Lotus Sutra Manuscripts Digitisation Project

The British Library will conserve and digitise nearly 800 Lotus Sutra manuscripts in Chinese language from the Stein Collection by December 2022. Funded by the Bei Shan Tang Foundation, this ambitious project will provide an invaluable resource to the International Dunhuang Project (IDP).

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The Lotus Sutra, whose earliest known name in Sanskrit is the Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra and means “Sutra on the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma,” was possibly composed between the first century BCE and the second century CE. It is thought to contain the Buddha’s final teaching, complete and sufficient for salvation. It is one of the most influential scriptures of the Mahayana Buddhism, and is highly regarded in a number of Asian countries, including China, Korea and Japan, where it has been traditionally practised.

The British Library’s Stein collection contains more than 1000 copies of the Lotus Sutra in Chinese, which were acquired by Sir Marc Aurel Stein during his second Central Asian Expedition (1906-08), when he visited the Library Cave (Cave 17) at the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang, in the present-day Gansu Province in China.

While a small amount of the Lotus Sutra manuscripts have been digitised and can be found on the International Dunhuang Project website, the majority is currently unavailable online. With a generous grant from the Bei Shan Tang Foundation in Hong Kong, the British Library has started work to enable free worldwide digital access to this significant collection.

Aim of the project

The Lotus Sutra Manuscripts Digitisation Project started in August 2017 and will conserve and digitise nearly 800 Chinese language copies of the Lotus Sutra manuscripts in the Stein Collection by the end of December 2022. It will provide free online access for scholars and the public to the digitised images of Lotus Sutra scrolls with enhanced catalogue records.

A series of engagement and outreach activities will take place throughout the four-year period. An international workshop will be held towards the end of the project, gathering key researchers and scholars. The workshop will explore the digitised material and its significance to a range of scholarship areas, such as Buddhism studies, Dunhuang studies, manuscripts studies and conservation.

Stay updated

You can find the project’s latest updates and behind-the-scenes stories on our Asian and African Studies blog and on the IDP blog.

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Support us

You can support our work by donating to the International Dunhuang Project.

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Contact us

Please email lotus.sutra@bl.uk if you have any enquiries about the project.


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