When the so-called Library Cave was reopened after 900 years in Dunhuang it was found to contain some 58,000 manuscripts, all neatly gathered together and arranged in stacks. It is one of the greatest archealogical finds ever made.
The problem this episode seeks to answer is why were these manuscripts deposited in this cave, which was subsequently sealed off, and seemingly forgotten for a millennium.
Most of the manuscripts seem to have come from just one temple, the Three Realms Temple which was situated as a free-standing building, outside the cave complex, and it may be that a lot of the collection was thanks to one monk Daozhen.
Still there are various ideas on why the texts were hidden away like this, and why they were never retrieved until they were accidentally rediscovered by the Daoist priest Yuanlu in 1900, and then subsequently taken away by western explorers.
The first theory is that they were put in the cave for safekeeping when wars were prevalent, and there was a fear of the manuscripts being lost. A second theory is that the manuscripts were no longer useful, but also could not be destroyed, owing to their sacred character.
This film discusses these ideas with help from local experts who have worked on the mansucripts for decades.
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