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Regards sur la littérature tokharienne du bassin du Tarim au Ier millénaire de notre ère(Insights into Tocharian literature from the Tarim Basin in the 1st millennium AD)

Tuesday May 28, 2024, at 6 PM, at Maison de l’Asie, 22 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 PARIS.

Conference by Georges-jean Pinault, EPHE, PSL:

Literature in the two Tocharian languages (A and B) is known from manuscripts, most often fragmentary, preserved in various institutions, museums and libraries, and datable from the 4th to the 11th century AD. They bear witness to the flowering of a very rich Buddhist culture, which was also manifested through artistic productions (paintings, sculptures, etc.). Merchants and local nobility were very active in supporting Buddhist communities, among other things by ordering and financing the copying of a large number of manuscripts. The HisTochText project (“History of the Tocharian Texts of the Pelliot Collection”, ERC Advanced Grant. Horizon 2020. Action number 788205), continued from 2018 to 2024, made it possible to obtain results on several aspects of Buddhism practiced in the Kucha region, on the branch of the “Silk Road” north of the Taklamakan desert: local manufacturing of paper, variations in the format of manuscripts depending on the type of text, development of local literature based on Indian models. Thanks to imaging techniques, it was possible to progress in the reading of several manuscripts. The interpretation of Tocharian texts is only possible through comparison with texts written in other languages of Buddhism. We will present specific cases: a drama on the meeting with Maitreya, composed in Tokharian A and translated into ancient Turkish, a drama on the legend of the life of the Buddha (Buddhacarita) in Tokharian B, and a composite text in Tokharian A, analogous to the Bower manuscript, which notably contains a kybomancy divination manual.