Mitteliranische Handschriften. Teil 2: Berliner Turfanfragmente buddhistischen Inhalts in soghdischer Schrift, beschrieben von Christiane Reck. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. 2016 (VOHD; XVIII, 2), 473 S. ISBN 9783-515-11356-4



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In the Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland (VOHD) series, a second volume of the Catalogue of Middle Iranian Manuscripts in the Berlin Turfan collection has been brought out, again prepared by Dr. Christiane Reck. It contains a description of the manuscript fragment with Buddhist content written in the Sogdian script. The first volume of the catalogue (Mitteliranische Handschriften. Teil 1: Berliner Turfanfragmente manichäischen Inhalts in soghdischer Schrift, beschrieben von Christiane Reck. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2006 (VOHD; XVIII,1). 363 S.) was devoted to the description of Middle Iranian manuscripts with Manichaean content written in the Sogdian script. The third volume of the catalogue, on which Dr. Reck is still working, will be devoted to the description of Sogdian manuscripts with Christian content and also economic documents, letters, magical, medical and pharmacological texts. The second volume of the catalogue contains descriptions of more than 500 manuscript fragments, numbered 443-970, continuing the numbering of the first volume that covered manuscripts 1-442 (several fragments are described under a single number if they are kept in the same glass plate). This volume covers a considerable portion of the large collection that came into being as the result of four German expeditions undertaken between 1902 and 1913 to Turfan, the north-eastern part of the present Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China. In the introduction (pp. 11-16) Dr. Reck gives a brief characterization of the Buddhist Sogdian fragments and indicates that the present volume covers Buddhist fragments as determined by content, distinctive names that appear in the text or special vocabulary. The Sogdian character set in which the Buddhist fragments are written is represented by a variety of hands: there is the standard (or “formal”) script and a difficult-to-read cursive in which the shapes of several letters coincide, causing considerable difficulties in interpretation. Typically the Buddhist manuscripts take the form of either scrolls or pustaka (pothi) bound books that differ in the length of the line, long or short - when the lines run parallel to the short edge of the page. If a piece of paper has writing on one side, then as a rule it is part of a scroll, something that may be confirmed by the presence of margins or ruling. Sheets in the format of codex books were not used for writing Buddhist texts. The present catalogue also includes a depiction of Sogdian fragments that have Chinese or Sanskrit texts on the other side. The overwhelming majority of the Sogdian Buddhist texts from Turfan are fragments of scrolls or of pages from pustaka (pothi) books and only a small portion of them carry coherent texts. That is a difference between this collection and those in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the British Library in London that contain materials from Dunhuang. The manuscript fragments in the Berlin Turfan collection are comparable to the fragments in the collections of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS and Ryukoku University in Kyoto since they come from the same places. The Buddhist Sogdian texts, like the Manichaean and Christian ones, date from the 8th-10th cc. AD. The greater part of the fragments come from Khocho, while a significant number are from Toyuq, Bäzäklik, Sängim, Shorchuq and Yarkhoto. For the identification of the Sogdian texts use was made of the Chinese translation of the Mahāyāna-Sutra and commentaries on it, Vinaya texts, prose texts from the sutras and Sanskrit dhāraçī texts. According to the colophons that have survived in isolated fragments, some of the copyists had Old Turkish (Uighur) names, suggesting these manuscripts may have been copied in a Turko-Sogdian milieu. A few of the Sogdian fragments contain lines in Old Turkish. Besides, the Sogdian Buddhist writings may have been translated from Tocharian, as is evidenced by Tocharian loanwords in some of the Sogdian texts and the colophon of manuscript So 10100i. Buddhist Sogdian texts, in contrast to Manichaean ones, were not written on the reverse of Chinese scrolls, but quite often scrolls originally carrying a Buddhist text on one side were later cut into pieces and used for Old Turkish, Manichaean Sogdian, Sanskrit or Tocharian texts. The headings of the Buddhist scrolls and pustaka differ from those found in codex books: the only scroll on which the start of the text has survived has a heading on the reverse side. The pustaka books frequently carry the ordinal numbers of the volumes or chapters instead of a heading. Punctuation marks, where they exist, most often take the form of double symbols resembling parallel lines, rhombi or arcs, but they sometimes have the shape of a cross or a scattering of several dots. The pages of a pustaka have a frame marked around the opening used to join them with a cord. The greater part of the Buddhist Sogdian texts from Turfan are passages from a translation of the Chinese Mahāyāna-Sutra. It follows that Sogdian Buddhism was closely connected with the Chinese variety and, judging by the sutras most frequently translated, more specifically with Zen Buddhism. The fragmentary nature of the surviving Sogdian translations prevents their conclusive attribution to any particular school. The introduction indicates the principles used in describing the fragments. The catalogue includes descriptions of lost Buddhist Sogdian fragments, photographs of which do exist in the Hamburg collection of photographic documents, and those descriptions take account of the information given on them in the Hamburg catalogue. The fragments in the catalogue are arranged in ascending numerical order. The description of each document includes the characteristics of the paper (with its colour described for the first time), size (length and breadth, margins, height and breadth of the script, interlinear distance), and an indication of whether the writing appears on one or both sides, the number of lines, a description of the handwriting, an indication of ruling, punctuation marks and other features. The compiler provides information about the existence of photographs in the Hamburg collection, pointers to documents with similar handwriting and the like. She gives transliterations of the lines cited as examples, indication of the publications of a fragment, its content, references to it in scholarly literature, quotations made from it, identification with Chinese or other manuscripts, and so on. If the fragment being described is enclosed in glass together with others, then the detailed characteristics of the first are followed by a brief description of the rest. The main part of the catalogue consists of the descriptions of the fragments (pp. 17-358) and six concordances (pp. 361-458). The descriptions begin with number 443, as the numbering continues from the fragments in the first volume of the catalogue. Detailed descriptions following the principles indicated above are given for the six groups of fragments stored under the codes So and Ch/So, h, M, Mainz, MIK, SHT and U, as well as a few Chinese fragments written in Sogdian script. The concordances are also an exceptionally important and valuable component of the catalogue as they make it possible to consider the fragments described from various angles. The first concordance (pp. 361-388) comprises five lists in which the fragments are enumerated by the old codes numbers that were originally allotted to them according to the place where they were found. The first list contains fragments mentioned in Ilya Gershevitch’s classic work (A Grammar of Manichean Sogdian. Oxford, 1961) and gives references to them in other publications. The second lists fragments with amended reference codes. The third enumerates fragments that have been published. The fourth lists fragments by the code numbers given when they were found, the fifth by early descriptions of the manuscripts. The second concordance (pp. 389-392) consists of four lists that enumerate fragments that also carry texts in other languages: those with Old Turkish texts on the other side; Old Turkish fragments included in the same glass mount as Sogdian fragments; fragments carrying texts in Bactrian, Brahmi, Chinese, Sanskrit and Tocharian; and fragments with bilingual texts. The third concordance (pp. 393-444) is made up of nine lists in which the fragments are grouped according to their contents. The first list contains fragments that have been identified with Chinese originals, including Sogdian texts identified with Chinese originals, a Sanskrit text written in Sogdian script, Chinese texts written in Sogdian script and Chinese texts written on the recto side of the paper. The second list in the third concordance enumerates fragments containing quotations from the works in the Vajracchedikā-prajñāprāramitā-sūtra and commentaries, including fragments from the Vajracchedikā-prajñāprāramitā-sūtra, the Vajracchedikāprajñāśāstra and Vajracchedikā-śāstra. The third list contains fragments from the Mahāyāna-Mahāparinirvāça-sūtra: those in the form of scrolls and those that come from large-format pustaka books with short lines. The fourth list contains fragments from the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa-sūtra. The fifth enumerates texts from the Vinaya (a code of canonical disciplinary rules for the behaviour of the members of a monastic community); the sixth fragments from some commentary; the seventh fragments containing stories. The eighth list contains smaller texts grouped together - as Sogdian versions of identified and unidentified texts, handwriting groups and significant features. The ninth list in the third concordance is an index of keywords. In this index, the fragments are systematized according to the following: 1) proper names and titles: Sanskrit names and titles, honorary titles and other epithets, names of the Buddha, titles of books, proper names, languages mentioned; 2) selected keywords; 3) numbers; 4) a selective list of Sogdian words of unknown meaning. The fourth concordance (pp.445-453) comprises nine lists that classify the Sogdian fragments by formal characteristics. In the first list the fragments are grouped by properties of the handwriting: cursive, “brush” script, using red ink. The second list includes fragments with numbered headings. The third gives those fragments where the colophon has survived; the fourth those with illustrations; the fifth those with distinctive features (corrections, embellishments, particular punctuation, dots at the start of the line, holes for a cord, pasted labels, and so on). The sixth list enumerates those fragments that are pages of pustaka books (with short and long lines). The seventh records those manuscripts that exist as fragments of scrolls: scrolls with writing on one side, fragments of scrolls with an Old Turkish, Sogdian or Brahmi text on the verso and of those with a Chinese text on the recto. The eighth list contains small fragments whose format cannot be determined. The last list in this concordance enumerates the fragments with a paper colour differing from the standard. The fifth concordance (pp. 454-456) comprises lists of fragments from other collections that have been described and quoted, including ones from the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Berlin), the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS (St. Petersburg) and Ryukoku University (Kyoto). The sixth and final concordance (pp. 457f) is a list of lost fragments and references that cannot now be identified with specific fragments. The catalogue ends with an extensive bibliography (pp. 461-470), including more than 200 works, and a list of abbreviations (pp. 470-472). Such a comprehensive, detailed, thorough and meticulous description of the Buddhist Sogdian manuscript fragments in the Berlin collection, which have now been digitized and placed on the website of the Turfan Studies research group, is undoubtedly an exceptional aid to the study of this manuscript collection. However, Dr. Reck’s catalogue also has scholarly value in its own right as a reference work for all those engaged in the study of Sogdian Buddhist manuscripts, the Sogdian language and the Buddhist religion. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the descriptions of the fragments take account of manuscripts from other collections that relate in one way or another to those in Berlin. Therefore, the catalogue material should (and indeed will) be in demand as an aid to the study of fragments in other collections. This also applies to the 14 manuscript fragments in the Serindian Fund of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, known by the description numbers L 6, L 8, L 9, L 11, L 12, L 14, L 15, L 19, L 20, L 22, L 93, L 96, L 100a and L 100c that were previous published by Asiia Ragoza (Sogdiiskie fragmenty Tsentral’noaziatskogo fonda sobraniia Instituta vostokovedeniia, Moscow: Nauka, 1980. 183 pp.) and were used in the preparation of the present catalogue: our understanding of these manuscripts in St. Petersburg can now be refined. The catalogue that Christiane Reck has produced is astonishing for the vast amount of work the author has performed and testifies to her high professional standard, exceptional erudition and competence, qualities that evoke sincere admiration, respect and heartfelt gratitude. The standard of the catalogue’s printing is also impeccable. Placed on the cover of both volumes of the catalogue as an epigraph is a quotation from the Sogdian Manichaean work So 14410 I verso 20: xypδ ryž ’’γδy s’t βyryk’n. Its use is entirely justified: those who want will find everything in this catalogue.

About the authors

Olga M. Chunakova

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS

Author for correspondence.
SPIN-code: 5146-7100

Russian Federation



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