To celebrate the successful conclusion of the Lotus Sutra Manuscripts Digitisation Project (2017–22), the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) will hold a conference at the British Library in London from 15–16 December.
The conference is titled “The Lotus Sutra: The Teachings, Transmission and Material Culture of a Sacred Buddhist Text.” The IDP’s team will be joined by scholars who will present studies on and discuss the impact of the Lotus Sutra as a critical text of the Buddhist tradition. The IDP’s press release announced:
The conference will investigate the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, the Lotus Sutra as represented at Dunhuang, and the methodology and results of the Lotus Sutra Project, which has now conserved, digitized and published nearly 800 Lotus Sutra manuscripts in the British Library’s collections.(IDP)
Since this international conference will explore the digitized material and its significance, it will be of interest to a range of scholarly disciplines, such as Buddhist studies, Dunhuang studies, and manuscripts studies. The event will be held in-person in the British Library’s Foyle Suite, and live-streamed. It is free and open to the public, with financial support from the Hong Kong-based Bei Shan Tang Foundation.
The four-year project has completed its objective of conserving, digitizing, and publishing 800 manuscripts for the British Library, and is providing free online access to digitized images of the Lotus Sutra scrolls. Enhanced catalogue records will provide additional resources for on the Lotus Sutra in an academic context. he IDP has also held engagement and outreach activities since the project’s launch.
The Lotus Sutra (Skt: Saddharmapudnarika Sutra) is one of the most revered Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, especially in East Asia. It was composed sometime between the first and second centuries, and is believed by many to communicate the highest and most sublime culmination of the historical Buddha’s teaching. The scripture heavily influenced diverse schools throughout China, Korea, and Japan, and remains the core text of reverence for the Japanese school of Nichiren Buddhism.
The IDP, headquartered at the British Library, is an international collaboration that aims “to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet and to encourage their use through educational and research programmes.” (IDP) It enjoys multilingual collaboration with institutes like the BL, the National Library of China (Beijing), the Institute for Oriental Manuscripts (St. Petersburg), Ryukoku University (Kyoto), the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science and Humanities (Berlin), the Dunhuang Academy (Dunhuang), the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), and the Research Institute of Korean Studies (Seoul).
The Bei Shan Tang Foundation (BSTF) was founded in 1985 by the late philanthropist Dr. Lee Jung Sen (1915–2007). Dr. Lee was an avid supporter of Chinese art and culture and funded initiatives in these fields at various cultural associations, non-profit groups, universities, research institutes, and museums or galleries. The BSTF’s primary mission is to promote Chinese art and culture, and currently devotes a significant portion of its funding to support educational projects, providing grants to educational institutions and scholarships for students (mainly from Hong Kong).
14.30–14.45: Opening Ceremony, Greetings by Roly Keating and the Bei Shan Tang Foundation
Panel 1 – Teachings of the Lotus Sutra (Chairperson: Luisa Elena Mengoni)
14.45–14.50: Welcome by Luisa Elena Mengoni
14.50–15.50: Keynote: Stephen F. Teiser, “The Lotus Sutra: Creating Buddhist Scripture”
15.50–16.15: Venerable Miao Duo 妙多法師 and Roxanna Pang, “Lotus Sutra: Applying the Teachings in an Everyday Life”
16.15–16.30: Tea & Coffee Break
16.30–16.55: Paul Harrison, “When being original no longer matters: Reflections on the Sanskrit text of the Lotus Sutra and its uses”
16.55–17.20: Eric Tzu-yin Chung 鍾子寅, “Deciphering the exhibition of “The Arts of the Lotus Sutra” at the National Palace Museum”
17.20–17.55: Panel 1: Q&A
Panel 2 – The Lotus Sutra at Dunhuang (Chairperson: Sam van Schaik)
09.00–09.15: Welcome by Sam van Schaik
09.15–09.40: Neil Schmid, “At the Intersection of Image, Text and Ritual: The Lotus Sutra in Mogao Murals”
09.40–10.05: Roderick Whitfield, “Universal Gate of Salvation: Guanyin at Dunhuang”
10.05–10.20: Tea & Coffee Break
10.20–10.45: Costantino Moretti, “Dividing and Structuring the Lotus Sutra in Manuscript Form”
10.45–11.10: Imre Galambos, “Pieces of a puzzle: Fragments of Chinese manuscript with the Lotus Sutra”
11.10–11.35: Mélodie Doumy, “The Guanyin Sutra at Dunhuang as seen through the British Library collection”
11.35–12.00: Panel 2: Q&A
Panel 3 – Preserving the Lotus Sutra at the British Library: From Physical to Digital (Chairperson: Mélodie Doumy)
13.45–14.00: Welcome by Mélodie Doumy
14.00–14.25: Tan Wang-Ward 王潭, “Locating the Lotus Sutra Manuscripts Digitisation Project”
14.25–14.50: Marie Kaladgew, Paulina Kralka, Marya Muzart, “The Lotus Sutra Project at the British Library 2017-2022: A Conservators’ Perspective”
14.50–15.05: Tea & Coffee Break
15.05–15.30: Tania Estrada, Marie Kaladgew, Paulina Kralka and Marya Muzart, “Conservation Case Studies from the Lotus Sutra Project at the British Library 2017-2022”
15.30–15.55: Isabelle Reynolds-Logue, “Seeing Things Differently: The Imaging of Lotus Sutra Scrolls”
15.55–16.20: Panel 2: Q&A
16.20–16.30: Endnote: Luisa Elena Mengoni
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