National Institute of Informatics - Digital Silk Road Project
Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books

> > > >
Color New!IIIF Color HighRes Gray HighRes PDF   Japanese English
0608 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 608 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

New!Citation Information

doi: 10.20676/00000182
Citation Format: Chicago | APA | Harvard | IEEE

OCR Text



[Chap. XV

Binding of `old books'.

Facility of distinguishing forgeries.

repeated impressions from a series of wooden blocks. The preparation of such blocks presented no difficulty, as printing from wooden blocks is extensively practised in Chinese Turkestan. This printing of ' old books ' commenced in 1896, and its results are partly represented by the forty-five block-printed' books which are fully described and illustrated in Dr. Hoernle's Report. These, too, showed a remarkable variety of scripts in their ever-recurring formulas, and were often of quite imposing dimensions in size and bulk 16.

Islam Akhûn, when once his defence had collapsed, was not chary about giving technical details about the forgers' methods of work. In fact, he seemed rather to relish the interest I showed in them. Thus he fully described the procedure followed in preparing the paper that was used for the production of manuscripts or ` block-prints ', as well as the treatment to which they were subjected in order to give them an ancient look. The fact of Khotan being the main centre of the Turkestan paper industry was a great convenience for the forgers, as they could readily supply themselves with any variety and size of paper needed. The sheets of modern Khotan paper were first dyed yellow or light brown by means of ' Toghrugha', a product of the Toghrak tree, which, when dissolved in water, gives a staining fluid. When the dyed sheets had been written or printed upon they were hung over fireplaces, so as to receive by smoke the proper hue of antiquity. It was, no doubt, in the course of this manipulation that the sheets occasionally sustained the burns and scorchings of which some of the ` old books ' transmitted to Calcutta display evident marks 17. Afterwards they were bound up into volumes. This, however, seems to have been the least efficiently managed department of the concern ; for the coarse imitation of European volumes, which is unmistakable in the case of most of the later products, as well as the utter unsuitability of the fastenings employed (usually pegs of copper or mere twists of paper), would a priori have justified the gravest suspicions as to their genuineness. Finally, the finished manuscripts or books were treated to a liberal admixture between their pages of the fine sand of the desert, in order to make them tally with the story of their long burial. I well remember how, in the spring of 1898, I had to apply a clothes brush before I could examine one of these forged ' block-prints', forming part of a collection of Khotan antiques' that had been purchased for Government by Major Godfrey, then in Kashmir.

All the previously suspected details of this elaborate and, for a time, remarkably successful fraud were thus confirmed by its main operator in the course of a long and cautiously conducted examination. It was a pleasure to me to know, and to be able to tell fellow-scholars in Europe : habemus confrtentem reum—and that without any resort to Eastern methods of judicial inquiry. Yet I had reason to feel even keener satisfaction at the fact that the positive results of my explorations were sufficient to dispose once for all of these fabrications so far as scholarly interests were concerned, even if Islam Akhun had never made his confession. In the light of the discoveries which had rewarded my excavations at Dandan-Uiliq and Endere, and of the general experience gained during my work in the desert, it had become as easy to distinguish Islam Akhûn's forgeries from genuine old manuscripts as it was to explode his egregious stories about the ancient sites which were supposed to have furnished his ' finds '. Not only in the colour and substance of the paper, but also in arrangement, state of preservation, and a variety of other points, all genuine manuscripts show features never to be found in Islam

Technical details of manufacture of ' old books '.

16 See Report on C.-A. ant., i. pp. 45—I Also ibid., ii. pp. 4 sq. and note x4 supra.

11 See Hoernle, Report, i. pp. 58 sq. mation which had reached the late Mr

lo; Pls. V—XVIII.

The native infor. Bäcklund, of the

Swedish Mission at Kâshgar, in regard to this procedure of the forgers proved quite correct. Yet the warning based upon these details did not suffice to stop the continued purchase and study of the productions.