X
X

Mongolia: Preservation Challenges Confront Trove of Buddhist Texts

A staff worker shows off some of the manuscripts crowding the storage rooms at the National Library of Mongolia. With limited storage space, library staff make best use of available room, minding the fragile state of the documents as best they can. (Photo: Pearly Jacob)

Scholars believe it to be the world’s largest treasury of ancient Buddhist texts. The sheer immensity of the collection held in the National Library of Mongolia has prevented a proper tally to date.

The National Library, located in a stout Soviet-era neoclassical building in downtown Ulaanbaatar, is estimated to contain over a million scholarly and religious Buddhist works. Besides original works from Mongolia, the library has rare copies of the early Tibetan Buddhist canon—sacred contemporary records of the Buddha’s oral teachings, called the Kangyur, and commentaries and treatises on the teachings of the Buddha, the Tengyur.

Many original Tibetan texts were lost or destroyed amid the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. Thanks to centuries of contact with Tibet, however, Mongolia is believed to have some of the few remaining originals. In addition to ancient Tibetan and Mongolian documents, rare Sanskrit manuscripts, including 800 verses by Nagarjuna, a 2nd-century Indian Buddhist philosopher, inscribed on birch bark, have been identified in the collection.

To read the full story

Pearly Jacob is a freelance journalist based in Ulaanbaatar

Mongolia: Preservation Challenges Confront Trove of Buddhist Texts

1 / 1
X
> <