Treasures in the Royal Library

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Handwritten scroll from the Dunhuang Caves in Gansu Province. China 9th century.
Department of Oriental and Judaica Collections, Dunhuang 2 8º

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Chap. 15: Commentary on Avatamsaka-sutra

Dunhuang is situated in western China on the Silk Road bordering on the deserts of Central Asia, and it is known for its large Buddhist cave complex. The first cave was dug out and decorated in the year 366. The building of caves continued until the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). About 1900 a Chinese monk discovered a small cave filled with more than 30,000 handwritten and printed texts, which nobody had seen since the early 11th century. The monk sold several scrolls to Western scholars and explorers, among them the Danish telegraph engineer Arthur Bollerup Sørensen. In 1915 he acquired 14 scrolls which he donated to the Royal Library.
The illustration shows a part of chapter 15 of Huayanjing lun, a commentary on the Indian Buddhist text Avatamsaka-sutra. The sutra is the basic text of the Buddhist school in China known as Huayen, and this sutra expresses the idea that man is one with the universe and identical to Buddha – all sentient beings are one and the same.
Huayanjing lun originally consisted of 100 chapters (juan). Today only chapter 10 is known – it has survived outside the Dunhuang texts – and the part of chapter 15 that was found at Dunhuang and is not known from other sources.
The scroll consists of 11 fragments that have been glued together and seem to be calligraphic exercises.

The scroll is 26 cm high.

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