Manuscript culture arrived with Theravada Buddhism approximately 400-500 years ago. Mangjing Village elder Su Guowen recounts how writing slowly extended beyond the monastery walls and was used to inscribe inherited cultural wisdom, ensuring the legacy of their people. The loss of the vast majority of these texts during the Cultural Revolution had a profound impact on the cultural continuity of the Bulang people. However, since the 1980s, there has been significant effort in restoring this manuscript culture, the ritual protocols and stories contained therein.
Su Guowen, after leaving his mountain home to serve as an educator, eventually returned to continue the work of his father, Bulang headman Su Liya. He devoted himself singularly to seeking out extant copies of manuscripts and, when possible, returning them to Mangjing Village. Inspired by Su Guowen’s efforts, Theasophie initiated our Bulang Manuscript Project, sponsored by Yunnan University’s Museum of Anthropology with seed funding provided by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). This digital archive currently contains over 70 manuscripts acquired from several of the oldest Bulang villages in China. The above images are of Su Guowen examining a salvaged bundle of palm leaf manuscripts.