Seal and Scroll: Vernacular Buddhism and Manuscript Culture at Dunhuang


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships


East Asian Languages and Civilizations


This project studies the worlds of anonymous 9th and 10th century Chinese Buddhist (or perhaps “Buddho-Taoist”) ritualists evidenced by manuscript handbooks from Dunhuang, a key medieval Chinese site on the eastern Silk Road. The study’s paleographic and material-historical approach identifies styles of Buddhist practice, and ways of taking texts, very different from those typically attributed to medieval Chinese. The manuscript ritual compendia studied in this project appear to have grown out of particular ritual repertoires, and to have been personal (or lineage) handbooks embedded in particular practices. They reveal hidden textual histories and a culture of ritual improvisation from a time when manuscript culture and ritual culture were closely intertwined.