Origins and Typology of Paper in Chinese and Tibetan Manuscripts from Dunhuang
The famous manuscripts preserved in the sealed cave in Dunhuang exemplify a broad range of different types of paper. The latest dated manuscript from the cave comes from the year 1002, while the sealing of the cave is most likely to have occurred at some point in the early 11th century. The Chinese manuscripts represent the largest and earliest group, dated back to the 4th century, and the Tibetan manuscripts represent the second largest group, dated between the early 9th century to the end of the 10th. Developing an interdisciplinary methodology for the study of these manuscripts allowed me to produce a record equivalent to written sources, creating thus a more coherent and precise narrative of the history of papermaking. The methodology I use combines humanistic interests and technology and relies equally on archaeological and written sources. Significantly, macro- and microscopic research on early Chinese and Tibetan papers has provided answers to a range of decisive questions, allowing me to establish the kinds of plants used for paper production. Based on sampled manuscripts, I was able to suggest different geographical origins for the paper in them. Moreover, it has allowed me to determine with greater precision the details of craft transmission as it has shed light on the ways in which the knowledge of paper production had been shared.
Dr Agnieszka Helman-Ważny, Paper Conservator
Dr Agnieszka Helman-Ważny (University of Hamburg, Cornell University) is a paper conservator and manuscriptologist. She holds an M. A. in Paper and Book Conservation from the Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art at the Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw, Poland, and a Ph.D. in Art Theory and History from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. Her main research area is the history of paper and books in Tibet and China. Her past research projects include “The Archaeology of Tibetan Books” and “The Lost Fragment of Wanli Kanjur from Berlin in Jagiellonian Library in Poland?: Evaluation of Authenticity of Tibetan Books from the Pander Collection.” Her ongoing project at the University of Hamburg contributes to the history of paper in Central Asia during the first millennium C.E. and aims to create a typology of paper based on a systematic study of manuscript collections found along the Silk Road.