All posts by Costantino Moretti

Workshop on Buddhist Caves

Journée d’études

organisée par l’EFEO

et le groupe de recherche Dunhuang et Asie centrale du CRCAO

Grottes bouddhiques : monastères, sanctuaires ou temples ancestraux ?


16 juin 2016 à 9h15

EFEO, Maison d’Asie, 22 avenue du Président Wilson, Paris 75016

Grand salon du 1er étage

9h15    Accueil et café

9h45 – 10h00  Présentation :

Les grottes bouddhiques en Inde et en Chine, similitudes et différences (Mme Liying KUO)

10h00 – 12h30

D’Ajanta à Kucha

Discutant : M. Gérard FUSSMAN

Mme Monika ZINThe Paintings in the Caves of Ajanta and Their Soteriological Significance

 (阿旃陀石窟和其故事畫含義) et discussion


Mme Monika ZINBetween India and China – The Paintings in the Buddhist Caves of Kucha (印度與中國- 庫車地區的佛教石窟壁畫) et discussion

12h30 – 14h00

pause déjeuner sur place sur inscription préalable (avant le 8 juin à

14h00 – 15h00

Grottes de Yungang

Discutant : M. Costantino MORETTI

LIUJianjun 劉建軍Le creusement des grottes de Yungang au VIesiècle et la sinisation des grottes 9 et 10 (北魏雲崗洞窟的開鑿和第九和十窟建築的漢化) et discussion

15h00 – 16h00

Grottes de Mogao et Yulin

Discutante : Mme Pénélope RIBOUD

ZHANGXiaogang 張小剛Les portraits des rois de Khotan et des membres de leur famille dans les grottes de la famille Cao de Dunhuang

(敦煌歸義軍時期曹氏家族供洞窟中的于皇室供人像) et discussion

16h00 – 16h20

pause café

16h20 – 17h20

Grottes de Mogao Dunhuang

Discutante : Mme Christine MOLLIER

ZHANGXiantang 張先堂Grottes-temples ancestraux à Mogao :

 une étude des portraits de donateurs défunts (莫高家廟窟:亡故供養人畫像研究)

17h30 – 18h00

Discussion générale et conclusion

Workshop Caves

Cooperation agreement between the CRCAO and the Dunhuang Academy

On Monday the 23rd of October 2013 the CRCAO and the Dunhuang Academy signed a cooperation agreement, through the Research and International Relations Division of the EPHE. The agreement was concluded following the joint drafting of a scientific cooperation plan.

The CRCAO and the Dunhuang Academy have collaborated on an informal basis for at least a decade due to the important role played by this field of research in the work of the CRCAO. Due to the regularity with which the two institutions have collaborated since 2009,  an agreement was established to formalize that collaboration to promote the research work of the two institutions and to further foster scientific exchange.

Since 2009, joint activities of the two Institutes contribute to animate scientific life of the CRCAO through various regular exchanges of researchers and shared activities. Several Chinese researchers were invited in Paris by the CRCAO for a period of one month each. Their contribution to the French Research Team’s activities includes giving lectures, conducting round table discussions, taking part in seminars led by members of the Research Team, etc. Similarly, every year, various members of the CRCAO (professors, research fellows, doctoral candidates, post-docs, etc.) working on Dunhuang, Turfan and Central Asian studies, have been hosted by the Academy to conduct research. The Academy notably helped them to facilitate the access to the archeological sites of the region and the primary sources found in such sites. In 2011 the cooperation between the two institutions gave life to a Meeting organized by the CRCAO in cooperation with the EFEO (French School of Asian Studies), the BnF (National Library of France) and Guimet Museum: Franco-Chinese Meeting on Dunhuang Studies — Research News and Recent Publications (14th-16th June, Paris, Collège de France and Maison de l’Asie).

Visiting scholars 2015

Professor WANG Jianjun 王建軍


Lecture topics:

– Archeological research in the Northern sector of the Mogao caves – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, June 18th 2015.

– New archeological finds in the Western Caves of the Thousand Buddhas (Xiqianfodong) – Paris, Collège de France, June 24th 2015.

Professor ZHANG Jingfeng 張景峰

张景峰近照 2

Lecture topics:

– The Yin family and the Mogao caves – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, June 18th 2015.

– Mogao cave n. 217 : a repentance hall – Paris, Collège de France, June 24th 2015.

Affiche - 24 juin 2015

Affiche - 18 juin 2015

Visiting scholars 2014

Professor SHA Wutian 沙武天


Lecture topics:

–  Yulin cave n. 25 and the commemoration of relations between the Tang and the Tibetan empires  – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, May 27th 2014.

– Iconographical elements linked to the “Hu” style in Mogao cave 322 and the Sogdian donors – Paris, Collège de France, June 4th 2014.

Professor ZHANG Yuanlin 張元林


Lecture topics:

– Image and text: The Lotus sūtra and Dunhuang cave 285 – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, Mau 271th 2014.

– Iconography of Maheśvara in the regions of Dunhuang and Khotan – Paris, Collège de France, June 4th 2012.

Affiche Dunhuang- 4 juin 2014_

Affiche Dunhuang - 27 mai 2014


Visiting scholars 2013

Professor YANG Xiuqing 楊秀清


Lecture topics:

Chinese Moral Precepts in Dunhuang Documents from the Seventh to the Tenth Century – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient , may 17th 2013.

– Daily Life in Dunhuang According to Dunhuang Documents and Mural Paintings – Paris, Collège de France, may 27th 2013.


Professor LIU Yongzeng 劉永增


Lecture topics:

Mogao’s Paintings and Sculptures at the Time of the Northern Dynasties (Fifth-Sixth c.) – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient , may 17th 2013.

The Mandalas of the Eight Bodhisattvas  in Dunhuang Caves – Paris, Collège de France, may 27th 2013.

Koza Tonko 27 mai

Koza Tonko 17 mai



Visiting scholars 2012

Professor CHEN Juxia 陳菊霞


Lecture topics:

–  Zhai Farong, a Leader of Dunhuang Clergy, and Mogao Cave n. 85 – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, June 11th 2012.

Mogao Cave n. 98: a Confession Ritual Area – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, June 25th 2012.


Professor ZHAO Shengliang 趙聲良


Lecture topics:

– Dunhuang Meditation Caves – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, June 11th 2012.

– Appearance and Reality: Research on the Original Form and Color of Dunhuang Cave Paintings – Paris, École française d’Extrême-Orient, June 25th 2012.


Recherches sur Dunhuang 2012


Collection on Dunhuang Studies

The library of the “Chinese Studies Team” at the CRCAO boasts substantial collections of books and specialist journals on Dunhuang studies, some of which are not found elsewhere in Europe.

The library dates back to the 1970’s when the research centre was established. Some of the books originally belonged to members of the research centre. Many of them are signed and annotated, with hand-written notes by key figures in the history of Dunhuang studies.

The Book Collection on Dunhuang studies consists of as many as 3,000 volumes covering Chinese language material unique to Europe as well as English language material.


Full details of all of the books in this collection are available in the on-line catalogue of the College de France. Most items are available for reference by external researchers, on production of identification and completion of a request form.

For more information about the library please visit the website of the College de France.

The titles in this collection are available in Zotero format here

Death in Dunhuang and Central Asia

Death in Dunhuang and Central Asia: Material Culture, Discourse and Ritual Practice (4th to 11th century)

Directors: Pénélope Riboud (INALCO, ASIE)

Permanent Members: Jean-Pierre Drège (EPHE), Sylvie Hureau (EPHE), Christine Mollier (CNRS), Costantino Moretti (EPHE), Eric Trombert (CNRS), Françoise Wang-Toutain (CNRS)
Associate Members: Catherine Despeux (INALCO), Nathalie Monnet (BNF), Pénélope Riboud (INALCO), Kuo Li-ying (EFEO)
Doctoral Students: Arnaud Bertrand, Henriette Deleuze, Diane Zhang-Goldberg.
External Partner: Dunhuang Academy

While funerary rites have been the subject of numerous studies and publications with regard to discourses on death and the organization of funerary sites, the late Chinese medieval period (220-589) and Sui and Tang periods remain so far largely unexplored. Yet the profound social, economic, political and religious changes that characterise these periods raise the issue of the transformation of individual or collective discourses and attitudes with regard to death. The polymorphous developments of Buddhism and Taoism resulted for instance in a redefinition of the eschatological landscape and ritual conduct. The political instability and the coexistence of peoples of different ethnic origin also led to a redefinition of the criteria determining social elite membership. Sinicized Central Asia, owing to its complex cultural stratification and the abundance of documentation discovered in the region, represents an ideal field for investigation. The aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the various discourses on death (written, oral or depicted) and funerary practices within multi-cultural and religious environments. The unique proximity of sepulchres, liturgical or canonical texts, ritual objects and images related to death found in Dunhuang and Turfan has led the various experts involved in this project to conduct a collective analysis of the different steps that define an individual’s or a social group’s relationship with his/her/its post-mortem fate. The research focuses on three main areas:

The symbolic and ritual dimension of texts in funerary space: Why are religious texts found in tombs? What do these texts tell us about the world in which a person projects himself or herself after death? What do they reveal about the ritual funerary programs characterizing each religion or their adaptations? Research in this particular area will be based on written material (manuscripts, inscriptions and talismans) discovered in the tombs and will aim at highlighting their specific function within funerary space through a comparative study with other types of funerary objects and similar items found in Central China.

Death and its exemplary dimension: How are different representations of death and the deceased, written, oral or depicted used for pedagogical purposes or moral edification? The researchers involved in this particular line of enquiry will focus on the didactic impact of divinatory recitation and representations of hell, as well as on the moral and edifying function of funeral orations and the biographical account of a monk’s death.

Economic and social importance of funerary rites: What was the economic importance of funerals? Were there specific social categories associated with funerary rites in Sinicized Central Asia? What type of social organization does a cemetery reveal? In this study both the internal organization of individual tombs and the dynamics involved in the organization of the tombs in relation to one another will be examined in the light of economic and socio-cultural criteria. A study of the social categories involved in funerary rites will also be carried out to determine for instance whether contact with death stigmatised certain social classes, and also to identify the different artisans that manufactured the items discovered in the tombs. This study will rely on an analysis of the archaeological data yielded by the excavations of cemeteries in Central Asia as well as on written sources (economic and legal documents) discovered in Dunhuang and Turfan. Several activities leading to the publication of a collective work will be organized: seminars in which members of the project and specialists from outside will be invited to give talks, translation workshops and a conference.

Buddhist Economy in Medieval Inner Asia

Buddhist Economy in Medieval Inner Asia


Directors: Étienne de la Vaissière (EHESS, CETOBAC), Éric Trombert (CNRS), Costantino Moretti (EPHE), Pénélope Riboud (INALCO)

Post-Doctoral Members: C.J. Ching (Post-doctoral student from Marie Curie working with the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, BBAW)
Collaborators: D.Durkin-Meisterernst (Turfanforschung, Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, BBAW), Nicolas Engel (Musée Cernuschi)
Partner Institutions: Centre for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Central Asian Studies (CNRS-EHESS), Centre for Studies on East Asian Civilizations (CNRS-EPHE-Paris 7-Collège de France), Turfanforschung Centre of Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

The work of G. Schopen has profoundly renewed our knowledge and understanding of Buddhist economic systems in Ancient and Medieval India. His works, namely Buddhist Monks and Business Matters (2004) and Figments and Fragments of Mahayana Buddhism in India (2005), based on Indian Tibetan and Chinese sources, has changed our understanding of the vinaya, the monastic rules, and the various schools of Buddhism. Particularly noteworthy is his focus on the casuistry prevailing in the management of “heavy goods” (land, methods of payment, etc.) in relation to the different schools of Buddhist thought: direct management of the community goods by the monks themselves, management of their own private goods, intervention of secular delegates, etc. This casuistry had important and diverse consequences on the local economy and hierarchy depending on the school. This particular project aims at extending this field of research to Central Asian sources and at taking advantage of the abundance of new sources available on the economic history of Buddhism in these regions that G. Schopen has not exploited. The research is intended as a tribute to J. Gernet’s work, Les aspects économiques du bouddhisme dans la société chinoise du Ve au Xe siècle (1956) (The Economic Aspects of Buddhism in Chinese Society from the 5th to the 10th century) that will be taken up and further developed thanks to newly available source material. Indeed, significant headway has been made in the analysis of the monastic community members’ conduct in the oases of Central Asia, largely owing to documents from Dunhuang and Turfan. The thirty thousand or so fragments that were found in the Turfan tombs and that have been progressively published since the 1980s have proved decisive in completing the Dunhuang collection of documents covering an earlier period. Ms Ching Chao-Jung’s recent thesis (Research on Secular Documents in Tocharian: Buddhist Economy and Society in the Kucha Region, EPHE, 2010, Jury: G.-J Pinault (thesis supervisor), D. Durkhin-Meisterernst, O. Hackstein, É. de la Vaissière, G. Schopen, É. Trombert, G. Zhang), based on texts from Turfan, Dunhuang, Kucha and Khotan demonstrates how crucial it is to combine research on these various Central Asian oases for the periods covered by the new sources (5th to 8th centuries). This project was born from readings of Ms Chin Chao-Jung’s remarkable thesis. Moreover, numerous Chinese and Japanese sources also deal with the role played by monks in the societies of the Central Asian oases and several researchers of the CRCAO are working on this subject. A number of Tibetan sources attest to the role, real or claimed, played by Buddhism in the development of agriculture and irrigation in Khotan, and it is interesting to note that archaeologists have found a similar model further to the north in Kutcha. To the west in Bactria, namely the Nawbahar complex, described by Xuanzang as the ‘largest Buddhist monastery north of the mountains’, seems to represent a fundamental step in the dissemination of certain practices and has been the focus of recent studies. It would seem that in the 7th century, Buddhist monks controlled the majority of the land and irrigation networks of the oasis of Bactria. Archaeological studies also show that they rebuilt large monasteries using styles hitherto unknown in the Buddhist world prior to the Arab conquest. Further to the south in Logar Province in Afghanistan, excavations of the monastic complex of Mes Aynak reveal that the Buddhist community controlled an antique copper mine —now the largest copper mine in Afghanistan—and shed unexpected light on the question of Buddhist economy as well as on Indian data on the subject.
The idea is to bring together a group of young scholars who will carry out further research in this field and attempt to draw a global picture of the system highlighting aspects common to the different monastic communities that originated with the diffusion of the vinaya as well as their distinctive regional cultural characteristics. Participants will include researchers in Chinese, Turkish, Persian, and Buddhist studies as well as specialists in ancient economic systems and archaeologists.

From 2014 on, monthly seminars will be held in Paris or Berlin focusing on two or three thematically related subjects. The first session will take place on 16 June 2014 and will focus on the role of mines and agriculture in the monastic economy of Xinjiang and Afghanistan.

La fabrique du lisible : la mise en texte des manuscrits de la Chine ancienne et médiévale


Jean-Pierre Drège (dir.), avec la collaboration de Costantino Moretti.

La fabrique du lisible : la mise en texte des manuscrits de la Chine ancienne et médiévale, Paris, Institut des hautes études chinoises, 2014, 420 p.

Tens of thousands of manuscripts dating from the fifth to the tenth centuries were discovered in Mogao cave n. 17 at Dunhuang, in Gansu Province. These documents have completely transformed the discipline of Chinese medieval history in its various aspects. The course of this renewal extended over several decades throughout the twentieth century. One of the fields which remained largely unexplored until recent years was the history of the Chinese book and the production of writing, with particular focus on manuscripts as objects carrying meaning. The discovery of a large number of manuscripts dating back to the first few centuries of the Common Era has opened up new perspectives and allowed parallel lines of questioning to be drawn. The emergence of codicology and the development of research on the history of text production applied to western manuscripts have provided a model upon which to open a new chapter in the history of Chinese manuscript books. This innovative approach focuses on the production of manuscripts and their utilization, handling and preservation as much as on their design, the readership for whom they were intended and how they were written and read. This book represents a first attempt at writing a history of ancient and medieval Chinese texts in their context.

Dunhuang & Central Asia

“Dunhuang studies” (Dunhuang xue 敦煌學) represent one of the most important research fields of the East Asian Civilisations Research Centre since it was established in 1973. In the same year a team directed by Michel Soymié was formed, under the initiative of Paul Demiéville, for the scientific cataloguing and study of the Dunhuang manuscripts and paintings brought to France by Paul Pelliot at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time this Unit of the National Center for Scientific Research was named “Dunhuang manuscripts and related documents” (Etudes des manuscrits de Dunhuang et matériaux connexes). This field of research still represents a major part of the team’s activities. The present academic blog is conceived as an international platform focusing on developments within the research programs carried out by the research group on Dunhuang and Central Asia of the CRCAO. It also posts announcements concerning publications and scientific events organized in collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy 敦煌研究院 (China), as well as information on the Centre’s unique book collection on Dunhuang studies, which continues to grow every year.