Preserving 8,775 Palm Leaf Manuscripts in Lao PDR

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The digitised manuscripts are attached the label of DS number and wrapped with wrapping cloth

The digitised manuscripts are attached the label of DS number and wrapped with wrapping cloth

DREAMSEA, Luang Prabang – The mission to preserve Southeast Asian manuscripts is continued on Mainland Southeast Asia. From September to December 2018 DREAMSEA will be digitising a large number of manuscripts from a monastery in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The mission is done under the leadership of Dr. Khamvone Boulyaphonh, The Director of The Buddhist Archives of Luang Prabang.

The manuscripts are kept in Vat Maha That Rasabovoravihan, one of the oldest monasteries in the city of Luang Prabang. The manuscripts include those sponsored by the Kings of Laos, queens and other members of the royal family and aristocrats going back centuries. The manuscripts are written in Pali and Lao and use a variety of scripts such as Tham Lao, Lao Buhan, and Modern Lao.

DREAMSEA Team-Luang Prabang, Laos: (from l-r) Somsack Thongsavatphon (Photographer), Phap Pisavat (Assistant Academic Expert), Khamvone Boulyaphonh (Team Leader), Bounsou Saytham (Academic Expert), and Chantee Sisomsack (Assistant Photographer)

“This mission will digitise at least 8,775 pages of palm-leaf manuscripts. Although the manuscripts contain important information about the past, they are in danger of becoming damaged and eventually of becoming lost forever. Some of the manuscripts are already disorder because the strings of the manuscripts have broken and insects have already started to do their own damage to the manuscripts.” Mr. Khamvone explained.

Mr. Khamvone added that the manuscripts reveal that already in the past the monastery was a centre of religious festivals and rituals and a place where social events took place, and where people could study and meditate. Because of this it is important that the manuscripts are also preserved in another media to enable scholars to reconstruct the social conditions as they were in the past. This reconstruction is possible because after the manuscripts have been digitised, the digital manuscripts from Southeast Asia will be accessible to the public. As all DREAMSEA missions, the present activity is executed in cooperation between PPIM UIN Jakarta and CSMC Hamburg with fully support from Arcadia, London. (MNF)

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