Helping to build a representative collection for the Afghan people


The Schøyen Collection, the largest private manuscript collection created in the last 100 years, today (15 February 2008) delivered 58 original Buddhist scriptural fragments to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Norway for the benefit of the National Museum of Afghanistan. This is in fulfilment of a commitment made in 2005 to make the donation once professional research and study on the fragments had been completed. The fragments are in addition to the eight (8) fragments donated by the Collection in 2005.

The fragments include the oldest type of sutra (Agama) and the later and main type of sutra (Mahayana) as well as a legal text (Vinaya). This represents a good textual spread that also reflects the scholarly advice of Jens Braarvig, editor of the three-volume Buddhist Manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection. The fragments have also been chosen from across the period in which they were written, covering the 4th to 6th centuries AD.

The original intention had been to donate 44 fragments, but the Collection increased this to 58 to take account of the small size of some fragments and because it was concerned that the donation should mirror – or even improve upon – the National Museum’s pre-war holding of around 50 fragments which were lost during the war.

His Excellency Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan's Ambassador in Norway, said:

’I received with gratitude these important manuscripts, belonging to Afghanistan’s Buddhist tradition, in the interest of the National Museum of Afghanistan. On behalf of the National Museum and the people of Afghanistan I express gratitude to the Schøyen Collection and to Mr. Martin Schøyen personally. This contribution will further enrich the already large collections of our National Museum which is reviving after severe damages suffered during the War.”

Martin Schøyen, founder of the Collection said, “We wanted to be generous in this donation both for the sake of the Afghan people but also to express our considerable goodwill towards a nation whose representatives in Norway have shown us such enthusiasm and friendship.”

He added, “We, alongside the rest of the civilised world, deplore the losses inflicted upon Afghanistan by war and insurgency and we are honoured to have the opportunity to play a part, as donors, in the restitution of an important part of the nation’s rich, complex and globally important cultural heritage.”

List of Donated Fragments

These fragments are referred to in Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection Volume II and III :

Vol. II pp. 25 ff. - Plate III: Andasutra and Sutra on the three moral defects of Devadatta (Agama), 6th century (8 fragments)
Vol. II pp. 69 ff. - Plates VIII 1-9: Saddharmapundarikasutra (Mahayana), 6th century (44 fragments, including some small)
Vol. III pp. 1 ff. - Plate III: Sikhalakasutra (Agama), 5th century (2 fragments)

Note to Editors:

The Schøyen Collection crosses borders and unites cultures, religions and unique materials found nowhere else. The Collection, based in London and Oslo, contains over 20,000 significant manuscripts of major cultural importance, and is an important part of the world’s heritage.

There is no public collection that has the Schøyen Collection’s unique array of manuscripts from all the greatest manuscript hoards, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Cairo Genizah of Hebrew MSS, The Oxyrhynchus hoard of classical papyri, The Dishna Biblical papyri, The Nag Hammadi Gnostic papyri, the Dunhuang hoard of Buddhist MSS, and many others. Nor is there one with such a variety, geographically, linguistically and textually, and of scripts and writing materials, covering so a great span of time — 5,000 years of history.

For background see Minerva, May-June 2007.

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