Conserving the Diamond Sutra

This 15-minute film is a fascinating look at the decade-long conservation effort being made on the oldest, complete, dated printed book in history, a scroll of the Diamond Sutra, from 868 CE.

In the late part of the 19th century this was amongst the thousands of manuscripts that were found behind a walled-in cave in the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in West China.

It was subsequently taken to Britain by Auriel Stein, and kept in the British Library, along with most of his others finds.

It appears to have been patched at that time, and subsequently at least three times there were poorly thought-out attempts to preserve it.

The first thing to do in the modern conservation of the manuscript, was to find out how to remove the previous conservation attempts without significantly damaging the manuscript.

That in itself took years of research to understand the materials, and to find ways of working with it. Eventually when conservation was considered possible, the work began. It took around a decade.

I have included three more silent and very short looks at conservation of manuscripts in China today in this playlist. They are like short meditations on the delicate nature of these treasures.


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Diamond Sutra


Diamond Sutra


Diamond Sutra


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