News & events > Silk Road Online: International Dunhuang Project
31 Oct 2011

Silk Road Online: International Dunhuang Project

[caption id="attachment_1808" align="alignnone" width="182" caption="Dunhuang Project:"]Dunhuang Project[/caption]

The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online (IDP) is a ground-breaking international collaboration 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.

Little was known of the remarkable heritage of the Silk Road until explorers and archaeologists of the early twentieth century uncovered the ruins of ancient cities in the desert sands, revealing astonishing sculptures, murals and manuscripts.

One of the most notable discoveries was the Buddhist cave library near the oasis town of Dunhuang on the edge of the Gobi desert in western China. The cave had been sealed and hidden at the end of the first millennium AD and only re-discovered in 1900. Forty thousand manuscripts, paintings and printed documents on paper and silk were found in the cave itself.

Tens of thousands more items were excavated from other Silk Road archaeological sites. These unique items have fascinating stories to tell of life on this great trade route from 100 BC to AD 1400. Yet most were dispersed to institutions worldwide in the early 1900s, making access difficult.

[caption id="attachment_1811" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Training at the National Library of China: Dunhuang Project"][/caption]

Collaborating Members

The following institutions are involved in IDP's work, as founder members or collaborating institutions.
'The International Dunhuang Project is an amazing example of the importance, power and potential inherent in digital collaboration. This project provides resources to all levels of users from schoolchildren to post-doctoral researchers. It offers a springboard for collaboration and is an inspiration for other cross-cultural, multidimensional library-related websites.' (The Journal of Web Librarianship, 1.1 (November 2007): 121-22.)