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Ancient texts preserved in Tibet's Potala Palace

By Palden Nyima and Daqiong in Lhasa | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-27 09:11
A monk at Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region, identifies a set of ancient documents in November. The central government will invest 300 million yuan over the next 10 years to protect the documents at the complex. PURBU ZHAXI/XINHUA

China plans to spend 300 million yuan ($45 million) over the next 10 years to preserve ancient documents and anthologies at the Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, the palace's administration office said on Tuesday.

The preservation project, starting this year, will be the largest of its kind at the palace complex.

The central government has been working to preserve Tibet's cultural relics over the past few decades, including the Potala Palace itself, one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the region.

In the 1970s, the palace established a group to focus on the preservation of ancient books and documents. So far, it has published four volumes of a bibliography of ancient documents and anthologies.

The physical structure of the palace has also drawn attention. The latest project-a 31 million yuan ($4.6 million) renovation of the golden roofs covering the stupas, or tomb tablets, of previous dalai lamas-was launched in April and completed in August.

Previous work had repaired the gold-leaf roof, but prolonged exposure to wind, sun and rain had damaged some of it.

Experts on ancient documents have been working to digitally preserve and register more than 2,800 volumes of ancient documents in the libraries of the Potala Palace, with works covering 20 categories in both Han and Tibetan languages.

Jondan, director of the administration office of the palace, said more than 40,000 volumes of precious ancient books in Han, Tibetan, Man, Mongolian and Sanskrit are housed there.

"These precious documents and literature cover almost all forms of ancient Tibetan documents and literature," he said. "Their content includes the three collections of the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha, the 10 Tibetan sciences, biographies, medicine, history, operas, annals and bibliographies."

Through the digitization of the documents and anthologies in recent years, the palace said it can better protect and preserve ancient cultural heritage.

The office said the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage will handle the overall preservation work. There are four parts to the project: preventive protection; emergency protection and repair; digitization; and display and utilization.

"The overall implementation plan is expected to be completed in a few weeks, and our office has already invited experts in the field to carry out the survey and registration of the primitive ancient documents," Jondan said.

"At present, the palace's collection is preserved in the chapels of tomb stupas and Buddha sculptures, the assembly hall and several other libraries."

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