Online Silk Road Reaches Korea

The launch of IDP Korea gives Korean students, scholars and the general public unprecedented access to over 280,000 images of and information about Silk Road manuscripts, artefacts, paintings and photographs held in collections worldwide. Over the next few years, this will be used by scholars at Korea University, working together with the international partners of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP), to investigate the links between Korea and the Silk Road, resulting in more online resources, publications and conferences.

See: http://idp.korea.ac.kr

Korea was always part of the Silk Road, the Eurasian trade routes of the first millennium. Objects from Central Asia have been discovered in tombs of the kings of the Silla Dynasty (57 BC – AD 935) dating back to the 3rd century. Silla sent monks and missions to Tang China (618 – 907), but also to India and other countries.

Influences were absorbed directly from the Silk Road and Central Asia, and Korea traded directly with the Middle East and Japan. Cultural interaction also occurred along the northern steppe routes through Siberia to Korea, thus bypassing China. Korean craftsman also emulated techniques and styles of their Silk Road contemporaries.

The International Dunhuang Project is an international collaboration with its directorate at the British Library, London (http://idp.bl.uk) and partners in China, Japan, Russia, Germany, France and the USA. It aims to make high-quality information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet and to encourage their use through educational and research programmes.

Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “The digital age is enabling the British Library to open up access to our collections. By working collaboratively with partners worldwide, the IDP’s multilingual websites now offer access not only to the British Library’s collections of 45,000 manuscripts from Dunhuang and other sites in Chinese Central Asia, but also to tens of thousands of manuscripts and artefacts from the same region held in other collections.”
Dr Susan Whitfield, Director of IDP, added: “I am delighted to see the launch of a Korean-language website for IDP, enabling much greater access to Korean users. I hope this will inspire many new research projects and we look forward to working together with our colleagues at RIKS and elsewhere in Korea on these.”

The Research Institute for Korean Studies (RIKS) is Korea University’s centre for research, exchange, and publications of Korean studies. It was first established in 1957 at Korea University as the Committee for the Translation of Korean Classical Writings, and continues to translate Korean classical texts, and transmit the legacy of traditional culture.

Professor Heung-kyu Kim, Director of the RIKS said, “RIKS is delighted to be partners of IDP and to be able to make this material fully and freely available for the Korean-speaking people on the Korean IDP website. The interaction with the Silk Road is an important part of Korea’s history and we very much look forward to working on research projects to enrich the online IDP content and to reach a greater understanding of Korea’s role on the Silk Road.”

The British Library and RIKS signed an MoU in 2009 agreeing to work together on IDP, the first stage of which was to prepare a Korean-language version of the website, to be hosted by RIKS, and for IDP UK to host an intern from RIKS. RIKS generously provided IDP with a three-year grant to support IDP’s core work of digitisation of the Chinese Dunhuang manuscripts in the British Library’s collection. Over 15,000 images have been made available to date as a result of this work.

Notes to Editors:

Korea University was founded in 1905, and offers a range of courses in the arts and sciences, as well as professional fields such as law, medicine, and business administration. The university has more than 35,000 students from Korea and around the world.

For more information contact:

  • Ben Sanderson
  • The British Library
  • t:+44 (0) 1937 546 126
  • m:+44 (0) 7810 056848
  • f:+44 (0) 20 7412 7168
  • e: ben.sanderson@bl.uk


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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