Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara

Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara

by Richard Salomon, F. Raymond Allchin, Mark Barnard
     
 

As the Dead Sea scrolls have changed our understanding of Judaism and early Christianity, so a set of twenty-nine scrolls recently acquired by the British Library promise to provide a window into a crucial phase of the history of Buddhism in India. The fragmentary birch bark scrolls, which were found inside one of a set of inscribed clay pots, are written in the

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Overview

As the Dead Sea scrolls have changed our understanding of Judaism and early Christianity, so a set of twenty-nine scrolls recently acquired by the British Library promise to provide a window into a crucial phase of the history of Buddhism in India. The fragmentary birch bark scrolls, which were found inside one of a set of inscribed clay pots, are written in the Gandhari Prakrit language and in Kharosthi script. Dating from around the beginning of the Christian era, the scrolls are probably the oldest Buddhist manuscripts ever discovered.

The manuscripts and pots come from a region known in ancient times as Gandhara, corresponding to modern northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. At the peak of its influence, Gandhara was the capital of a series of wealthy and powerful dynasties and became one of the world’s most important centers of Buddhism and the gateway through which Buddhism was transmitted from India to China and other parts of Asia. Gandhara was also a principal point of contact between India and the Western world. Despite abundant archeological evidence of Gandhara’s thriving culture, until now there has been virtually no documentary evidence of its literary and religious canon.

This volume introduces a groundbreaking project to decipher and interpret the Gandhäran texts. It provides a detailed description of the manuscripts and a survey of their contents, along with a preliminary evaluation of their significance. Also included are representative samples of texts and translations.

This discovery sheds new light on the regional character of early Indian Buddhist traditions, the process of the formation of standardized written canons, and the transmission of Buddhism into central and east Asia. Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara will appeal to a broad audience with interests in Buddhism, comparative religion, and Asian languages.

For more information go to the Early Buddhist Manuscript Project web site at http://www.ebmp.org/

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
A rare example of a book that appeals equally to the specialist... as well as to the general reader interested in archaeology or in Buddhist thought and practice.

Sino-Platonic Papers
Professor Salomon has brilliantly illuminated the path to a more historically nuanced approach to the study of Buddhist manuscripts.... This volume will serve as a benchmark of clarity, readability, and scholarly precision for anyone attempting to work in similar materials in the future.

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
The remarkable success of the rescue and conservation by British Library staff, and of the decipherment and reconstruction by the team in Seattle, hold a promise of yet more revolutionary insights into the construction and meaning of the early Buddhist texts.

Library Journal
In 1994, the British Library received a collection of 29 birch bark scrolls from Gandhara, an area in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Written in Kharosthi script, the scrolls are believed to be the oldest Buddhist manuscripts as well as the oldest Indian manuscripts known to exist, estimated at nearly 2000 years old. Salomon (Asian languages and literature, Univ. of Washington), head of a team of scholars from the University of Washington and the British Library, has written this first volume in a projected series on the scrolls as an overview of their general importance. The introduction warns that some of the material may be too technical or esoteric for the lay reader and thoughtfully points out which chapters are more accessible. A great deal of information is carefully presented, ranging from how the manuscripts were preserved through their general place in early Gandharan and Buddhist culture and what they may reveal. For collections in museum studies, archaeology, and ancient languages and linguistics, this is an important source. For Buddhist studies collections, it is indispensable.--Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll., NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780295977690
Publisher:
University of Washington Press
Publication date:
04/01/1999
Series:
Gandharan Buddhist Texts
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 10.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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