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WRITTEN MONUMENTS OF THE EAST
The Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies (Ulan Ude, Buryatia) affiliated with the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences is a holder of a unique collection of oriental writings that comprises dozens of thousands of manuscripts and printed folios. This wealth is in the custody of the Institute's Center of Oriental Manuscripts and Woodcuts. Suffice if we say that the Tibetan part of the stock numbers something like 100,000 items, and the Mongolian one - around 6,000. All that in the teeth of the sad happenings of the 1920s and 1930s when the powers that be mounted a ruthless struggle against religion and had a larger part of monastical libraries sacked and ravaged, together with their precious books, manuscripts and other relics of spiritual culture. Still and all, oriental scholars managed to salvage part of these treasures during their archeological expeditions east of Lake Baikal. This is a priceless heritage indeed. Dr. Tsymzhit Vanchikova, a historian heading the Center, has supplied details in her interview for the newspaper Nauka v Sibiri (Science in Siberia). Since time immemorial Buryat Buddhists have been exchanging books with their brethren abroad. These books were brought to Buryatia by monks and pilgrims for datsans (Buryat monasteries) and wealthy believers. Now and then rural commoners chipped in to buy just one book for all. There was a custom in Buddhist countries to copy the divine sutras (sacred canons) by hand, for it was believed this work added to people's deserts in this earthly world. Many big monasteries ran printeries of their own, where they produced books, calendars and other pieces of literature for their own needs in the form of woodcuts and wood-engravings by the method of xylography. Such publishing activities unfolded in Buryatia, too. Our Tibetan and Mongolian collections include editions of the 18th century, though most date back to the 19th and early 20th century. These are canonical Buddh ... Read more
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