British Library Shows Their Largest Ever Display of Buddhist Collections

Buddhism at the British Library (25 October 2019 – 23 February 2020) will explore the roots, philosophy and contemporary relevance of one of the world’s major religions, from its beginnings in north India in the 6th century BC to having over 500 million followers across the world today.

Featuring rare and colourful scrolls, painted wall hangings and folding books, Buddhism will highlight the outstanding art contained within Buddhist manuscripts and early printed works by shining a light on the British Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world, reaching far beyond a UK audience.

Exploring the three main schools of Buddhism – Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana – across 20 countries over 2,000 years, the exhibition will highlight the theory, practice and art of Buddhism, examine the enduring iconography of Buddha and consider what it means to be Buddhist today.

Encompassing one of the richest collections of Asian manuscripts in the world, the British Library holds finely illuminated copies of Buddhist scriptures, literary works, historical narratives, and works on Buddhist cosmology, ceremonies and ritual practices.

From sacred scriptures written on tree bark, palm leaves and gold to silk scrolls of major sutras, Buddhism was pivotal in developing writing and printing techniques to transmit ideas and educate people across Asia.

Jana Igunma, lead curator of Buddhism at the British Library, said: ‘Buddhism continues to inspire diverse artistic expression and lifestyles and, with the concept of mindfulness becoming mainstream, we are excited to host the British Library’s largest ever display of Buddhist collections, shining a light on the Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world.’

Buddhism at the British Library will be accompanied by a programme of events and a richly-illustrated book, Buddhism: Origins, Traditions and Contemporary Life.


Other Information you Might be Interested in:

If you wish to see the exhibition and need more information, go to the British Library website.

Dublin’s Chester Beatty preserves an internationally important collection of Buddhist manuscripts from Thailand. As we reported recently, many of these manuscripts are currently exhibited.

In 1994 the British Library acquired twenty‐seven birch‐bark scrolls, early Buddhist. Two years later The Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project at the University of Washington started to promote the study, edition and publication these precious documents.