Center strives to preserve ancient and fragile documents

Updated: Mar 27, 2023 By PALDEN NYIMA and DAQIONG in Lhasa China Daily Print
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Tselo, director of the Tibetan Ancient Documents Restoration Center of the Tibet autonomous region. [Photo by Palden Nyima/China Daily]

The Tibetan Ancient Documents Restoration Center of the Tibet autonomous region has completed a huge workload since it was founded.

Established in 2015, the center is a branch of the Tibet Ancient Documents Preservation Center, which is affiliated with the regional library of Tibet.

Tselo, deputy director of the center, says the Tibet Ancient Documents Preservation Center of the library started a region-wide census on ancient books in 2009 to get a clear picture of the region's preservation of ancient documents.

More than 18,000 volumes of Tibetan ancient documents were surveyed from more than 1,160 public and private institutions all over the region, which are involved in the collection of ancient documents.

Tselo says his center has also assisted in the document preservation work at the Potala Palace and the Norbulingka park since 2018.They have now completed the census and registration of 4,739 volumes of ancient documents from the Potala Palace and 1,757 volumes of ancient documents from the Norbulingka park.

"Our center has edited and published a series of books related to the preservation of Tibetan ancient documents in recent years, and we have also published the statistics of the census from the ancient documents in the form of a catalogue, providing an important resource for people to learn about the status of their collection and distribution in our region," says Tselo.

The Outline of Introduction to Tibetan Ancient Documents and The Catalogue of Tibetan Ancient Documents, two monographs published by the center, have become textbooks for colleges in China and vital references for academics.

Apart from the Tibetan ancient documents census and preservation and restoration projects, in recent years, the center has been working on the digitalization and utilization of ancient documents.

Since 2018, the library has been working on the digitalization of part of its collection of ancient Tibetan documents and, so far, it has completed work on a total of 390 volumes of such documents. Anyone can browse the digitalized information when they come to the library.

"The digitalization of ancient documents is an effective measure to address the phenomenon of valuing the collection but neglecting the use of ancient documents," says Tselo.

The center expects to finish the digitalization of more than 30,000 pages of ancient Tibetan documents by the end of this year.

In addition, the center also has been helping various work units to improve the quality of their ancient documents storage.

"When we were conducting the census of ancient documents across the region, we found that many institutes with ancient document collections had poor storage conditions, and they failed to properly protect these rare ancient documents," he says.

"They cannot guarantee that these rare ancient documents can be well preserved without getting damaged or lost, and such problems are highlighted especially in border areas and small temples."

The center has been proposing the issue of special funds to carry out projects that can improve the storage conditions of these institutes.

As of the end of last year, it has worked with 17 such institutes. Such efforts have contributed to the safer storage of ancient documents, he says.

"In addition, our center has been working toward the building of a modern cataloging system for its collection of ancient documents, because the traditional way of cataloging and reference is very difficult."

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