[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Please support our fundraising efforts and help us conserve a rare Burmese manuscript and its woven braid

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Thu May 2 16:10:51 UTC 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may have received this fund-raising email from the RAS in
London.  I think the RAS has sent it to Fellows.

I am forwarding it to the INDOLOGY list in case you wished to contribute to
the appeal.  But a second reason is to explore with the membership whether
you think a post like this is an appropriate use of the forum.  The
INDOLOGY committee has always jealously guarded the forum from commercial
posts and advertising.  Pressure for such posts has mainly come from
publishers.  Point 8 of the Guidelines
<http://indology.info/email/email-const/> says:

*Discouraged forms of communications:* List members are discouraged from
posting messages that are not part of a discourse on Indology. In
particular, commercial or advertising messages are strongly deprecated, and
may lead to suspension. Members should not post job-seeking requests to the
list. Long posts that make multiple argumentative points are strongly

What is your opinion about fundraising appeals such as this one from the
RAS?  Would it annoy you to see such posts from time to time?  Would you
feel the forum was being misused?  Or would you view it as legitimate,
since it is not exactly commercial and the goal is to support indological

Incidentally, at the end of the post the RAS refers to its collaboration
with Archive.org and gives the URL for its online manuscript scans.  This
is also an interesting development, for the obvious scholarly reasons but
also as an example of modernity in the indological tools and facilities
emerging from the digital revollution.

Dominik Wujastyk
Professor Dominik Wujastyk* <http://ualberta.Academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
Department of History and Classics <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
University of Alberta, Canada

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Royal Asiatic Society <info at royalasiaticsociety.org>
Date: Thu, 2 May 2019 at 05:16
Subject: Please support our fundraising efforts and help us conserve a rare
Burmese manuscript and its woven braid
To: <wujastyk at ualberta.ca>

*Please support our fundraising efforts and help us conserve a rare Burmese
manuscript and its woven braid*

2 May 2019

The Royal Asiatic Society is currently undertaking a short campaign to
raise funds towards the conservation of one of our manuscripts. The object
in question is RAS Burmese 86, one of our Burmese *Kammavācā *manuscripts.
*In order to carry out this conservation treatment, the Society needs to
raise £1820.* We have already received several generous donations that have
helped us make some progress towards this goal. However, we still have some
way to go, and so we are asking our Fellows, supporters, and anyone with an
interest in protecting cultural heritage, to help us meet this cost.
Several years ago, the Society raised some funds to carry out a similar
treatment for this valuable object, and these we have added to the new
contributions received. We hope that further donations will help us make
sure this manuscript and its *sazigyo* (woven braid) can continue to be
studied and appreciated for many years to come.

*To donate, please visit https://royalasiaticsociety.org/donations/
and select the option “Pay Now”, recording “Burmese Braid Fund” as a
reference for your contribution. Alternatively, please speak to a member of
staff. *
Created in 1792, this *Kammavācā* comprises 11 dark red lacquered, gilded,
and decorated plates. The plates are contained within two light wooden
covers, and wrapped in a multi-coloured cotton cloth woven with bamboo
slats. While the plates themselves are in comparatively good condition, the
cloth containing them has suffered from deterioration over time. Its
colours have faded, there is age-old dirt heavily concentrated within the
woven threads, much of the fabric is fraying, threads are loose or
unravelling, and one of the bamboo slats is broken.

We need a professional conservator to carefully clean the manuscript,
secure the loose threads in place, support the broken bamboo, and make a
bespoke conservation box to protect the manuscript in the future.
This *sazigyo *is a very early example of this rare art form, and it has
become discoloured over time and has suffered from the effects of staining
and dirt. A potentially more serious problem is that there are several
abrasions and disruption to the weave; and it is in danger of unravelling
further. As well as cleaning the *sazigyo*, these loose threads must be
secured to ensure that this precious object does not deteriorate. Once it
is stabilized, the *sazigyo* will be stored on a custom-made roller, and
kept in the customized box with the manuscript.
*Kammavācā* is a Pali term which refers to a collection of passages from
the *Tipitaka* (Theravada Buddhist canon) that relate to religious
ordination and the rituals of monastic life. *Kammavācā* manuscripts have
been one of the most popular genres for Western collectors of Burmese
texts, and as such they are quite well represented in Western collections.
But this particular manuscript stands out, not only for its intrinsic
beauty, but also because of its *sazigyo*: a woven band used for binding
manuscripts. This *sazigyo* is a particularly early example of an unusual
and distinctive art form.

There are no details about how this particular manuscript entered the
Society’s collections. The Society has about 130 Burmese manuscripts,
almost all of which were acquired by the Society during the nineteenth
century, when they were purchased from (or donated by) British historians
and collectors. Our Burmese manuscripts are currently being digitized as
part of the Society’s ongoing collaboration with the Internet Archive,
which has already seen over 260 palm-leaf manuscripts from the Society’s
collections photographed and made available for people all over the world
to see online at https://archive.org/details/royalasiaticsociety

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