Old Uyghur Fragments in the Serindia Collection: Provenance, Acquisition and Processing

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The first expeditions to Eastern Turkestan that discovered Old Uyghur manuscripts and block prints were from Russia. A number of the Old Uyghur fragments were found already in the course of the Turfan expedition in 1889–1890. These fragments, along with the ones in other languages and scripts, were subsequently acquired by the Russian officials N. Petrovsky and N. Krotkov and the expeditions headed by S. Oldenburg (1909–1910; 1914–1915) and S. Malov (1909–1911; 1913–1914). They formed the so-called Serindia (formerly known as Central Asian) collection kept nowadays at the IOM, RAS. The major part of the Serindia collection consists of the Old Uyghur fragments. Obtained by the expeditions to Eastern Turkestan, according to the customary tradition they were transferred to the Asiatic Museum. This paper presents the results of our study of the provenance, aquisition and processing history of the Old Uyghur fragments.

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The major part (4369 items) of the Serindia collection1 (priorly known as Central Asian2) appear to be book fragments in the so-called Old Turkic or Old Uyghur language, known by the Orkhon and Yenisey runiform inscriptions and manuscripts found in the eastern part of present-day Xinjiang and Gansu Provinces of China. Obtained during expeditions to Eastern Turkestan organized by the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), Russian Archaeological Society (RAS) and Russian Committee for Middle and East Asia Exploration (RCMA) at the turn of the 20th century, book fragments in Old Uyghur script according to the customary tradition were transferred to the Asiatic Museum (AM). While some manuscripts were given to the AM almost at the same time they were brought to St. Petersburg, for others it took decades to be included in the collection.3

The history of the formation and processing of the book fragments in Old Uyghur language remains unrecognised except for a few publications4 and contains a few gaps that will probably never be filled with complete confidence. However, some archival documents (inventory books,5 archival documents from the Archives of Orientalists,6 RCMA’s transactions, private correspondence of the persons engaged in manuscripts acquisition,7 manuscript register lists8) can shed light on the general history of the formation of the Old Uyghur part of the Serindia collection.

                Old Uyghur fragments are distributed among ten subcollections.9 The history of formation and brief description of these subcollections is presented below.

Roborovsky and Klementz subcollection (Rob., Rob.-Kle. and Uig.)

            According to the prominent Russian Turkologist,10 director of the IOS, AS USSR from 1934 to 1937, Aleksander Nikolaevich Samoylovich, the first manuscript fragments written in Old Uyghur, that were transferred to the AM, were acquired during expeditions headed by Vsevolod Ivanovich Roborovsky and Dmitry Aleksandrovich Klementz.11

  1. Roborovsky (1856–1910), a participant of the third and fourth Przhevalsky’s expeditions to Central Asia, headed the expedition organized by the RGS to Eastern Turkestan and North-Western China in 1983–1985. Although the expedition was not expected to be an archaeological one, V. Roborovsky managed to obtain a number of manuscript fragments in different scripts. According to his travel records, he purchased several scrolls from the local people near Idikut Shari ruins, the former residence of the Kocho kingdom rulers.12 Old Uyghur manuscript fragments, that were among his finds in Idikut Shari and Toyuk Mazar, were transferred to RGS and studied by W.W. Radloff.13

Later, W. Radloff described the obtained Old Uyghur materials in his article “Altuigurische Sprachproben aus Turfan”: “Im December 1897 wurden mir eine Anzahl beschriebener Papierfetzen übergeben, die die russischen Reisenden Roborovski und Kozlov aus Turfan nach St. Petersburg gebracht und der K aiserlichen Russischen Geographischen Gesellschaft übergeben hatten. Eine genauere Prüfung dieser Schriftfragmente ergab folgendes Resultat: die meisten Schriftstücke enthielten türkische mit uigurischen Buchstaben geschriebene Texte, die nach den Schriftzügen und dem für dieselben verwendeten Papier zu urtheilen, in zwei scharf geschiedene Gruppen zu theilen waren. Die erste Gruppe war auf einer Seite eines sehr dünnen roh und ungleichmässig verarbeiteten Papieres geschrieben; die Schriftzüge waren in rundlichem Duktus mit dem Pinsel leicht hingeworfen und machten den Eindruck einer Schnellschrift, wie sie nur bei geschäftlichen Schriften verwendet werden konnte”.14

These ‘unintentional’ finds by Roborovsky’s expedition aroused so much interest that the Imperial Academy of Sciences sent a specialized expedition headed by D. Klementz to the region.15 A Russian explorer of Middle and Eastern Asia, archaeologist, and initiator of the first Russian expeditions to the Tarim Basin for archaeological purposes, D. Klementz (1848–1914) visited Turfan in 1898. Although he personally deemed that manuscripts, acquired in Karakhoja during the expedition were insignificant,16 W. Radloff highly appreciated his finds.[17] In 1899 he wrote:

Diese Schriftdenkmäler bestehen aus fünf Kategorien: 1) Abklatsche von an den Wänden einer Höhlenwohnung eingekratzten alttürkischen Inschriften; 2) Stücke vom Stuck der Klosterhöhlen, auf denen sich mit schwarzer oder braunrother Farbe geschriebene uigurische Inschriften befinden; 3) Fragmente buddhistischer religiöser Handschriften; 4) Fragmente von in Holzdruck ausgeführten buddhistischen Büchern; 5) Geschäftliche Schriftstücke in uigurischer Sprache. Die letzteren Schriftstücke haben für uns einen ganz besonderen Werth, weil sie einige abgeschlossene Dokumente enthalten, die bis auf wenige Stellen sich intakt erhalten haben und leicht entzifferbar sind. Ausser mehreren nur theilweise erhaltenen Stücken befinden sich zwei gut erhaltene Bescheinigungen, in denen die Verkäufer von Sklaven den Käufern die Bestätigung-des Besitzrechtes ausstellen”.18

            Although Old Uyghur manuscript and block print fragments are mentioned by W. Radloff and S. Oldenburg, corresponding records in the IOM inventory books are absent19. Moreover, according to the Register list (Arch. 69) compiled in 1918, the Roborovsky subcollection included only three Old Uyghur manuscript fragments (SI 4871–4873 (Rob/2–Rob/4))20 by that time. Other fragments acquired by V. Roborovsky were never mentioned in any manuscript register lists. Records about Old Uyghur fragments referring to D. Klementz are also absent21.

            Taking these facts into consideration, one can assume that Old Uyghur fragments (along with the manuscript fragments in other languages) were either transferred into the other subcollections, or were never transferred to the AM,22 or were lost during the Russian Civil war23 or World War II.

The first assumption is rather plausible as it is well-known that fragments of larger size (in particularly those that contained enough text for translation or even identification of the text title) were quite often kept by the researchers for private use24. This customary practice sometimes resulted in provenance loss. Thus, fragments stored by W. Radloff later obtained codes Kle.-Rob., and it is impossible to associate them with any of the explorers. Five fragments acquired by D. Klementz (published by W. Radloff25 and later by S. Malov in USp 1928: # 55, 56, 57, 58, 59) are a rare exception. Two of them (published under codes Rb.2, Rb.126) nowadays considered to be lost. Moreover, several fragments that had been published in 1928 under call numbers Kle.-Rob. were later discovered in the subcollection of miscalleneous Old Uyghur materials ‘Uig.’. The others are still considered to be lost (edited in USp and preserved in photo collection27 of the IOM).

Nowadays only two fragments of Mahāmāyūrī vidyārājñī sūtra SI 4871–4872 (Rob/2, Rob/328) and the Old Uyghur documents SI 4873 (Rob/4), SI 6544 (Uig/14), SI 6545 (Uig/15) and SI 6546 (Uig/16) could be assigned to this subcollection. There is also a probability that three fragments of Buddhist texts SI 6540 (Uig/8, Uig/9), SI 6542 (Uig/11) and fragment of a document on the reverse side of the Chinese scroll SI 6539 (Uig/7) also belong to this subcollection.


Kokhanovsky subcollection (K)

On March 20, 1907 RGS transferred to the AM collections acquired from Aleksander Ivanovich Kokhanovsky, Doctor of the consulate in Urumchi from 1904 to 190629. A. Kokhanovsky30 led an expedition to Turfan in 1906–190731. As he purchased manuscript fragments from the local people their provenance is unknown.

The Kokhanovsky subcollection includes 34 items in Old Uyghur. The majority of fragments are of small size and include Buddhist texts SI 4904 (K/20), SI 4906–4908 (K/22-K/24), SI 4910–4913 (K/26–K/29), SI 4914–4918 (K/30), SI 5879, SI 5885, SI 5887–5890, SI 5892, SI 5915, SI 5995 (K/6), SI 6148, SI 6168, SI 6193, SI 6215, SI 6219, SI 6277, SI 6349 (K/7), SI 6593–6595, SI 6598 (no former call numbers) and one secular document SI 4909/1 (К/25а).


Berezovsky subcollection (B)

Records of acquisition of the manuscript fragments collection obtained by Mikhail Mikhailovich Berezovsky’s (1848–1912) expedition to Kucha in 1905–1907 were not found among IOM’s archival materials. However, it is possible to suppose that the transfer took place in 1908–1909.

A prominent explorer of Central Asia, zoologist and biologist, M. Berezovsky visited Subashi, Duldur-akhur, Tajit, Kumtura, Kucha, Kizil and Kirish. Manuscript fragments acquired by M. Berezovsky are of special value due to the precise indication of the places where they were found. Thus, it is known that Old Uyghur fragments were found in On-bash Ming-oi.

The Berezovsky subcollection includes four Buddhist fragments in calligraphic script SI 2951 (B/22), 23 fragments of unidentified texts in cursive script SI 2952–2954 (B/23), SI 2966 (В/30), scribal exercises SI 2964 (В/28) and three fragments with text written in slanting Brāhmī SI 2965/1, 2, 3 (В/29) (Sanskrit–Old Uyghur bilinguals).


Dyakov subcollection (D)

It is known that Aleksei Alekseevich Dyakov (1876?), secretary of the consulate and later consul in Kulja (1906–1912) and Urumchi (1913–1915), visited the city of Astana located in Turfan oasis on August 15–20, 1908. There he managed to acquire a large fragment of a block print, two manuscript scrolls and 81 manuscript fragments, 70 of which appeared to be in Old Uyghur32. These materials were transferred by the RСMA to the AM in 190933.

The Old Uyghur part of the subcollection includes a coloured amulet with dhāraṇī text SI 3123 (D/5), a scroll fragment of Avalokiteśvara sūtra (Kuanši-im Pusar) SI 3158 (D/2), almost complete sroll34 of Manichean confession of sins (Xuastvanift) SI 3159 (D/1), 14 folios of the block print edition of Avataṃsaka sūtra SI 4842 (D/3), 48 manuscript fragments of Suvarṇaprabhāsottama sūtra (Altun Yaruk) SI 4843 (D/4) and other unidentified Buddhist texts SI 4844 (D/6), SI 4846 (D/10), SI 4845 (D/7), SI 4850 (D/14-1), SI 4854 (D/16), SI 4857 (D/19), SI 4860 (D/23), SI 4861 (D/24а), SI 4862 (D/24b), SI 4863 (D/25) and secular documents SI 4847 (D/11), SI 4848 (D/12), SI 4849 (D/13), SI 4851 (D/14-2), SI 4852 ( D/14-3), SI 4853 (D/15), SI 4855 (D/17), SI 4856 (D/18), SI 4858 (D/20, D/21), SI 4859 (D/22).


Krotkov subcollection (Kr)

The majority of Old Uyghur manuscript and block print fragments in the Serindia collection belong to the subcollection granted by Nikolai Nikolaevich Krotkov (1869–1919), consul in Urumchi, and later, secretary of the consulate in Girin, Tsitsikar and Kulja. Being an expert in Eastern Turkestan history and culture, N. Krotkov not only purchased numerous manuscript fragments from the local people, but also carried out archaeological excavations in the vicinities of Urumchi, Toyuk, Yar-khoto and Gaochang. The materials that he managed to obtain were transferred to the RCMA, and later to the AM, in four separate parcels.

The so-called ‘first Krotkov collection’35 was brought to St. Petersburg in 1907 and became part of the AM holdings in 190836. Due to historical circumstances, call numbers of manuscript fragments in Old Uyghur and Sogdian were changed several times37. Finally, this part of the collection obtained call numbers Kr I/1–Kr I/487, Kr II/1-1–Kr II/1-819, Kr II/2-1–Kr II/2-669, Kr II/3-1–Kr II/3-371, Kr II/4-1–Kr II/4-120, Kr II/5–Kr II/50, Kr III/1–Kr III/40, Kr IV/1–Kr IV/194, Kr. Доп/1–6 (for Old Uyghur fragments, 11 of which are written on the reverse side of Chinese scrolls), Kr IV/195–Kr IV/223 (for Sogdian fragments).

The second part of the collection that had been contributed by N. Krotkov to the RCMA was brought to St. Petersburg in 1909 by V. Kamensky, a member of the first Russian Turkestan expedition headed by S. Oldenburg, who had to return due to illness38. According to the records found in the IOM inventory books, manuscript fragments were transferred to the AM in autumn 190939 and later were given call numbers 2 Kr/1–2 Kr/90. In addition, on May 15, 1910, thirteen folios of Old Uyghur ‘concertina’ book SI 5817–5818 (3 Kr/a-c) were sent by N. Krotkov in a separate parcel to W. Radloff40.

The RCMA received the third part of the collection on March 28, 1911. These materials could be considered to be of special value as their provenance is known. According to the preserved archival documents (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1, item 52, f. 52, RCMA meeting of March 31, 1911), the RCMA received a parcel that included two Tibetan manuscripts, two Tibetan and two Chinese manuscripts from Dunhuang, a package with Old Uyghur and Chinese manuscript fragments found Yar-khoto ruins, two – from Karakhoja, and one package with manuscript fragments acquired during excavations in Toyuk.

In summer 1911, N. Krotkov brought the last, forth part of his collection to St. Petersburg and passed it to the Committee. It seems probable that materials included in the second and third parcels were sorted by N. Krotkov himself. One may assume that he primarily selected manuscript fragments of larger size and those that seemed more interesting to be send to RCMA. Thus, fragments from the last part of his collection can be joined with those that were sent earlier41.

Records concerning the third and last parts of N. Krotkov collection are absent in IOM archival materials42. However, as they are listed in Inventory book from 1918, one may suppose that these materials were transferred between 1911 and 1917 by W. Radloff, who was engaged in sorting the Old Uyghur collection of N. Krotkov, or A. Samoylovich who was in charge of sorting the W. Radloff’s private documents after his death.

According to the archival materials and pencil notes on the margins, W. Radloff selected Old Uyghur fragments of larger size and gave them call numbers 3 Kr/1–3 Kr/41, 4a Kr/1–4a Kr/76, 4b Kr/1–4b Kr/23. It is known that some manuscript fragments (at least with call numbers 3 Kr/26–3 Kr/5043) from this part of the collection had never been transferred to the AM and nowadays are considered to be lost. The last part of the collection was sorted by the researchers of the AM after 1918 and obtained call numbers 4b Kr/24–4b Kr/236, Kr IV/224–Kr IV/87944.

Krotkov subcollection comprises of 4104 Old Uyghur manuscript and block print fragments. More than 800 fragments are written on the reverse of Chinese scrolls, while 28 on the reverse of Sogdian manuscripts. SI 6603–SI 6613 include 530 Old Uyghur fragments of a rather small size sealed in 11 Melinex lists. Being the largest subcollection of Old Uyghur book fragments it includes Mahāyāna and non-Mahāyāna texts, Chinese apocrypha and secular documents45.


Oldenburg subcollection (O)

            Sergei Fedorovich Oldenburg (18631934), a prominent Russian Orientalist, director of the AM from 1916 to 1934, obtained numerous manuscript fragments written in different Central Asian scripts during the First and Second Russian Turkestan expeditions (1909–1910 and 1913–1914). While some of the fragments acquired by S. Oldenburg are included in subcollection that bears his name, the majority of manuscript pieces, in particular those of smaller size, still remain unsorted and do not have separate call numbers46.

  1. Oldenburg’s First Russian Turkestan Expedition carried out excavations at the northern oases of Eastern Turkestan, i.e. Karashar, Turfan and Kucha.As a result, a dozen surface and cave Buddhist temples were investigated47, and several hundred manuscript fragments were brought to St. Petersburg. Although the fragments (mainly found in the cities of Bäzäklik, Idikut Shari, Toyuk Mazar and Chiktim located in Turfan area) were considered to be of special value, S. Oldenburg was deeply frustrated with the small amount and preservation state of his finds48.

During his second expedition S. Oldenburg surveyed the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, and revisited some of the sites in Turfan. He found a large number of artefacts and manuscript fragments (nearly 20 000 items) at Dunhuang, and also purchased about 300 scrolls from local people. These materials, including Old Uyghur fragments, are incorporated into a separate Dunhuang collection of the IOM.

Nowadays the Oldenburg subcollection includes 102 items in Old Uyghur: SI 3114/1 (O/66), SI 3116/3 (О/7c), SI 3161 (O/49a-d), SI 3162 (O/50), SI 4586 (О/2-6), SI 4603 (О/3-9,1О/3-9,2)–SI 4605 (О/3-9,4), SI 4609 (О/4-4), SI 4620 (О/5-10,1), SI 4621 (О/5-10,2), SI 4624 (О/6-2), SI 4664 (О/15-1)–SI 4667 (О/15-4), SI 4671 (О/15-8), SI 4679 (О/16-4в)–SI 4685 (О/16-9), SI 4686 (О/29)–SI 4688 (О/31), SI 4691 (О/36)–SI 4693 (О/38), SI 4695 (О/41)–4713 (О/48a-d), SI 4614 (О/51), SI 4716 (/54)–SI 4717 (O/55), SI 4718 (О/73), SI 4720 (О/76), SI 4724 (О/26), SI 4725 (О/56)–SI 4732 (О/63), SI 4735 (О/70), SI 4738 (O/77a)–SI 4765 (O/105), SI 4768 (O/109), SI 4776 (О/113a-b)–SI 4777 (О/113c), SI 4820 (O/39)–SI 4823 (О/40c), SI 4824 (О/48d), SI 4836 (O/198), SI 6560. Moreover, fragments (most of them still remain unsorted) preserved separately in packages with handwritten notes “Toyuk Mazar 1909” most likely refer to this subcollection. By now only 60 fragments in Old Uyghur, 35 of which are written on the reverse side of Chinese scrolls, have obtained call numbers SI 6677, SI 6678, SI 6619-6676. The majority of fragments in the subcollection are too small to identify the text. The larger ones contain Buddhist texts, though several unique secular documents (SI 4716 (О/54), SI 4717 (О/55), SI 4718 (О/73), SI 4735 (О/70), SI 4820 (О/39), SI 4747 (О/89)) can be found.

Moreover, a few fragments are considered to be lost nowadays. Thus, at least four fragments (absent in the collection of the IOM) were published as O/149 and O/250. One should not eliminate the possibility that they were lost during the collection evacuation or were not transferred to the AM at all.


Petrovsky subcollection (P)

            Nikolai Fyodorovich Petrovsky (1837–1908) was one of the Russian diplomats who contributed greatly to academic research of the Eastern Turkestan region. Appointed as a Consul-General in Kashgar in 1867, he collected manuscripts and art objects, buying them from the local people of Kucha, Korla, and Aksu and carrying out archaeological excavations, primarily in Kucha. Between the years 1892 and 1893, Petrovsky forwarded to S. Oldenburg over 100 folios and fragments of manuscripts that he purchased from the inhabitants of Turfan. In 1905 he donated the entire Eastern Turkestan collection of the manuscripts to the RCMA that were later transferred to the AM.

            The Petrovsky subcollection includes 582 items, four of which are in Old Uyghur. These are two fragments in cursive script SI 1924 (P/132), SI 3629 (P/125з) and two documents written on wooden tablets SI 3660 (P/137д), SI 3671 (P/140б).


Malov subcollection (M, MA)

In 1909–1911 and 1913–1914, Sergei Efimovich Malov (1880–1957) made journeys to Eastern Turkestan (Chuguchak, Urumchi, Turfan, Kharakhoja, Hami, Suzhou, Gansu) and Central China (Lobnor, Aksu, Yarkend, Khotan and Kashgar). His expeditions pursued rather ethnographical and linguistical 51 than archaeological goals. Despite this fact, S.E. Malov acquired a number of manuscript fragments in Old Uyghur and other languages, i.e. Khotan Saka, Sanskrit, Mongolian52, Tibetan53 and Chinese.

The major part of his collection was customarily granted by the RCMA to the AM. Some fragments due to unknown circumstances found in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in 1920s were transferred later, in 192554.

Fragments of Sitātapatrā dhāraṇī block print SI 4502 (M/5) and two documents from Turfan SI 4503 (M/5), SI 4504 (M/6) purchased by S. Malov during his second expedition to China were personally passed by him to the IOS in 195255. Several fragments were transmitted to the IOS after Malov’s death. They were found in his private archive and obtained call numbers MA/… during inventory procedures in 1994.

Malov subcollection includes 24 items in Old Uyghur language kept under call numbers SI 4498–SI 4504 (M/1–M/7), SI 4559–SI 4575 (MA/1–MA/11). His major finds were the most extant text of the Old Turkic version of the Suvarṇaprabhāsottama sūtra (Altun Yaruk) SI 4498 (М/1), SI 4500 (М/3) and accompanying text Buyan ävirmäk SI 4499 (М/2)56 discovered during his first expedition in the Buddhist temple located in the village of Wenshigu near Suzhou, Gansu.


Kozlov-subcollection (Koz)

            In 1907–1909, a large number of manuscripts and woodblock prints in various languages were discovered by a Russian traveller and explorer Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (1863–1935) at the ruins of Khara-khoto, a fortified town of the Tangut state (1038–1227). The unearthed texts include numerous Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan manuscripts and prints (поскольку их абсолютное подавляющее большинсво, надо перевернуть фразу), in addition to those written inTangut. One Old Uyghur fragment SI 4841 (Koz/5) is found in his subcollection57.

Miscalleneous subcollection (Uig)

             Subcollection of miscalleneous manuscript fragments marked as ‘Uig’ includes 27 items SI 3156 (Uig/3), SI 3157 (Uig/12), SI 5066 (Uig/19), SI 6534-6557 (Uig/1–Uig/2, Uig/4–Uig/11, Uig/13–Uig/18). It is most probable that this subcollection was formed to unite manuscript fragments with unknown provenance or separate fragments brought by other researchers.

            Thus, call numbers Uig/1 and Uig/2 (now SI 6534 and SI 6535 correspondingly) were assigned to Chagatai official documents of the 15th century written in Old Uyghur script that were granted to Vasily Vladimirovich Bartold in 1902 in Margilon (Fergana Region in eastern Uzbekistan). Due to unknown reasons Manichean fragments of small size and fragments of miniatures and drawings made on cloth and paper SI 5066 (Uig/19), SI 6547–SI 6553 (Uig/17), SI 6554–SI 6557 (Uig/18) were also included in this subcollection. History of their acquisition remains obscure.

The provenance of the remaining items now can be determined with sufficient certainty. As it was mentioned above, SI 6544 (Uig/14), SI 6545 (Uig/15), SI 6545 (Uig/16) with confidence and SI 6539 (Uig/7), SI 6540 (Uig/8, Uig/9), SI 6542 (Uig/11) with some uncertainty belong to Roborovsky and Klementz subcollection respectively.

Untill recenty the details of acquisition of unique manuscripts of Xuanzang biography SI 3156 (Uig/3), SI 6538 (Uig/6)) and Abitaki sūtra SI 6536-6537 (Uig/4–Uig/5) were unknown. However, analyzing the archival documents it became obvious that these Old Uyghur manuscript fragments were sent to the IOS in 1932 by the supervisor of the Second Oriental department of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, B. Kozlovsky (1899–1975).


Processing the Old Uyghur fragments

One should mention that the collections of Old Uyghur manuscript and block print fragments were built up rather unsystematically, according to the chronological sequence of the new arrivals. The very first attempt to systematize the collection, is an inventory of the so-called “first Krotkov collection” (Kr I) compiled by the AM’s director Carl Salemann58. It was a preliminary attempt, where the quantity of the fragments was arranged in a table in order to calculate a total number of items.Salemann used only criteria of language and type (ms./xyl.: manuscript or block print)59. Another attempt to encompass all the Old Uyghur collections that were transferred to the AM by 1930, most probable was compiled by S. Oldenburg60. The first complete inventory list of Old Uyghur book fragments was made only in 1952 by the researcher of the IOS, Lyudmila Vasilievna Dmitrieva (1924–1997) with support of S. Malov.

The AM (later — IOS) where the items were stored, conducted inventorying, cataloguing and thorough research. However, the fragmentary nature of the preserved texts, their preservation state and lack of specialists engaged in their analysis, has resulted in that the collection is still studied insufficiently.

Foremostly the absence of the catalogue61of the Old Uyghur fragments makes the situation more complicated and hinders the research process. According to the archival documents dated January, 1917, S. Oldenburg, director of the AM at that time, had the intention to request S.E. Malov to sort what and make a catalogue of the acquired fragments62. However, due to historical reasons, these intentions were never translated into reality.

Nevertheless, a large part of texts was published already at the beginning of the first decade of the 20th century due to the combined efforts of brilliant Turcologists W. Radloff (1837–1918) and S. Malov (1880–1957). They were able to edit and publish the more ‘voluminous’ fragments – Xuāstvānīft, Manichean confession of sins63, an Uyghur version of Dišastvustik (Skt. Dišāsauvāstikasūtra)64, Avalokiteśvara sūtra, or chapter 25 of the Chinese translation of Saddharmapuṇḍarika sūtra (Kuanši-im Pusar)65, Suvarṇaprabhāsottama Sūtra known as Altun Yaruk66, and numerous fragments of Buddhist texts and secular documents67.

After W. Radloff’s death, there was no specialist in Old Uyghur language at the AM. S. Malov never worked at the AM or IOS, although he provided assistance in inventorying and identification of fragments.This is proved by his numerous handwritten notes, found among the manuscripts of the Serindia collection and mentioned in L. Dmitrieva’s article concerning Old Uyghur texts kept at the IOS68. By S. Malov’s efforts the photo copies used in the USp edition were transferred from the publishing house to the Institute.

The research was resumed only in the 1960s, but the lack of already published foreign literature and few contacts with foreign colleagues made the majority of research results less promising. Thus, L.V. Dmitrieva (1924–1997) re-edited and published the Xuāstvānīft69. In turn, L.Yu. Tugusheva (1932- 2020) published fragments of the 5th, 6th, 8th and 10th chapters of the Biography of Xuanzang[70], a number of Buddhist texts71 and secular documents, including contracts, private and official letters etc72. Later she edited the Uyghur version of the Daśakarmapathāvadānamālā[73] (in cooperation with Masahiro Shōgaito), the Abitaki sūtra (‘Sūtra of the White Lotus Society’)[74], and published re-editions of the Xuāstvānīft[75] and secular documents of the 10th–14th cc.[76].

The contribution to the study of the Old Uyghur fragments kept in the IOM made by foreign researchers could not be overestimated. Due to the efforts of the European researchers P. Zieme, G. Kara, S.-C. Raschmann, A. Yakup and the Japanese colleagues, Masahiro Shōgaito, Juten Oda, Dai Matsui, Takao Moriyasu, Hiroshi Umemura, Kōichi Kitsudō, numerous fragments of Buddhist texts and civil documents were identified and published77.

Nowadays the processing and further research of the Old Uyghur part of Serindia collection is continued by the researchers of the IOM, RAS. Their main aim is to present to academic community a “Catalogue of the Old Uyghur manuscripts and blockprints in the Serindia Collection of the Institute of Oriental manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences”. The catalogue was compiledby the researchers of the IOM, RAS in cooperation with the Tōyō Bunko (The Oriental Library, Tokyo) will give a new impetus to further projects of editing the Old Uyghur texts of the IOM78.



AM: Asiatic Museum

Coll.: Collection (in references to archival materials stands for фонд)

Inv.: inventory (in references to archival materials stands for опись)

IOM, RAS: Institute of Oriental Manuscript of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IRGS: Imperial Russian Geographical Society

RAS: Russian Archaeological Society

RCMA: Russian Committee for Middle and East Asia Exploration

RGS: Russian Geographical Society

SPbB ARAS: St. Petersburg Branch of Archive of Russian Academy of sciences

Skt.: Sanskrit

USp: Uigurische Sprachdenkmäler

SUK: Sammlung Uigurischer Kontrakte

ФВ-77: IOM RAS photo collection access number

ФВ-277: IOM RAS photo collection access number


1 The Serindia collection contains 6679 items in 13 languages (Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tocharian A and B (Kuchean), Khotan Saka, Sogdian, Middle Persian (Pahlavi), Old Uyghur, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Arabic, and Tumshuqese (Saka). The collection includes 15 subcollections of different size and content, 13 of which bear the names of the book acquirers. It was S.F. Oldenburg who decided to systemize the materials this way. Originally these subcollections were kept under the following codes: B for Berezovsky; D — Dyakov; Kl — Klementz; Koz — Kozlov; K — Kokhanovsky; Kol — Kolokolov; Kr — Krotkov; L — Lavrov; M, MA, Мтд — Malov; O — Oldenburg; P — Petrovsky; Rob — Roborovsky; Strel-D — Strelkov. Two other subcollections are: Uig. that includes miscellaneous texts in Old Uyghur script that were sorted into a separate unit due to the provenance loss, and Merv, that consists solely of the manuscript discovered in 1965 at the Merv Oasis not far from Bairam-Ali in Turkmenistan. 51 fragments do not belong to any subcollection as their initial call numbers are lost, thus, it is impossible to determine the provenance. One should note that the number of fragments kept under one call number differ significantly – from one to several dozens of fragments or even a hundred manuscript folios (e.g. SI 4498 (M/1)).

2 The name of the collection had been changed from ‘Central Asian’ to ‘Serindia’ by M. Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya on May, 2006, when the decision to assign new call numbers with code ‘SI’ was made. The creation of inventories of separately preserved at that time subcollections primarily aimed to unify the codes to facilitate search and make the collection more easily available to the researchers.

3 It was common for some scholars to keep manuscripts they were analyzing for their personal research. Thus, some manuscript fragments Wilhelm Radloff was researching were transferred to the AM only after his death.


5[5] Seven inventory books kept in the Department of Manuscripts and Documents of the IOM, RAS include only sixteen records concerning accessions of the Old Uyghur fragments. The major part of the records refers to accessions of printed books for the Academic library. The dates mentioned in these inventory books often do not coincide with real accession time.

6[6] The information concerning Serindia collection is preserved in The Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1, 1a, 2. The documents contain information about manuscripts and books transferred to the AM and the Institute of Oriental Studies throughout their history.

7 These documents are of great interest as they include more detailed description of the finds, provenance and archaeological excavations. Further research is required.

8 The earliest register list Arch. 69 named “Serindica. List of Uyghur collections of the AM. Uyghur manuscripts and fragments: Dyakov, Krotkov, Malov, Berezovsky, Kokhanovsky, Roborovsky, Kozlov, Oldenburg subcollections” dates back to 1918. However, some records indicate that its final version had not been compiled until 1925. This register list is not complete as it does not include some manuscripts that are mentioned in register list from 1953, e.g. part of Krotkov (Kr/IV) and Oldenburg’s collections are mentioned while manuscript fragments kept nowadays under former call numbers Uig/1Uig/19 are not registered. A register list from 1953 keeps records of all Old Uyghur fragments except for the items transferred to the IOS along with the Sergei Malov’s archive after his death in 1957, and manuscript fragments that obtained call numbers after 2018 (after SI 6677).

9 Old Uyghur fragments are not found in Klementz, Lavrov, Kolokolov, Strelkov subcollections.

10 The first attempt to systematize the AM’s collections dates back to 1918–1920 when the researchers of the AM compiled and published a booklet “The Asiatic Museum of the Russian Academy of sciences. 1818–1918. Brief Summary”. A. Samoylovich who was in charge of the Turkic part of the AM collection at that time.

11 PAMIATKA 1920, 35.

12 Further details in ROBOROVSKY 1900.

13 OLDENBURG 1917, 219–220.

14In December, 1897, a number of paper scraps, that the Russian explorers [V.I.] Roborovsky and [P.K.] Kozlov had brought from Turfan to St. Petersburg and handed over to the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, were transferred to me. A closer examination of these fragments revealed the following: most of the materials contained Turkic texts written in Old Uyghur script. Judging by handwriting and paper, they can be divided into two groups. [Documents] from the first [group] are written on one side of a very thin, raw and uneven paper; the handwriting is of round ductus [written] by brush, [it] gives the impression of a shorthand that could only be used for official writing (RADLOFF 1899, 55).

15 This fact is pointed out by V. Roborovsky in the preface to the publication of the expedition’s materials (ROBOROVSKY 1900, 6).

16 KLEMENTZ 1899, 47.

17 For more detailed information see WHILFIELD 2008, 205.

18 “The texts can be divided into five categories: 1) imprints of Old Turkic inscriptions carved on the cave walls; 2) stucco pieces of the cave temples with Old Uygur inscriptions written in black or brown-red color; 3) fragments of Buddhist religious manuscripts; 4) fragments of Buddhist block-printed books; 5) documents in Old Uyghur language. The latter are of special value as a few complete documents are intact and, apart from a few passages, easily decipherable. Among several fragments, preserved partially, there are two well-preserved documents, concerning the issues of slave trade” (RADLOFF 1899, 57).

19 The only record found in Arch. 4 from 1918 (record #486: “From Roborovsky materials: Old Uyghur manuscript”) most probably refers to a Sogdian manuscript fragment kept nowadays under call number SI 2100 (Rob/1). Other records (#487–492) concerning Roborovsky subcollection list Chinese manuscripts. The later are also absent in Serindia collection and probably were integrated into the Dunhuang collection of the IOM.

20 At least one more fragment of Roborovsky collection, a block printed fragment of Mañjuśrī nāma saṃgīti edited by W. Radloff under the call number Rb.1 (USp 1928, #59) is considered to be lost nowadays. .

21 According to S. Oldenburg, the list of manuscripts and artefacts acquired by D. Klementz had to be prepared by researchers of the AM. However, it was never published due to historical circumstances (OLDENBURG 1917, 227). The Klementz’ subcollection preserved in the IOM consists of several Sanskrit manuscript fragments.

22 Preserved archival documents concerning the artefacts transferred by the RGS could shed light on this version. Additional research is required.

23 It is interesting that in “The Inventory of the manuscripts of the Asiatic Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences packed for the evacuation (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 2, item 131) only “Case No. 21” with the Oldenburg collection and “Case No.23” with “No.1–11, 13, 14, 31 and 32 of Radloff’s collection” are mentioned. The first with a dose of skepticism may refer to the Dunhuang collection (though it is too bulky to be packed in one case). The latter remains unclear.

24 This is primarily proven by the fact that manuscript fragments were found in the private archives of the AM directors W. Radloff, C. Salemann and S. Oldenburg after they deceased.

25 RADLOFF 1899.

26 Manuscript fragments that were given call numbers Rob/1 (SI 2100, in Sogdian), Rob/2 (SI 4872, Mahāmāyūrī vidyārājñī sūtra in Old Uyghur, USp 1928, #60) during inventory procedures after World War II do not correspond to the fragments published in 1928.

27 USp 1928, # 48–52, 54–55, 57. Photocopies are also preserved at the IOM Photo collection, call number ФВ–277.

28 It seems that originally these two fragments of the same manuscript were given call number Rob/3 (USp 1928, # 60).

29 According to transaction excerpt of the RGS meeting held on March 7, 1907 preserved in archival documents (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1, item 47, f. 26).

30 Birth and death dates unknown.

31 For the more detailed description of the expedition see POPOVA 2011.

32 The major part of articles mentioning A. Dyakov state that he managed to obtain only 28 manuscript fragments (KLYASHTORNY 2008, 53; BUKHARIN 2013, 441).

33 Arch. 3 from 1909, record # 1976. According to archival document (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1, item 50, f. 131) these materials were transferred to the AM on December 3, 1909.

34 First 15 lines of the text are lost.

35 The paper case with this title is preserved among the archival materials (Archives of Orientalists, Arch. 69).

36 According to the RCMA meeting records, dated November 10, 1907 and May 10, 1908, N. Krotkov brought the materials and presented them to the Committee in person. C. Salemann, director of the AM at that time, highly evaluated the collection and persuaded the Committee to purchase it for an enormous sum of 5 000 rubles, 4 000 of which were paid from Turfan excavation funds. According to the archival materials on December 11, 1908, RMCA transferred to the AM 71 manuscript fragments from N. Krotkov’s collection, 23 of which are in Old Uyghur (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1, item 48, f. 102).

37 This is obvious from the call numbers mentioned in the inventory books (e.g. Kr/VII–Kr/XL etc.). Manuscript fragments in Brāhmī script were most probably united into a separate unit as they bear primarily given call numbers.

38 Record of the RCMA meeting dated September 22, 1909.

39 Arch. 3, 1909, record #1799.

40 This is affirmed by a private letter sent by N. Krotkov to S. Oldenburg.preserved in SPbB ARAS (Coll. 208, Inv. 30, item 305, ff. 3435.

41 This assumption is rather plausible as joint fragments were found. For example, SI 3791 (2 Kr/17), SI 5726 (2 Kr/27) and SI 1783 (Kr IV/256).

42 The Register list (Arch. 4, 1917, record # 432) mentions only Tibetan block print folio, two Tibetan manuscript fragments, 16 fragments in Brāhmī script, and Chinese and Mongolian fragments.

43 Photos of the manuscript fragments with call numbers 3 Kr/26–3 Kr/50 were transferred to the IOS by S. Malov in 1928, after publication of USp. Manuscript fragments preserved nowadays in the Serindia collection under the same former call numbers do not refer to the fragments edited by W. Radloff and published by S. Malov. These call numbers were assigned to Sogdian fragments after the World War II during inventory procedures. The photos of the Old Uyghur fragments considered to be lost remained in the IOM Photo collection under call numbers ФВ–77, ФВ–277.

44 The codes 4b Kr and Kr IV were also given to Chinese, Sanskrit, Tocharian A and B, Sogdian, Middle Persian and Old Uyghur fragments from the second and third parts of the collection (for some reason W. Radloff had not given them any call number).

45 Another document in Old Uyghur is found on the verso of the item G 120 kept at the Mongolian collection of the IOM. The circumstances that resulted in its transfer to the Mongolian collection are unknown. The Register list of 1969 mentions the empty envelope with the note ‘Kr. V 1-2. Taken by Kotvich to the Mongolian Department’. Thus, one may suppose that the fragment with Mongolian text on recto was taken by a prominent Russian Mongolist, Vladislav Kotvich (1872–1944) for work, and was subsequently transferred to the Mongolian collection.

One may assume that some Old Uyghur fragments obtained by N. Krotkov were incorporated into Dunhuang collection, this assumption requires further research.

46 Inventory procedures started in 2018.

47 More details in OLDENBURG 1914. The materials acquired by S. Oldenburg in the course of his expeditions nowadays are preserved in the IOM, RAS, the State Hermitage Museum and the Russian Museum of Ethnography. Particularly worthy of note are vast archives of the Russian Turkestan Expeditions, kept in the State Hermitage Museum, the St. Petersburg Branch of the Archives of the Academy of Sciences and the Archives of Orientalists kept in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts.

48 A prominent Russian Indologist, Fedor Stcherbatskoy (1866–1942) summarized the resultsof S. Oldenburg the following way: “As a result, when the expedition led by S.F. [Oldenburg] set out, that country had already been visited by a large number of other expeditions that had literally plundered the area, archaeologically speaking. Having arrived in their wake, the Russian expedition could but establish the fact and return home practically empty-handed” (STCHERBATSKOY 1935, 26)

49 A small fragment of a book written in Old Turkic runic script (a folio with six incomplete lines) was bought by S. Oldenburg in Kharakhoja in 1909, from a local peasant who had dug up a shabby piece of paper at the site of Idikut Shari. The text, which was published by W. Radloff, is too fragmentary to be identified (RADLOFF 1910, 1025-1036). A document concerning adoption with call number O/1 was edited by W. Radloff and published by S. Malov (USp 1928, #98). Photocopy is preserved in the IOM photo collection.

50 A fragment of Garbaparimočana was edited in USp 1928, #102. A photocopy of document marked as O/2 is preserved in the IOM photo collection. Moreover, archival materials mention the Sogdian manuscript with this call number: (Arch. 4, 1919, record # 1178) “Ms. buddh. sogd. О2. Sogdian manuscript brought by S. Oldenburg from Dunhuang. 1 f.”. Manuscript fragments preserved with former call numbers O/1 and O/2 are in Sanskrit. These call numbers were given during the inventory procedures after World War II.

51The main aim of Malov’s journeys was to study the language and everyday life of the local Turkic nationalities, i.e. the Uyghur, the Yellow Uyghur, the Lop Nor and the Salar peoples. Malov also acquired abundant ethnographic material from Turkic nationalities native to Eastern Turkestan (transferred to the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera) in 1925). Moreover, he provided a large number of photographs, part of which are kept nowadays in the IOM, RAS.

52 Mongolian manuscripts acquired by S. Malov are preserved separately in Mongolian collection of the IOM, RAS.

53 Tibetan collection acquired by S. Malov is of special value and includes early Tibetan wooden documents from Miran fortress.

54 According to archival documents (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1а, item 86, f. 2), on March 20, 1925 the Museum of Ethnography and Anthropology transferred to the AM manuscript fragments acquired by S. Malov during his journey to Eastern Turkestan in 1914 and manuscript fragments found in private documents of W. Radloff after his death.

55 A note written by S. Malov is attached to the items.

56 The record concerning these manuscripts is preserved in: Arch. 3, 1913, record # 1545.

57 On the verso of the manuscript fragment “From P.K. Kozlov finds in Khara-khoto” is written. Archival materials (Arch. 4, 1919, record #275) erroneously note that this fragment along with other fragments in Arabic script were acquired by S. Oldenburg in 1910.

58 Salemann 1908.

59 As it was written later on the title page: “The numbering of this inventory was subsequently replaced by another. No concordance. Now see the Krotkov collection No. 1”. Together with this inventory one can find:

1) list, enumerating contents of the cases and folders of the first Krotkov collection, also written by C. Salemann (SERINDICA: LISTS 1918, 19–21);

2) list of the second Krotkov collection in manuscript and typescript form, as it was presented at the meeting of the Historical and Philological Department of the Academy on September, 16, and November 4(17), 1909, and list of the same collection’s items received from W. Radloff on October 31 (SERINDICA: LISTS 1918, 22–23, 26);

3) other lists related to the second Krotkov collection (SERINDICA: LISTS 1918, 4–5, 16–17);

4) list of the items found by M. Berezovsky at Kizil-Miŋ-Öy, Kizil-Karga and Tajik (SERINDICA: LISTS 1918, 2–3).

60 Serindica: Lists 1918, 6–15. The list mentions 3588 fragments.

61 This also refers to the collections of texts in other languages and scripts. By now, only the catalogue of Sogdian fragments by A. Ragoza is available (RAGOZA 1980).

62 The Department of History and Philology of the Imperial Academy of Sciences meeting record dated January 11, 1917, preserved in the archival materials (Archives of Orientalists, Coll. 152, Inv. 1, item 60, f. 10) proves it.

63 RADLOFF 1909.

64 RADLOFF 1910.

65 RADLOFF 1911.


67 USp 1928; MALOV 1927, 1930, 1932, 1951.

68 DMITRIEVA 1969, 222, note 1.

69 DMITRIEVA 1963.

70 TUGUSHEVA 1972; TUGUSHEVA 1991. According to the archival documents (Coll. 152, Inv. 1а, item 279, ff. 4-5), the Xuanzang biography and Abitaki sūtra were identified by S. Malov soon after they were transferred to the IOS in 1932.



73 SHŌGAITO et al., 1998.

74 TUGUSHEVA 2008b.

75 TUGUSHEVA 2008a.

76 TUGUSHEVA 2013. The majority of texts were edited in USp 1928, SUK 1993 etc.

77 The list of edited and published fragments is too extensive to be incorcorated into the present article, and will be included into the forthcoming first volume of the “Catalogue of the Old Uyghur manuscripts and blockprints in the Serindia Collection of the Institute of Oriental manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences” (ed. by P. Zieme).

78 Although a preliminary list of the Old Uyghur fragments was published in 2002 under the title “A Provisional Catalogue of the Microfilms of Uigur, Sogdian and Manichaean Manuscripts belonging to the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences brought to the Tōyō Bunko” by H. Umemura, M. Shogaito, Y. Yoshida and A. Yakup, this work did not find the necessary acceptance due to its limited distribution. The fisrt volume of edited and published in the last hundred years Old Uyghur fragments will be published in 2121.


About the authors

Olga V. Lundysheva

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS

Author for correspondence.
Email: olgavecholga@gmail.com
Russian Federation

Anna A. Turanskaya

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS, St-Petersburg

Email: turanskaya@mail.ru
SPIN-code: 5660-3135
Russian Federation


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