Study of “the original” (1)

Paul Pelliot, a French scholar on Sinology, investigating the Dunhuang documents (1908)
There were not many researchers like Pelliot who investigated the documents in the caves where they were actually discovered.

 Preparations are being made now at the Department of Research Programming for the International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property that the Department will hold next fiscal year. After repeated discussions among members of the Department concerning the theme for this Symposium, it has been decided to look at cultural properties again with “the original” as the key word. For instance, although in the world of cultural properties “the original” is always an object of admiration, as is evident in activities related with reproduction, people’s understanding of what “the original” means varies from time to time and region to region. In such circumstances, we hope to tackle the question of how we are to transmit cultural properties to others, especially from the point of view of cultural archives with which the Department is concerned.
 As a result of five discussions held before establishing the theme, it was decided to hold workshops on matters associated with “the original.” The first meeting was held on September 26 and Nakano Teruo (Department of Research Programming) presented a case study on the authenticity of documents on Dunhuang. These documents were found stacked in big piles at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in 1900 but were later taken out of China repeatedly by adventurers and researchers from abroad. For this reason there are confusions concerning these documents, including the question of their authenticity. The group then held discussions on Dunhuang studies with Kato Masato of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques serving as a commentator. On October 3, the group discussed the differences in the concept of “the original” between tangible and intangible cultural properties, focusing on bunraku and other classic performing arts, with Ijima Mitsuru of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In this discussion it was confirmed that in the case of intangible cultural properties the “original” is a matter that cannot be ignored in transmitting cultural properties for there is always the question of what is “the original” – is the way of the first performance in past history “the original” or is each performance considered “the original”? We hope to hold workshops on this theme from time to time and to develop them into the International Symposium next year.

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