David Joseph Lebovitz

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review


Dunhuang, originally a commandery established at the Han dynasty's northwest frontier, was China's westernmost settlement and trade hub on the overland Silk Road. Its remote, arid geography has preserved a great wealth of ruins and artifacts, and it is home to some of China's most important archaeological discoveries. These include an abundance of manuscripts, written mostly on slips of wood and bamboo, and excavated from watchtower ruins and other sites distributed throughout the region, such as Yumenguan and Xuanquanzhi. The Mogao Caves complex preserves Buddhist temple caves and murals from the mid-fourth through fourteenth centuries ce. A huge trove of paper manuscripts, written in Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and other languages from the fifth century ce onwards, was sealed in one of the caves in the eleventh century. The manuscripts shed substantial light on ancient textual philology as well as many aspects of premodern Chinese arts and letters, religion, and society. Because of Dunhuang's key location, function, and significance, the term “Dunhuang studies” has come to encompass not only the art historical, social, and textual realms on which these discoveries shed the most direct light, it has also become metonymic for the broader study of China's interactions with Central Asia as seen at nearby sites such as Turfan, Juyan, Gaochang, and others throughout modern China's northwest. Dunhuang may thus represent not only a location, but also a web of cultural interactions and an archaeological time-capsule.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Ancient History
Subtitle of host publicationAsia and Africa
EditorsDaniel T. Potts, Jason Neelis, Roderick James Mcintosh, Ethan Harkness
ISBN (Electronic)9781119399919
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2021


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