【Bright Books】

Recently, my book "Treasures of Dunhuang covered in dust for thousands of years" was published by Gansu Education Publishing House.

This is a "little book" aimed at popularizing the general situation, content and value of "Dunhuang Posthumous Letters" to readers.

However, although the volume is small, it is also the result of many years of research.

From the perspective of popularizing traditional culture, there seems to be a reason for this.

So I was invited to write an article and write my own experience.

Dunhuang suicide note, not genuine "suicide note"

  The "Dunhuang Treasures" in the title of the book refers to the Dunhuang posthumous writings.

This suicide note does not refer to the letters left by the deceased before his death, but to the scriptures and documents left by the ancient ancestors of Dunhuang.

  On June 22, 1900 (the 26th day of the fifth lunar month), Taoist priest Wang Yuanlu accidentally discovered a complex cave (now numbered Cave 17) on the north wall of the 16th cave of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang. It is full of scriptures and documents from the Sixteen Kingdoms to the Northern Song Dynasty.

This batch of ancient documents with a total of more than 70,000 pieces was called "Dunhuang Posthumous Letters" by later generations.

  Since the Mogao Grottoes were excavated on the cliffs of Mingsha Mountain, the caves where the Dunhuang suicide note was preserved are also called Dunhuang Stone Chambers or Stone Chambers.

Because the main body of the Dunhuang posthumous script is the handwritten Buddhist scriptures, the early people called the Dunhuang posthumous script "stone room writing scriptures", and the cave where the Dunhuang posthumous script was kept was called the "Book Collection Cave".

In addition, Dunhuang posthumous writings are also known as "Dunhuang Documents", "Dunhuang Manuscripts", "Dunhuang Documents", "Dunhuang Scrolls" and so on.

  "Thousands of years covered in dust" is a literary expression, and the nature, time and reasons for the closure of the Dunhuang Sutra Cave are indeed unsolved mysteries in the academic world, and it is inevitable that people will have various imaginations.

Since no relevant records of the parties or descendants have been found, various theories about the nature of the Dunhuang Sutra Cave, the time of closure and the reasons for it have so far been speculations or hypotheses.

The Dunhuang posthumous writings unearthed from the Dunhuang Sutra Cave are currently known, and the latest date was written in AD 1002 (the fifth year of Song Xianping). Therefore, people speculate that the closing time of the Dunhuang Sutra Cave should be in the early 11th century.

From the beginning of the 11th century to 1900, the Dunhuang posthumous writings were buried in the cave for more than 900 years, nearly 1,000 years.

  In 1900, my country was at the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Western powers openly dispatched the Eight-Power Allied Forces to invade our country, and the national crisis of the Chinese nation's subjugation and genocide is becoming more and more serious.

In addition, most of the local officials in Gansu and Dunhuang were ignorant and ignorant, so this treasure was not properly protected. It was looted by "exploration" teams from Britain, France, Japan, Russia and other countries successively, causing the Dunhuang suicide note to be scattered around the world. everywhere.

  At present, there are more than 70,000 Dunhuang posthumous writings scattered in more than 80 museums, libraries, cultural institutions and some private hands in 9 countries in Europe, Asia and America.

Among them, the National Library of China (collecting No. 16578), the National Library of the United Kingdom (collecting about 17,000), the National Library of France (collecting about 7,000) and the Institute of Oriental Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (collecting about 17,700) are the four major Major collectors.

The dispersal of Dunhuang posthumous writings is a major loss to my country's modern academic culture, and it has become a sad history of my country's modern academics. It is hard to let go!

"Shiroom writing scriptures", including documents of various ethnic groups

  Most of the Dunhuang posthumous texts are handwritten texts, and there are also a small number of engraved and printed texts and rubbings.

  In ancient times, before the invention and popularity of printing, documents and classics existed in the form of manuscripts for a long time.

During the Warring States Period and Qin and Han Dynasties, it was mainly written on bamboo slips and wooden slips.

In the Eastern Han Dynasty, books written on paper appeared, and in the Jin Dynasty, paper books completely replaced bamboo and wood slips and silk books.

After the Song Dynasty, printing became popular, and printed texts gradually became the main carrier of books and knowledge dissemination, replacing the status of handwritten texts.

Therefore, in terms of the method and carrier of text transmission, roughly from the Jin Dynasty to the Song Dynasty, it was the era of handwritten paper texts as the main body, and after the Song Dynasty to the present is the era of printed texts.

  Dunhuang posthumous writings lived in the era when paper handwritten texts were popular, so most of them were handwritten texts.

After the Song Dynasty, the main carrier of books and knowledge dissemination was printed matter, but the woodblock printing popular in the Song Dynasty had been invented at least in the Tang Dynasty.

Unfortunately, most of the early woodblock prints have not survived.

Fortunately, dozens of engraved prints have been preserved in the Dunhuang suicide note, making them some of the earliest extant prints in the world.

Among them, the most famous "Diamond Sutra in the ninth year of Tang Xiantong (AD 868)" is the earliest surviving engraving and printed matter marked with the age in the world, and it is now collected in the National Library of England.

  The rubbing technique appeared earlier, but the early rubbings also failed to survive.

And several Tang stele rubbings preserved in Dunhuang posthumous writings have become the earliest known rubbings in the world.

These include the "Hot Spring Inscription" by Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, Li Yong's "Inscription on the Pagoda of Zen Master Yong of Huadu Temple" and the rubbings of the "Diamond Sutra" written by Liu Gongquan.






  The earliest known Dunhuang suicide note is the "Vimalakirti Sutra" written by King Xianggao of Houliang in 393 AD (the fifth year of Linjia of Houliang).

The latest date is the inscription of Cao Zongshou, King of Dunhuang in AD 1002 (the fifth year of Song Xianping) mentioned above. This document is collected in the Institute of Oriental Literature of the Russian Federal Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.

From AD 393 to AD 1002, the time span was more than 600 years. Most of the Dunhuang posthumous writings were written or copied in the late Tang Dynasty and the early Song Dynasty.

suicide note research, rewriting medieval history

  In terms of content, Dunhuang posthumous writings can be said to be all-encompassing, but because they are collected by Buddhist monasteries, Buddhist books are the most collected, accounting for about 90%.

  There are many Buddhist texts in Dunhuang that are handed down Buddhist sutras collected in the Tripitaka of the past dynasties, such as the "Great Prajna Paramita Sutra", "Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra", "Wonderful Dharma Lotus Sutra", "Golden Brightness Most Victorious King Sutra" and "Vimalakirti Sutra". ""The Mahayana Infinite Life Sutra" and so on.

Although the above-mentioned scriptures have been handed down, they still have important collation value and cultural relic value due to the early copying of Dunhuang posthumous writings.

  The Dunhuang suicide note also preserves many Buddhist classics that are not found in the handed down Tripitaka.

These "Yi Jing" and Buddhist classics that have not entered Tibet have higher literature value and research value.

The most important of which is the preservation of a number of ancient and sparse scriptures, such as the Diamond Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Vimalakirti Sutra, there are more than 130 kinds of commentaries and more than 530 pieces.

These sutras are Chinese Buddhists' understanding of Buddhism, so they can truly and concretely reflect the characteristics of ancient Chinese Buddhism.

  Religious literature other than Buddhist literature, there are Taoist classics, Nestorian (Christian) classics and Manichean classics.

The most striking thing in the Taoist literature is the rediscovery of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching Xiang Er Note. Although this piece is a fragment, it preserves the scriptures and annotations from chapters 3 to 37 of the book, which is the history of Taoism. The research provides new information and reveals another way of edifying the Taoist scriptures.

Nestorian documents such as "Zunjing", "Daqin Nestorian Sanwei Mengduzan", "Daqin Nestorian Xuanyuan Classic" and other Nestorian documents and "Manichuan Buddhist Dharma and Ritual", "Xia Xian Zan" and "Prove the Past Cause and Effect Sutra" and other Manichean documents The documents provide important information for the study of the spread of ancient Nestorianism and Manichaeism.

  Documents other than religious documents, although the total amount is not large, only about 10%, but the content is very rich, involving ancient history, geography, society, ethnicity, language, literature, art, music, dance, astronomy, calendar, mathematics, medicine , sports, ancient books and many other aspects, many of which are not seen in the official history of first-hand information.