Copyright: BBAW/ Judith Affolter
The Berlin Turfan Collection comprises about 40,000 text fragments in more than 20 different languages, including
Sanskrit, Chinese, Old Uyghur, Tocharian, Sogdian and Middle Persian, and scripts such as Brāhmī, Chinese, Uyghur,
Sogdian and Manichaean, as well as the remains of wall paintings, clay sculptures, wooden objects and every-day
items. The majority of the text fragments are kept as a deposit of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der
Wissenschaften at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The Old Uyghur and Iranian part of the collection, which is
important for the editing work of the Academy project Turfanforschung and consists of approximately 13,000
fragments, is housed at Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. The illuminated manuscripts and the
artefacts are exhibited in the Museum für Asiatische Kunst at the Humboldt Forum or stored in the museum depot in
The Turfan collection is currently accessible virtually via the Digital Turfan Archive and in parts via the
International Dunhuang Project of the British Library.
Under its director Albert Grünwedel (1856−1935), alternating with Albert von Le Coq (1860−1930), the Berlin Museum
für Völkerkunde organised a total of four expeditions to Central Asia between 1902 and 1914, three of which were
under the patronage of Kaiser Wilhelm II. They brought thousands of remnants of paintings and other art objects as
well as about 40,000 text fragments in more than 20 different languages and scripts to Berlin. By order of the
responsible Ministry of Education in 1914, all texts except those needed for the exhibition in the museum were
transferred to the Königliche Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften. After being removed from storage during the
war, most of the collection was returned to the newly founded Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin in
1946; a small part went to the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Mainz, some Sanskrit fragments to the Indology
Department in Göttingen and some Iranian fragments were given to the Oriental Seminar of the University of
Since 1992, all parts of the collection have been reunited as the property of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie
The Turfan collection contains a great variety of book forms such as codices, scrolls, leporello or pustaka and
comprises mainly Buddhist, Manichaean and Christian texts documenting the diversity of the religious communities
along the Silk Roads. Remains of literary works as well as numerous other writings were also discovered, such as
medical and astrological texts, but also economic texts and documents. The age of the remains varies greatly. The
oldest, remains of Indian dramas, date back to the 4th century A.D. The oldest fragments of the Chinese collection
date back to the 4th-5th century, the Iranian fragments are dated to the period from the 8th to the 11th century,
and the majority of the Old Uyghur fragments date from the 9th to the 14th century.
Middle Iranian fragments in Manichaean script
- Mary Boyce, A Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichean Script in the German Turfan Collection, Deutsche
Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin: Institut für Orientforschung, Veröffentlichung Nr. 45, Berlin
Chinese Turfan fragments
- Gerhard Schmitt, Thomas Thilo (in Zusammenarbeit mit Taijun Inokuchi), Katalog chinesischer buddhistischer
Textfragmente, Berliner Turfantexte 6, Band 1, Berlin 1975.
- Thomas Thilo, Katalog chinesischer buddhistischer Textfragmente, Berliner Turfantexte 14, Band 2. Berlin
- Rong Xinjiang, Yang Fuxue, Ou Mei shou cang juan. Tu lu fan wen shu zong mu, Gesamtverzeichnis der
3: Sammlungen in Europa und Amerika, Wuhan 2007.
Mongolian manuscripts from the Turfan discoveries (MongHT)
- Cėrėnsodnom Dalantaj, Manfred Taube, Die Mongolica der Berliner Turfansammlung, Berliner Turfantexte 16,
Tibetan manuscripts from the Turfan discoveries (TibHT)
- Manfred Taube, Die Tibetica der Berliner Turfansammlung, Berliner Turfantexte 10, Berlin 1980.