Virtual Cropping of External Image Resources

The cooperation between the Resources for Kanjur and Tanjur Studies database (rKTs) and the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) is a significant collaboration in the field of Buddhist Studies, particularly in their focus on the preservation, digitization, and accessibility of Buddhist canonical texts. By combining their resources and expertise, BDRC and rKTS enhance the accessibility and possibilities to study Buddhist texts globally. Their collaboration allows for the aggregation and sharing of data, improving the navigation and usability of these texts for scholars and the interested public alike. This partnership exemplifies the benefits of cooperation in preserving and disseminating cultural and religious heritage.

Internal rKTs-BDRC resources

The images used on the rKTs site predominantly come from the extensive collection of the BDRC library and the images obtained during fieldwork by the Tibetan Manuscript Project Vienna (TMPV). These images are meticulously catalogued by the TMPV and then hosted on the BDRC servers, ensuring their long-term accessibility. The images on BDRC are presented as single page images, even if the source images contain multiple pages on each.

Images of the Bardan canonical collection on the rKTs platform

In order to achieve this result, the cropping of images was done manually until the recent emergence of the SCAM tool (see here), which allows images to be processed much more quickly than before. In this way, rKTs was able to put online a good number of collections which were awaiting cropping (for example the images of Matho).

External resources

Another important source for the study of the Tibetan canon are the Kanjurs and Rnying ma rgyud ‘bum collections digitized by the British Library as part of the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). This initiative has preserved numerous valuable manuscripts, making them accessible for research and study. Recognizing the significance of these collections, rKTs and BDRC swiftly integrated these digitized texts into their platforms. This integration has greatly enriched the resources available to users, providing a broader and more comprehensive field of study.

Images of the Dodedrak Kanjur on the rKTs platform

The EAP sources, which include the digitized Kanjurs and Rnying ma rgyud ‘bum collections, present a unique challenge for readers. These images have been photographed in a way that each image shows two pages side by side, with subsequent images displaying the backside of these pages. As a result, navigating these collections requires readers to continuously go back and forth between images to follow the text sequentially. This can make reading and studying the manuscripts more cumbersome compared to single-page formats, necessitating extra effort to piece together the intended order of the pages. To enhance the readability of the manuscripts and achieve a consistent representation of the collections, rKTs utilized the SCAM tool to virtually crop the EAP images.

SCAM processing of the Chizhi Kanjur

While the British Library provides these images at a reduced resolution on its platform, higher resolution versions are available via the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) server. By processing the low-resolution images of Chizhi’s Kanjur with the SCAM tool and combining the resulting files with the EAP manifests, rKTs was able to virtually crop the higher resolution IIIF images. This process significantly improves the user experience by allowing for easier navigation and study of these important witnesses.

Images of the Chizhi Kanjur on the rKTs platform

Catalogue of Drakmar Collections Published

A detailed catalogue of the precise textual contents of the canonical collections from Drakmar Monastery in Dolpo has just been published along with the digital images of the manuscripts on the rKTs archive (under “handlist” or “viewer”) and also shared with BDRC.

The manuscripts comprise altogether 116 volumes, with larger sets or individual volumes being produced and added to the collection at different times. A substantial part of the collection is constituted by a Sūtra collection (30 volumes) and a Tantra collection (18 of 20 volumes are present). Further, there are different sets of Prajñāpāramitā and other larger sūtras as well as collections of dhāraṇīs and related volumes. While the collection thus contains many of the typical building blocks of a Kangyur, it was clearly not produced as a coherent set in this sense. It rather reflects a phase prior to the formation of structured Kangyurs, when larger text collections of a similar type were transmitted independently. These collections feature individual works but also alternative textual versions not found in later mainstream Kangyurs.

Reports on the documentation of the manuscripts in 2023 and 2022 including images of the site were already published.

BDRC Report on Matho Manuscripts

In a recent blog post, our long-term cooperation partner BDRC provides a report about the so-called “Matho Manuscripts.” These consist in fragments of over 433 texts that were excavated from demolished stūpas in the village of Matho, Ladakh, in 2014. As estimated in a preliminary report on the manuscripts by Helmut Tauscher, the majority of the manuscripts was produced between the 10th-12th century and hence must be seen as an extremely important early source for mostly canonical but also non-canonical texts in this region. All of the manuscripts were investigated and digitized by the TMPV and are now accessible through the rKTs archive and also shared with BDRC’s BUDA archive.

Update: rKTs Database

During the past year, the Resources for Kanjur & Tanjur Studies (rKTs) database has received a substantial makeover and is now reached at its own dedicated domain: http://www.rkts.org.

The database was also significantly enlarged and now provides information (with varying detail) on more than a hundred Kanjurs, Tanjurs, Tantra collections, and other collections of Tibetan canonical literature. This includes searchable text catalogues, with information on contents and translators, all linked to the images of the original sources.

While some other tools are still under development, the search options (Search in the Canon) are fully functional: http://www.rkts.org/search.php?id=1.

We further produced a short video tutorial that explains how the search functions are used (How to use rKTs): http://www.rkts.org/Video/index.php

In case you encounter technical problems with the database, please report these to Bruno Lainé, the webmaster of the archive, at: brunogml@gmail.com

Fieldwork May 2023: Tarap Valley, Dolpo

The main documentation work for this year was conducted in the Tarap valley, Lower Dolpo, Nepal. During a month-long trip, the remainder of the highly endangered manuscript collection of Drakmar Monastery, comprising a total of 116 volumes, was fully digitized. Further, this opportunity was also used to digitize a collection of Old Tantra (rnying rgyud) of nearby Ghagar Monastery.

As a highlight, a public reading of some of the canonical volumes from Drakmar was conducted, during which the volumes also received new covers. The video and audio documentation of this event is planned to be made available in a short documentary. A more detailed account of the documentation work will be provided in the documentation section.

Symposium: Computational Methods & Buddhist Texts (Apr. 27-28)

Computational Humanities is a rapidly growing multidisciplinary field that uses computational and quantitative methods for processing, analyzing, and modeling complex data. Within Buddhist Studies, these methods have emerged as an important tool for those working with Buddhist texts, enabling large-scale analysis, facilitating preservation and increased accessibility, and providing new ways of visualizing and understanding data.

The symposium “Advanced Computational Methods for Studying Buddhist Texts” will bring together scholars conducting research on Buddhist texts by computational methods ranging from natural language processing, optical character and handwriting recognition, geographic information systems, cross-linguistic alignment, to content analysis.

The symposium is organized by Patrick McAllister (Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, IKGA, Austrian Academy of Sciences), Rachael Griffiths (ERC project The Dawn of Tibetan Buddhist Scholasticism (11th-13th c.) TibSchol, IKGA), and Markus Viehbeck (Tibetan Manuscript Project Vienna TMPV, University of Vienna).

Detailed program and information on registration is provided here.

Welcome!

Welcome to the new project website of the TMPV. On this site, we provide information on the background of the TMPV and inform about latest developments. We share our published research results and, from time to time, also pressing matters in ongoing research.