access to our Reading Rooms, which is available to anyone holding a British Library Reader Pass and which remains free.


For more information:

Alice Carter
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7126
e: alice.carter@bl.uk

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.