Asian and African studies blog

8 posts from December 2015

31 December 2015

Revolutionary nian hua in the British Library

Nian hua or New Year prints are bold and colourful Chinese woodblock prints, which date back at least to the seventeenth century (Lust 1996: 1). Mass-produced, affordable and designed to celebrate most notably the Spring Festival (also known as ‘Chinese New Year’), they are typically full of auspicious symbols for conferring wealth, longevity, happiness and good fortune on the family. Deities such as stove and door gods, flora and fauna, including the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and well-fed male babies are all common subjects of these posters.

Barnes nian hua
The nian hua prints shown below are housed in a blue silk-covered folio case, decorated with a paper-cut style design. The title reads  Xin nian hua xuan ji (新年畫選集), ‘Selected New Year Prints’. British Library, ORB.40/644 (15)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promoted new or ‘revolutionary’ nian hua as early as the second half of the 1920s, because the woodblock print was an attractive, familiar and accessible format, it appealed to the target rural audience, and was easily and widely distributable. Crucially, it was a uniquely ‘national’ form (see Hung 2000: 775; Flath 2004: 146); something ‘past’ which could, to paraphrase Mao Zedong, ‘serve the present’. But the communist authorities did away with subjects associated with religious and so-called ‘feudal’ beliefs, replacing them with revolutionary themes, and shifted production from local workshops to state supervision. In his important study of nian hua, James Flath (2004: 139) recounts a discussion between Mao Zedong and Gu Yuan, a famous print artist, about new nian hua: Mao ‘suggested that Gu Yuan design new “Door Gods” to replace the traditional styles. “How shall I draw them,” Gu Yuan asked; “You know, I don’t believe there really are any gods.” Mao answered, “Make them look like peasants.”’. Hung (2000: 779-780) notes that the door gods ultimately transmogrified into peasants, workers and soldiers: the Maoist trinity.

After the establishment of the PRC, while woodcut-style prints remained popular (as we will see below), new nian hua started to incorporate the work of artists working in different types of media and genres (Shen 2009: 10). From the 1950s on, we begin to see reproductions of oil and brush-and-ink paintings, for example, reproduced as nian hua. Unlike other types of propaganda poster, which were produced all year round, revolutionary nian hua, much like their pre-revolutionary antecedents, were designed and published with a view to getting them in book shops and other outlets in time for the New Year festivities.

I would like to focus here on the set of bold and colourful woodblock-style nian hua in the British Library collection briefly mentioned in my last post. Each print is by a different artist based in provinces and cities across the nation. While they make use of a woodblock-style aesthetic, it is likely that they were actually printed using offset lithography, which allowed for ‘flexibility’ and ‘freedom’ in the design and manufacturing process and, presumably, sped up and facilitated mass production (Hung 2000: 776).

The set was published in 1950, around the time of a major CCP directive calling for the production of new nian hua and the genre’s heavy promotion via exhibitions and special publications (Hung 2000: 776; Flath 2004: 146). The fourteen nian hua, presented in a blue silk-covered folio, reflect the early concerns of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), just a year after its foundation, particularly land reform (which saw the redistribution of agricultural land from landowners to peasants), but also policies promoting literacy and agricultural production (many of the prints in this set depict bountiful harvests). Several others reflect or perhaps, more accurately, promote the burgeoning personality cults of Mao Zedong and his Inner Mongolian counterpart at that time, Chairman Ulanhu, also known as Yunze. The prints are in a modified nian hua style that Flath (2004: 143) credits to the afore-mentioned Gu Yuan: a narrative style with a ‘simplified political message’.

In Sheng chan ji hua (生产计划), ‘Making a plan’, by Liu Jilu (劉繼鹵), of Tianjin – a city in north-east China – a group of peasants are shown engaged in discussion and drinking tea while resting in a field. In the background, a number of other labourers plough the field with oxen. The titles, artists and place names are given in traditional characters, for simplified characters were not introduced until the mid-1950s, several years after the publication of this set of nian hua.
A detail from Sheng chan ji hua (生產計劃), ‘Making a plan’, by Liu Jilu (劉繼鹵), of Tianjin. Revolutionary nian hua, published in 1950 by Zhong hua quan guo mei shu gong zuo zhe xie hui (中华全國美術工作者拹會), ‘The Chinese National Fine Art Workers' Association’ in Beijing (北京) and distributed nationwide by Xin hua shu dian (新華書店), Xin hua [‘New China’] bookshops. British Library, ORB.40/644 (1)

A number of the prints that deal with ‘ethnic minority’ subjects also feature titles translated into Mongolian and Tibetan. For example, Jian zheng huan xuan hao ren (建政懽選好人), ‘Good people happily select a government’, by an Inner Mongolian artist, whose name is transliterated in Chinese to ‘Wulejibatu’ (烏勒吉巴图), depicts a busy scene of people voting, perhaps for local representatives. The Mongolian text above the frame gives a similar title. (With thanks to Eleanor Cooper, Curator of Manchu and Mongolian collections at the British Library, for translating the Mongolian script used on several of the nian hua prints).
ORB 40 644 (12)
A detail from Jian zheng huan xuan hao ren (建政懽選好人), ‘Good people happily select a government’, by ‘Wulejibatu’ (烏勒吉巴图) of Inner Mongolia (Neimeng, 内蒙]). Revolutionary nian hua, published in 1950 by Zhong hua quan guo mei shu gong zuo zhe xie hui (中华全國美術工作者拹會), ‘The Chinese National Fine Art Workers' Association’ in Beijing (北京) and distributed nationwide by Xin hua shu dian (新華書店) 'Xin hua [‘New China’] bookshops'. British Library, ORB.40/644 (12)

Despite their heavy promotion, the new nian hua failed to appeal to the masses, according to Hung (2000: 784-798). People had enjoyed the old, familiar stories purged from nian hua by the cultural authorities, and the new versions were too naturalistic compared with the stylised representations and techniques of the old prints. The new nian hua were thought of as elitist by the very audience to whom they had been designed to appeal; some were considered to be insufficiently colourful, as muted colours were selected over bright, while others were deemed too colourful, using a larger palette than consumers of old prints had been used to; and they were no longer ‘auspicious’, devoid of their old meanings and unfit for purpose. Hung (2000: 798- 799) provides evidence that the new nian hua were largely, and unsurprisingly, a flop. Their production - at least in this form, imitating woodblock prints - dramatically dropped towards the end of the 1950s. These examples are, therefore, very much of their time and, while they were not necessarily favourably received by their intended audience, they provide much evidence of a period of rapid cultural reform and the key policy concerns of the CCP in the early years of the People’s Republic.

Other collections of nian hua:
Examples of traditional nian hua can be seen in James A. Flath’s gallery of prints online. 
The Ashmolean Museum holds similar folios and prints.
Prints are also found in the Royal Library of Denmark (not yet digitised).

Flath, James A. 2004. The Cult of Happiness: Nianhua, Art, and History in Rural North China. Vancouver and Toronto: UBC Press; Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Lust, John. 1996. Chinese Popular Prints. Leiden: Brill.
Shen, Kuiyi. 2009. ‘Propaganda Posters in China’. In Landsberger, S. R., Van der Heijden, M. (eds). Chinese Posters: The IISH-Landsberger Collections. New York and London: Prestel: 8-20.
Hung, Chang-Tai. 2000. ‘Repainting China: New Years Prints (Nianhua) and Peasant Resistance in the Early Years of the People’s Republic’. Comparative Studies in Society and History. 42 (4): 770-810.

Amy Jane Barnes, BICC Post-doctoral Researcher Ccownwork

28 December 2015

Tuồng/Hát Bồi in Vietnamese Theatre

Traditional Vietnamese theatre can be divided into two main genres: chèo and tuồng or hát bội. Chèo is probably the oldest form of Vietnamese theatrical performance and can be dated back to the tenth century. It is believed that it originated from a boating song performed at popular festivals, hence the name chèo or “song of oars”. This traditional performance was popular in the north of Vietnam and was closely associated with peasants or commoners because of the simple and basic way it was performed. Initially, it did not even require a stage, and the artists simply wore their everyday clothes. There were no written texts, and the accompanying songs were closely related to folk songs. This form of performance was meant to be a funny and light-hearted entertainment.

Chiếu chèo, a very basic play performed on a mat. Sân Khấu, Hanoi : Báo Quân Đội, no.184 (8-1996), p.42. British Library, 16671.c.4

Phường chèo đóng đường: chèo performed at a funeral. Gustave Dumoutier, Le Rituel Funéraire des Annamites.  Hanoi: F.H. Schneider, 1904; plate 6 bis. British Library,11100.f.22

If chèo was originally a popular entertainment for peasants, tuồng (in the North) or hát bội (in the South) stood traditionally at the other end of the performance genre. Tuồng, which could be translated as “classical theatre”, was believed to have originated in a royal court of the Trần dynasty (1225-1400 AD). Most scholars agree that there was a Chinese impulse to the birth of Vietnamese classical theatre (Mackerras 1987: 3). Legend has it that in 1285, a Chinese opera troupe was captured during a Vietnamese military campaign against the invading Mongols. Emperor Trần Nhân Tông (1279-1293), the third emperor of the Trần dynasty, was so impressed by the operatic and theatrical knowledge of the captives that he had the leader of the troupe train young Vietnamese in the performing art in exchange for his life. Under the patronage of subsequent emperors, tuồng developed to suit Vietnamese taste, and new plays were written, some based on Vietnamese, rather than Chinese, history (Brandon 1967: 73-4). In the 16th century tuồng spread to the South and by the 18th century it was popular throughout the country and among all classes, from emperors to peasants (Mackerras 1987: 3).

Tuồng play. Pierre Huard et Maurice Durand, Connaissance du Việt Nam (1954), p. 265. British Library, X.800/281 0332

Tuồng reached its apogee under the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945). Emperors and high-ranking mandarins became patrons of troupes and had performances given in their private chambers. The first special theatre was built in the imperial palace of Emperor Gia Long (1802-1820).  Emperor Tự Đức (1847-1883) encouraged court poets to write opera, and he brought into his court the Chinese actor Kang Koung Heou and maintained 150 female performers (Brandon 1967: 73). During the Nguyễn dynasty, tuồng was very similar to Beijing opera in terms of costumes, stagecraft and makeup.

It was under these conditions that a large number of tuồng play scripts were created, written in Hán-Nôm (Sino-Vietnamese script) or Hán (Chinese script). One Vietnamese scholar reports that in Vietnam nowadays there are still four to five hundred compositions, some of which run to as many as a dozen volumes. Most traditional tuồng are based on Chinese history or literary works, but there are others which dramatised events in Vietnamese history or literature. Themes include struggles at court between an evil courtier and the emperor, loyalty, filial piety and the virtues of patriotism (Mackerras 1987: 4).

Sadly, tuồng declined in the 20th century because it lost royal court support. Former glamorous court performers had to earn their living after they retired by taking their troupes to travel around and perform wherever people were willing to pay them. However, the decline in court performances eventually led to a new genre of theatre known as cải lương, which was an adaptation of this classical performance.

Or 8218 blog
Title page of the first play in the manuscript, Tống Từ Minh truyện. British Library, Or. 8218, Vol. 1, f. 1.r Noc

A ten-volume set of tuồng plays (Or. 8218) held in the British Library is very likely the product of the popularity of this performing art form in the mid-19th century under the Nguyễn dynasty.  Or. 8218 comprises a collection of forty six plays and legends, possibly from Hue, the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyễn dynasty. Most do not include the author’s name, date and place except for one piece, Sự tích ra tuồng, which has a line which could be translated into modern Vietnamese as ‘làm vào ngày tháng tốt năm Tự Đức 3’. According to Trần Nghĩa, a Vietnamese specialist in Hán-Nôm who researched the manuscripts at the British Library back in 1995, this note indicates that the play was written in 1850 during the reign of Emperor Tự Đức (1847-1883).  The complete ten-volume set of manuscripts (Or. 8218/1-10), containing over 6,800 pages, has been now fully digitised thanks to the legacy of Henry Ginsburg, and may be accessed through the Digitised Manuscripts website with the search term 'Vietnam'.

Further reading:
Colin Mackerras, ‘Theatre in Vietnam’, Asian Theatre Journal, Vol.4, No. 1 (Spring 1987), pp.1-28.
James R. Brandon, Theatre in Southeast Asia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1967.
Pierre Huard et Maurice Durand, Connaissance du Viet-Nam. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1954.
Trần Nghĩa, “Sách Hán-Nôm tại thư viện vương quốc Anh” (Books in Sino-Vietnamese at the British Library), Tạp chí Hán-Nôm, 3(24),1995, pp. 3-14.

Sud Chonchirdsin, Curator for Vietnamese Ccownwork

24 December 2015

Scenes from the Life of the Buddha

Among the recently digitised Burmese manuscripts from the British Library collections are six illustrated manuscripts of the Life of the Buddha.  Two of these manuscripts are in fact single parts from  separate multi-volumed accounts of the Buddha's life. Or.14405 comprises the fourth part of one such account, and starts with the story of the Buddha's physician Jivaka, followed by depictions of the Buddha’s defeat of the heretics and his performance of the twin miracles, and ends with scenes from various rainy seasons spent by the Buddha. Or.14553 constitutes part nine of another mulitpart manuscript on the life of the Buddha, and contains 12 openings with scenes of Yasa joining the monkhood, the defeat of the heretics, and the serpent king. Two other manuscripts (Or.14297 and Or.14298) contain scenes from the Buddha’s early life, his enlightenment and his later life. Also digitised are a manuscript containing scenes from the lives of previous Buddhas as well as of Gotama Buddha (Or.14823), and a Jataka manuscript (Or.14220) on the previous lives of the Buddha.

The First Sermon at the Deer Park. British Library, Or. 14823, f.38. Noc

The Buddha gave the first sermon called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta to his five disciples (Panca Vaggi) – Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanam and Assaji – at the Deer Park near Benares (Varanasi) on the eve of Saturday, the full moon day of July (Waso). A deva (deity) is depicted next to the disciples paying respects to the Buddha. This sermon contains the essential teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are: the truth of suffering (Dukkha Sacca), the truth of the cause of suffering (Samudaya Sacca), the truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha Sacca), and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering (Megga Sacca).

The Fire Sermon at Varanasi. British Library, Or. 14297, f.36. Noc

The Buddha addressed the Third Sermon, the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta) to a thousand previously fire-worshipping bhikkhus (ascetics) at Varanasi in Gaya several months after his Enlightenment. In this discourse the Buddha preached about achieving liberation from suffering. Pleasure or pain, or the non-existence of pleasure or pain, are all flames from the fire of lust (raga), the fire of hate (dosa) and the fire of delusion (moha). Upon hearing this Fire Sermon all hundred bhikkhus attained arahantship (perfect sanctity). This third discourse can be found in the Samyutta Nikaya in the Pali Canon.

Yasa joins the monkhood. British Library, Or. 14553, f.3. Noc

Yasa was a son of a rich man, but he left his home as he was distressed with his life. He went to the Deer Park to become bhikkhu (ascetic). He was the sixth bhikkhu to achieve the first stage of arahanthood when he heard the teachings of the Buddha (dhamma). After the Buddha ordained Yasa, his closest friends, Vimala, Subahu, Punnaji and Gavumpati followed him into the sangha (monkhood) and they too became arahants (perfected persons). After two months, a further fifty of Yasa’s friends joined the sangha and attained arahantship.

The Buddha and King Bimbisara. British Library, Or. 14405, ff.28-29. Noc

King Bimbisara, ruler of the kingdom of Magadha, offered his Bamboo Grove (Veluvana) to the Buddha and his disciples when the Buddha visited him at Rajagaha, the capital of Magadha, in accordance with a promise made by him before his Enlightenment. This was the first monastery (arama) accepted by the Buddha, and a rule was passed allowing monks to accept such an arama. After the Great Donation of Veluvana monastery, King Bimbisara became a lay-disciple (Upasaka) of the Buddha. The Buddha spent three rainy seasons - the second, third and fourth Lents (vassas) - in this first Buddhist monastery, and numerous Jatakas were recited there. The two most distinguished of the Buddha's disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana, joined the Order. The Buddha had spent the first vassa in the Deer Park at Isipatana, near Benares, where there was no building where he could reside.  

The Buddha in Parileyya Forest, British Library, Or. 14823, f. 30.  Noc

While the Buddha was spending the tenth rainy season (vassa) at Kosambhi, a dispute arose between his followers. When they could not be reconciled he spent the rainy season at the foot of a Sal-tree in Parileyyaka Forest. During his stay in this forest an elephant and a monkey ministered to his needs. The monks came to Savatthi and begged pardon of the Buddha at the end of the vassa.

Jivaka, the Buddha’s physician. British Library, Or. 14405, ff. 22-23. Noc

Jivaka, the most renowned physician, was the son of Salavati, of Rajagaha. He was adopted by Prince Abhaya, a son of King Bimbisara and brought up with the greatest care. He studied medicine and became eminent through his extreme proficiency in the profession. Although he was the royal physician he provided free medical care to the Buddha and other monks during the Buddha’s time. He also built a monastery in his mango garden and donated it to the Buddha and his monks. In this scene the Buddha’s physician is being summoned from his home by the Buddha’s disciple and steward, the monk Ananda, to treat the Buddha at a monastery.      
Dhatu ceti at Jetavana, British Library, Or. 14298, f.5. Noc

After the Buddha’s passing (Parinirvana) his relics were enshrined in a stupa, so that people could pay respects to him and reflect upon his virtues. A ceti or stupa is a symbol of Buddhist culture; they were built of stone or brick, and contain a relic chamber beneath. After Sariputta and Moggallana, two chief disciples of the Buddha, attained Parinirvana, their relics were gathered and enshrined in Dhatu ceti in memory of them.
Mittavindaka Jataka, British Library, Or 14220, ff.9-10.

Mittavindaka, the son of a rich man, agreed to keep eight precepts (uposatha sila) when his mother bribed him. He went to the monastery and slept all night. His mother asked him not to go on a voyage but he did not listen to her. When the ship refused to move in the middle of the ocean, lots were cast to identify the likely culprit. Three times the lot fell to Mittavindaka, who was then fastened to a raft and cast adrift. He arrived at an island which appeared to him to be a most beautiful place. When he saw a man with a lotus bloom on his head on the island, he asked the man to give it to him. As soon as he put it on his head he suffered the torments of hell as the wheel was as sharp as a razor. He was told by the Bodhisatta, born as a deva, that it was the result of his wickedness to his mother.

These manuscripts are painted in strong colours and an accomplished style. Some of the scenes in the Burmese Life of the Buddha manuscripts portray the gilded splendour of a monastery setting and the elaborate wooden architecture.

Further reading:
Patricia M. Herbert, The life of the Buddha. London: British Library, 1993.

San San May, Curator for Burmese Ccownwork

21 December 2015

A Malay manuscript artist unveiled: Datuk Muda Muhammad of Perlis

We know almost nothing of the artists responsible for the exquisite illuminated frames which adorn the opening pages of Islamic manuscripts from Southeast Asia, for Malay decorum generally required self-effacing anonymity from artisans. But as will be shown below, to some extent our lack of knowledge may also stem from an imperfect understanding of the language world of traditional Malay manuscripts, for sometimes the very words in front of our eyes may have meanings which escape contemporary mindsets.

The British Library holds a fine illuminated manuscript of the Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, ‘The Story of the Prophet Joseph’ (MSS Malay D.4), copied by Lebai Muhammad on 9 January 1802. The manuscript came from the collection of John Leyden and was probably acquired in Penang in 1805 or 1806. The first two pages are adorned with a dense composition of scrolling floral and foliate motifs in red, green, black and yellow, lightened with the ‘reserved white’ of the paper itself.

Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, dated 5 Ramadan 1216 (9 January 1802). British Library, MSS Malay D.4, ff. 3v-4r.  noc

The manuscript’s original owner was one Cik Candra, who is named in a note on a flyleaf begging borrowers to take good care of the manuscript and stipulating a fine of three rials if the book is damaged. The writer justifies his concern by stressing that it has cost him dearly to ‘menulih kepalanya’. Menulih is the local dialect form for menulis, for in Kedah-Penang Malay the ending –s is replaced by –ih. The Malay verb menulis, from the root tulis, nowadays simply means ‘to write’, but a study of Malay manuscripts reveals that the more usual meaning of tulis/menulis was ‘to draw’. In his autobiography Hikayat Abdullah, the famous 19th-century writer Munsyi Abdullah describes how he learned to draw through decorating kites as a child (adapun daripada layang2 itulah asalnya aku tahu menulis bunga2 dan gambar2), while in the Hikayat Hang Tuah, the Malay envoy Hang Nadim greatly impresses the artists and textile designers (penulis, pandai menulis) of Kalinga (south India) by sketching beautifully the pattern he desires on his cloth (ditulisnyalah pada kertas bunga yang seperti kehendak hatinya itu). In traditional Malay texts, the verb ‘to write’ was more usually conveyed by menyurat, and this is indeed the term used by the scribe Lebai Muhammad in the colophon of this book (yang menyurat hikayat nabi Allah Yusuf ini dari pada permulaan datang ke sudahannya Lebai Muhammad).  We can therefore understand the writer's concerns for the wellbeing of the book, because it had cost him so much to draw the illuminated headings (kepala) at the beginning of the book.

Statement at the beginning of the manuscript by the artist, naming the owner as Cik Candra (Inilah hikayat nabi Allah Yusuf anak nabi Allah Yakob terlalu baik pengajarannya dan terlaluh banyak2 beroleh pahalanya karena surat nabi2 itulah maka tuannya sangat sayang maka sangat diberatinya akan surat nabi Yusuf ini barang siapa pinjam surat ini hendaklah pabila baik2 jika binasa surat ini kanalah harganya tiga rial jangan jadi taksir kepada senda kerana sudah senda nyatakan kepada tuan2 yang meminjam surat ini kerana sudah dinyatakan oleh tuannya Cik Candra kerana banyak senda rugi menulih kepalanya tamat.) British Library, MSS Malay D.4, f. 2v (detail).  noc

In the light of this interpretation, we can now reevaluate two small inscriptions found at the top of the illuminated pages, which had been previously understood to refer to writing, but in fact relate to the decoration itself. At the top of the left-hand page (f. 4r) is inscribed: Inilah tulihsan Cik Mat Tuk Muda anak Raja Indera Wangsa di Perlis, ‘This is the drawing of Cik Mat Tuk Muda, the son of Raja Indera Wangsa in Perlis’. These few words are of enormous significance for the study of Malay manuscript art: this is the first known instance of the artist of an illuminated Malay manuscript explicitly 'signing' his work. Moreover, not only do we have his name, Cik (‘Mister’) Mat (‘Mat’ being the Malay short form for ‘Muhammad’), but also his title of Tuk (short for Datuk) Muda, his father’s title of Raja Indera Wangsa, and his place of origin, Perlis.

‘This drawing is by Cik Mat Tuk Muda, son of Raja Indera Wangsa, of Perlis’ (Inilah tulihsan Cik Mat Tuk Muda anak Raja Indera Wangsa di Perlis). British Library, MSS Malay D.4, f. 4r (detail).  noc

At the top of the right-hand page (f. 3v) is written: Inilah bekas tangan Cik Mat orang Kayangan dipinjam oleh Cik Candra, ‘This is the handiwork of Cik Mat, from Kayangan, made use of by Cik Candra’. Again, it identifies the illumination as the work of Cik Mat, from Kayangan, the capital of Perlis. Today Perlis is a small independent state at the northern end of the Malay peninsula, but around 1800 Perlis was still part of Kedah, and was ruled by a Kedah prince whose abode was at Kota Indera Kayangan.

‘This is the handiwork of Cik Mat, from Kayangan, made use of by Cik Candra’ (Inilah bekas tangan Cik Mat orang Kayangan dipinjam oleh Cik Candra). British Library, MSS Malay D.4, f. 3v (detail).  noc

We turn now to a second manuscript, held in the Royal Asiatic Society, Hikayat Syah Mardan (Raffles Malay 66), copied by Lebai Alang, which bears a date of sale of 1790. At first glance there is not much to connect the manuscripts: held in two different libraries, they derive from different collectors, are copied by different scribes, and contain dates some 12 years apart. Moreover while Hikayat Nabi Yusuf is filled with swirling foliate and floral scrolls, the Hikayat Syah Mardan is decorated with preponderantly geometric designs of concentric circles and mihrab-shaped cartouches. The main artistic linkages between the manuscripts are, rather, an identical and distinctive palette of red, green, black and reserved white, and a hard-to-define but impressionistic sense of compositional unity, for both manuscripts have densely illuminated frames extending right to the edges of the paper, set within a thin red outer border outlined in black ink.

RAS Raffles Malay 66, p
Hikayat Syah Mardan, ca. 1790. Royal Asiatic Society, Raffles Malay 66, pp. [1-2].

Closer examination confirms the relationship between the two manuscripts, for just as in Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, there is a lengthy note on an initial flyleaf naming the same Cik Candra as the owner of the manuscript, urging borrowers to treat the book carefully, and intriguingly, ending with the name of the design itself, ‘As for the initial illuminated frames of this book, the name of the design is the Thinking Cat’ (maka yang menulihnya di kepala surat ini nama tulihnya kucin bertenung). Here too we find influence of the local Kedah-Penang dialect, where final –ng is pronounced –n, and so kucin can be understood as kucing, ‘cat’, while bertenung refers to the act of divining, or thinking deeply to aid divination.

RAS Raffles Malay 66, p.iii-det-red
In the final line, the illuminated pattern is called the ‘Thinking Cat’ (maka yang menulihnya di kepala surat ini nama tulihnya Kucin Bertenung). Royal Asiatic Society, Raffles Malay 66, f. [ii]r.

The manuscript Hikayat Syah Mardan also contains a further long autograph note from the artist himself, who uses here the long form of his name: ‘Cik Muhammad is the one who drew the illumination at the start of this book, which has been entrusted to the [book’s] owner Cik Candra; this what my drawing is like, because I am not very skillful, and moreover I am in a melancholic state, and so that is why it is not very beautiful’ (Cik Muhammadlah yang empunya tulisan di kepalanya surat ini dipinjam oleh tuannya Cik Candra itulah janis rupa tulisnya karana senda pun tiada berapa pandainya lagi pun senda duduk di dalam hal gunda gulana jadi tiadalah berapa moleknya tamat). Cik Muhammad’s self-deprecatory plaint is entirely in keeping with the cult of modesty and humility demanded by the mores of Malay literary culture, whereby writers, scribes and even book owners would vie to outdo each other in self-abasement, appositely termed by the writer Muhammad Haji Salleh as ‘Malay one-downmanship’.

RAS Raffles Malay 66,
The artist Cik Muhammad’s apology for the poor quality of his drawing. Royal Asiatic Society, Raffles Malay 66, f. [iii]v.

From this treasure trove of notes or 'paratexts' in these two manuscripts, one of the most intriguing nuggets is the use of the Malay term dipinjam oleh, found in both manuscripts to refer to the use of the artwork created by the artist, by the owner of the book. Although the standard meaning of dipinjam oleh would be ‘lent to’ or ‘borrowed by’, in the present context the phrase is probably better translated as ‘entrusted to’ or ‘made use of by’. This is a very interesting intimation of how the transaction of an artist illuminating a manuscript for its owner might have been viewed in the Malay book world at that time, and implies an acknowledgement of the continuing intellectual property rights of the artist. And it was precisely a concern to confirm in writing this 'copyright' (perhaps following a disagreement or misunderstanding) that has bequeathed to us the full name of a Malay manuscript artist of the late 18th century: Datuk Muda Muhammad, son of Raja Indera Wangsa, of Kayangan in Perlis.

All images of Raffles Malay 66 are reproduced courtesy of the Royal Asiatic Society.

This is an edited version published on 14 April 2016 of the original blog post, incorporating corrections thanks to Jan van der Putten and Abdur-Rahman Mohd. Amin.

Further reading:

A.T. Gallop, The language of Malay manuscript art: a tribute to Ian Proudfoot and the Malay Concordance ProjectIman, 2013, 1(3):11-27.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

15 December 2015

4,000 Arabic manuscripts by the River Niger

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Paul with the MARA (Manuscrits Arabes et Ajami) team (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

From West Africa
I am writing this piece from Niamey, Niger, where I am staying for a five-week research trip to investigate the country’s largest manuscript collection held at the Département des Manuscrits Arabes et Ajami (MARA), a department of the city’s Université Abdou Moumouni. This renowned collection contains mainly works in Arabic, but also many regional languages such as Hausa, Fulfulde, Zarma and Kanuri written in Arabic script (we call this ajami). The range of subjects covered in the collection is vast, but mainly concern works of history and religion, but I have come across works on dream interpretation, the benefits of eating kola nut and a book discussing the relative benefits and drawbacks of “associating with the French”.

At the British Library, my work is to catalogue the BL’s collection of Arabic manuscripts from West Africa as part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Project with the University of Birmingham. My thesis concerns the theocratic state founded in this region in 1804 by Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio (popularly called the Sokoto Caliphate). I am especially interested how Uthman’s successors, Abdullahi dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello, set about maintaining and governing the state entity they had helped to create, as well as the legacy of the Caliphate today.

Photo 1
The MARA and Boubou Hama (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

History of  MARA
The founding of MARA occurred under unusual circumstances. The story starts with Boubou Hama, one-time President of the National Assembly and also a passionate historian of the Niger region. Using his political clout to garner funds, throughout the 1960s and 70s he had been purchasing manuscripts that concerned the history of Niger from both within the country and in the wider West African region. When he could not purchase the manuscripts themselves, he paid scribes (notably in Agadez) to copy them out for him, housing his growing collection in a room in the National Assembly.

In 1974, there was an army coup in Niamey and the National Assembly was flooded with soldiers. The young rebels who discovered Boubou Hama’s manuscript collection could read neither Arabic nor their regional languages in Arabic script. They decided that these were works praising the government, which Boubou Hama had commissioned from marabouts. In their revolutionary fervour, they set about destroying the collection. It was only after an unknown quantity of these manuscripts had been destroyed that the collection was found to contain mainly historical and religious works, most of them pre-dating the Hamani government. The four hundred remaining manuscripts were transferred to the Institut de Recherche en Sciences Humaines (IRSH). The IRSH subsequently merged with the newly founded Université Abdou Moumouni and MARA was created as an official university department that same year.

Under MARA’s first directors and with help from UNESCO, the department continued to purchase and copy regional manuscripts until they possessed more than 3,000 items, for which a new storeroom was built. However, there was little effort to catalogue or preserve this rapidly expanding collection. When current director of MARA Dr. Moulaye Hassane took up his position in 1995, his priorities were to catalogue, preserve and expand the collection further. For this task, he increased the department staff to seven, including Dr. Salao Alassan, a graduate of Al-Azhar University.

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Dr. Salao Alassan beside a display of manuscripts (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

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Staff of the MARA, Dr. Hassane in the centre, wearing brown (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

Between 2004 and 2008, they created an eight-volume catalogue containing entries for 4,000 manuscripts, an operation funded and published by the Al-Furqan Foundation. During the cataloguing process, it became apparent that there was an urgent need to undertake measures to preserve the manuscripts from damage. In 2005, the MARA acquired funding from Libya’s World Islamic Call Society to construct a new, specialised storeroom for the manuscripts. To prevent the appearance of termites –the greatest enemy of manuscripts in this part of the world- builders used traditional methods such as salting the earth and adding a saline mixture to the concrete used for the foundations. USAID also provided several dehumidifiers to control the climate of the storeroom as well as scanners, colour printers and training in digitisation techniques with the aim of safeguarding the collection permanently.

However, like many curators, Dr. Hassane is wary of digitising the entire collection, especially in Niamey where laws concerning the use of digital images are not as stringent or comprehensive as in Europe or North America. As Dr. Hassane said himself, “When I started to digitise the manuscripts, it was to safeguard them. But at the same time, I saw that it would be dangerous to digitise them because once a digital copy is made, it can be taken away. If this material becomes available, then who will come to use the archives?”

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A saddlebag Qur’an, very similar to British Library Or.16751 on view in the British Library exhibition West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

Photo 5
A selection of  manuscripts on display at a Colloquium held at IRSH (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

Threats to the collection
Even after the rescuing of the initial collection from destruction in 1974, MARA’s archives have faced several threats over the years. The World Islamic Call Society has not always been so helpful to MARA. Throughout the 1980s and 90s its directors sent representatives to Niamey offering extortionate amounts of money to purchase the entire collection and move it to Tripoli. Dr. Hassane said no. “What they don’t understand”, he says, “is that if I give away the manuscript collection of MARA, what is left for me to do here?” The same could not be said for the large number of manuscripts held by private individuals all over Niger. For many of their owners, the huge financial gain was too great an opportunity and they sold their manuscripts –until that point regarded as family heirlooms- to the foundation. In 2007, during a tour of a manuscript preservation centre in Libya, Dr. Hassane saw quite a few manuscripts of Nigerien provenance. Although the manuscripts are stored safely in underground vaults, they are not likely to be studied in the near future.

MARA also recently lost its UNESCO funding. As such, MARA can no longer afford to purchase manuscripts held privately in Niger. As well as many of these private holdings being purchased by World Islamic Call Society, they are also under threat from the Izala Society, a reactionary Islamic movement that started in Nigeria. The movement’s branch in Niger has been known to purchase or demand manuscripts in order to destroy them. This is because many of these manuscripts contain the writings of Qadiri and Tijani Sufi orders, whom the movement believe to be heretical.

But maybe the biggest threat to the MARA archives is de-centralisation. Each region now envisages its own museum and archive collection. While an admirable idea, this risks the collection of MARA being split up. Already, the university-funded initiative started in 2005 by Dr. Hassane to collect and catalogue regional manuscripts held by marabouts is failing to produce results because marabouts no longer want to part with their manuscripts. In fact, many are demanding the manuscripts they sold to MARA in previous years back again. As a result, a large proportion of the manuscripts included in the projected ninth volume of the al-Furqan catalogue series will not actually be held at the MARA but will stay with their owners. Should a scholar wish to consult these items in the future, the catalogue will give the name and address of the marabout and they will have to ask for a viewing.

Photo 12
A manuscript in need of conservation (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

Future aims, and worries
Over the coming years, Dr. Hassane and his team will continue their project to map and evaluate Niger’s private manuscript collections, which has four regions still to survey. While the project may not result in many new acquisitions, they are still creating a fantastic resource. The team will collect the name of each marabout, their religious affiliation, education and current teaching activity, as well as a photograph of them with their prized manuscripts. There is also an initiative to translate and publish critical editions of as many as the manuscripts as possible. For this task, Dr. Hassane wants to involve post-graduate students from Université Abdou Moumouni writing theses in history or Islamic studies.

Photo 13
MARA staff member Boubacar Moussa interviews marabout Side Iyé, who is explaining his invention, a “Universal Calendar” (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

My time here with the manuscripts has so far been fruitful and rewarding. My temporary colleagues have become more like my friends, and after a day’s work with the manuscripts we indulge in fried fish caught in the River Niger, some 100 metres down the road -although this may make some BL staff rather nervous, as the manuscripts are still lying around as we eat! Plus, as the initiative to survey and evaluate Niger’s privately-held manuscripts continues, there is a regular stream of wise old marabouts turning up at MARA offices to share their knowledge and donate copies of their works.

It is often difficult for Nigerien academics to get their work published in mainstream academic journals (not least because they are restricted to the Francophone world) and Dr. Hassane’s fears about the collection being digitised and distributed amongst Western academics and the trickle of foreign visitors to the collection drying out is completely understandable. MARA is neither short of human resources, nor short of material to work on. However, it does not have the financial resources or the international presence of –say- the Timbuktu manuscripts, mainly because the threats to this collection are not as visible (and media-friendly) as an Islamist insurgency. Often held up as an achievement for global cultural heritage, Dr. Hassane in fact wants to avoid the Timbuktu model, where private archive collections lobby for sponsorship by powerful external donors and monetise access to the manuscripts, making collaborations almost impossible. “I am an academic,” says Dr. Hassane, “I don’t do business with manuscripts.”

Photo 16
Paul hard at work (© IRSH, Université Abdou Moumouni)

Paul Naylor, British Library Collaborative Doctoral Student, Asian and African Studies

10 December 2015

Henry Salt and the Highlands of Ethiopia (Abyssinia)

Although separated by land and sea, the history of relations between Europe and Ethiopia goes back to early antiquity. The earliest account of Ethiopia in the West can be found in the epic poems of Homer. However it was the popularity of the legend of the 12th century Christian king, Presbyter Johannes (Prester John) in medieval Europe that revived Ethiopia in the European imagination. From the 12th century onwards the relationship between Europe  and Ethiopia was characterized by a mutual awareness of the vital role that each could play in checking and containing the spread of Islam. This has been documented both by Europeans and to some extent Ethiopians, mostly in printed publications, through collections of artefacts, and in private journals. Manuscript accounts have provided the main sources for much meticulous historical research, however the body of prints, photographs and paintings by European visitors have not had the same attention.

One of the finest artists to visit Ethiopia in early nineteenth century was the Egyptologist Henry Salt (14 June 1780 – 30 October 1827). Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Salt studied Classics and later went to London to join he Royal Academy Antique School.

WD1315, Salt,
Obelisk at Axum (Abyssinia), September or October 1803, pen-and-ink drawing by Henry Salt, 1803 (British Library WD1315)

A meeting with George Annesley, 2nd Earl of Mountnorris resulted in Salt being appointed secretary and draughtsman to Viscount Valentia. Salt accompanied the Earl to India and the Red Sea area. While there, he also visited the Ethiopian highlands for the first time, including the ancient city of Aksum in 1805. Salt’s drawings were later published in Valentia's Voyages and Travels to India, in 1809.

Salt returned to Ethiopia in 1810 on the first official mission from Great Britain to establish trade and diplomatic links. The aim of the mission was to conclude an alliance with Abyssinia, and obtain a port on the Red Sea in case France secured Egypt by dividing up the Turkish Empire with Russia.[1]

Salt’s interest in Egyptology began in 1815, when he was appointed British consul-general in Cairo. However even before working in Cairo, during his time in Ethiopia, he had conducted an extensive survey of early Ethiopic and Greek inscriptions found in Aksum.

Geez insc
Ethiopic inscription from Aksum (Mountnorris & Salt, p. 414)

The British Library’s Department of Visual Arts has a good collection of visual materials relating to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Amongst these are drawings by Henry Salt which date from 1805 to 1810.  Salt produced a number of drawings illustrating scenes of the Ethiopian highlands. The sketches were annotated by Salt with details of colour recording people and buildings.  His drawings are similar to those of Thomas and William Daniel in terms of subject matter, composition, use of colour and aesthetic ideal of the time.

Henry Salt, the pass of Atbara (Abyssinia). 12, September 1805, wash (British Library WD1313)

Salt's drawings of the Ethiopian highlands demonstrate the breadth of his work and his attention to detail. Most were reprinted by the Ethiopian Tourist Commission in the early 1970s.

Henry Salt, the town of Dixan on a hilltop (Abyssinia), July or November 1805, wash 1805 (British Library WD1310)  noc

Salt’s paintings of India have acquired monumental status, becoming a perpetual nostalgic reminder of the “British Raj”.  However his paintings of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) have not gained the consideration they merit. 

Further Reading

Mountnorris, G. A., & Salt, H., Voyages and travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt, in the years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806. London: W. Miller, 1809

Salt, H.,  A voyage to Abyssinia, and travels into the interior of that country, executed under the orders of the British Government, in the years 1809 and 1810: In which are included, an account of the Portguese settlements on the east coast of Africa, visited in the course of the voyage, a concise narrative of the late events in Arabia Felix, and some particulars respecting the aboriginal African tribes, extending from Mosambique to the borders of Egypt, together with vocabularies of their respectives languages. London: F.C. and J. Rivington, 1814

Eyob Derillo, Asian and African Studies

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica [1910] I, p.90


07 December 2015

The Chinese collections and the Library’s growing links with Chinese partners

The Chinese collections at the British Library contain more than 100,000 printed books and 2,500 periodical titles. The earliest acquisitions of Chinese material were from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum. The collection includes notable printed pieces from the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Diamond Sutra (Jingang jing), as well as 24 volumes (corresponding to 49 chapters) of the Yongle Dadian. The Chinese collection at the British Library also includes a unique series of more than 450 pieces of oracle bones (jia gu). They are dated between 1600 and 1050 BC (Shang dynasty), and this makes them the oldest items in the Library.

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The earliest Chinese script: Shang dynasty characters on fragments of an oracle bone dating between 1600 and 1050 BC. British Library, Or.7694/1516 Noc

The Library has always engaged strongly with international partners and researchers, including many institutions in East Asia. The International Dunhuang Project (IDP) was founded in 1994 as a collaborative project with the National Library of China as a founder member. Its remit is the conservation, cataloguing, research and digitisation of the material from Dunhuang and Chinese Central Asia now held in institutions worldwide. The Library’s collaboration with the National Library of China goes back to the 1980s when the BL and the NLC first started consulting together on this material. IDP now includes eight partners around the world, as well as several other collaborating institutions.

Our international cooperation activities with Chinese partners cover the following main areas: the conversion of the Library’s Chinese collection catalogues from microfiche and card formats to electronic records, the digitisation of selected items, the production of facsimile copies of Chinese rare items for distribution in China and worldwide, and the exchange of expertise and skills in different areas. These activities aim at enhancing access to the Chinese collections, within the broader framework of Living Knowledge and our aim of making the Library’s collections “accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment”.

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Caroline Brazier, Chief Librarian, signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Director of Shandong University Zhang Rong in London on 3 December 2014.

2015 has been a remarkable year for the Library’s engagement with China: five agreements have been signed with three Chinese institutions (the National Library of China, the National Library of China Press, and Shandong University) and two digitisation projects were completed (the Yongle Dadian collection and the oracle bones collection). Furthermore, IDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ningxia Archives for a collaborative project to conserve and digitise the Tangut manuscripts and block prints in the Library.

This year, the Library also received £62,500 from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for a project involving the digitisation and the conservation of the oracle bones collection, working in partnership with the National Library of China. The Treasures Gallery free exhibition Beyond Paper: 3000 Years of Chinese Writing opened in September, and the crowdsourcing platform LibCrowds has been launched in cooperation with BL Labs. We are already receiving contributions from China, and we hope to be able to increase the number.

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Beyond Paper: 3000 Years of Chinese Writing will be open until 17 January 2016 (photo by Tony Antoniou)

The latest exciting project was announced on 21 September 2015 on the occasion of Chancellor George Osborne’s recent visit to China, during an event at the National Theatre in Beijing hosted by the British Council, attended by the Library’s Chief Executive Roly Keating together with other leaders from prominent institutions in the UK’s cultural sector. For the first time, ten manuscripts and early editions from the Library’s collection by some of the best-known British authors of all time, including William Shakespeare and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, will star in exhibitions across China between 2016 and 2019. As part of the same project, the Library’s learning website Discovering Literature will be translated into Mandarin, giving unprecedented exposure to the Library’s collections for new audiences.

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Shakespeare’s First Folio, 1623. British Library, G.11631 Noc

All the projects supported by the government aiming to take the best of British culture to Chinese audiences are listed on this HM Treasury page.

Sara Chiesura, Asian and African Studies Ccownwork

03 December 2015

The Twenty Attributes of God in Malay: Sifat Dua Puluh

Sifat Dua Puluh, the ‘Twenty Attributes’ of God, is a popular subject of Malay texts on Islamic instruction. Ultimately deriving from the exposition in the famous work Umm al-Barāhīn, ‘Mother of all Proofs’, by Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad b. Yūsuf al-Sanūsī (d. 1490), there are many different Malay compositions on the attributes of God, both lengthy and abbreviated, and written in both prose and in verse. Manuscript copies mostly date from the 19th century but there are also many early printed editions, and the text is still commonly taught, read and sold today.

1995-Lorong Kulit-a
Islamic works on sale in Lorong Kulit market, Penang, with two copies of Sifat 20 visible. Photograph by A.Gallop, 1995.

Among the recently digitised Malay manuscripts in the British Library are three texts on Sifat Dua Puluh, which illustrate well how this subject can be treated either very succinctly or in more detail. The first example occupies just one page in a compendium of tracts on religious subjects in a manuscript from Aceh (Or. 16767), and comprises a list of the twenty attributes with one- or two-word Malay translations; thus the first attribute, wujūd, ‘existence’, is simply explained by the Malay word ada. The second example, also in a composite volume from Aceh (Or. 14194), gives a little more information, translating each attribute and giving its opposite or inadmissible (mustahil) attribute: wujūd ada artinya ada lawannya tiada, ‘wujūd means existence, and it has an opposite, non-existence’. The third text is much longer and fills the whole manuscript (Or. 13716), giving a full paragraph on each attribute and its opposite, and providing proof (dālīl) from the Qur’an. The text is written in fully vocalised Malay, strongly suggesting an origin in Java, because Javanese in Arabic script (Pegon) is always vowelled, whereas Malay in Arabic script (Jawi) is rarely written in this way. According to the colophon, this manuscript was completed on 10 Maulud [ie. Rabiulawal] 1301 (9 January 1884), and at the top  of the right-hand page below is the name 'Ujang', probably of an owner of the manuscript.  A later owner was G.A.J. Hazeu (1870-1929), who was based in Batavia from 1898 to 1915, in 1907 succeeding Snouck Hurgronje as Adviser for Native and Arab Affairs.

List of the Twenty Attributes (Sifat Dua Puluh), with Malay translations, in a manuscript from Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or. 16767, f.103v  noc

Twenty Attributes (Sifat Dua Puluh) of God, together with their opposites, in a manuscript belonging to Abdullah, son of Abdul Rashid, of Tanoh Abee, Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or. 14194, ff. 80v-81r  noc

Sifat Dua Puluh, Malay manuscript from Java, 1884. On the right hand page, a classification of the attributes into two groups; on the left-hand page, explanations and proofs of the first three attibutes, wujūd, ‘existence’; qidam, ‘state of non-origination’ and baqā’, ‘permanence’. British Library, Or. 13716, ff. 2v-3r   noc

In addition to original manuscripts held in the British Library which have now been digitised, the Endangered Archives Programme provides online access to a number of important collections of Islamic manuscripts held throughout maritime Southeast Asia. The project EAP153, ‘Riau Manuscripts: the gateway to the Malay intellectual world’, led by Jan van der Putten and Aswandi Syahri in 2007, surveyed private collections of manuscripts held in the Riau archipelago. These islands, located between Singapore, Sumatra and Borneo, are widely regarded as a cradle of Malay-Islamic culture and learning. 13 collections of manuscripts from the islands of Penyengat, Bintan and Lingga were digitised, including three copies of Sifat Dua Puluh.

Kitab Sifat Duapuluh, from a collection of manuscripts, printed books and correspondence assembled by historian, journalist and author Aswandi Syahri, Tanjung Pinang, Riau. British Library, EAP153/3/14, images 12-13

Sifat Dua Puluh, from a collection of manuscripts temporarily held by the dealer Khairullah, Kampung Ladi, Pulau Penyengat, Riau. British Library, EAP153/5/1, images 55-56

Sifat Dua Puluh, another manuscript copy from the Khairullah collection, Penyengat, Riau. British Library, EAP153/5/1, image 13

Also digitised through the EAP is a lithographed copy of Sifat Dua Puluh, composed in 1884 by the well-known Batavia scholar Sayyid Uthman (1822-1914). The British Library holds several early printed copies of different compositions on this subject, including one in verse (syair) form by the eminent Johor writer Captain (later Major) Haji Muhammad Said, published in 1920.  The first quatrain reads: Ujud artinya ada / sifat wajib Tuhan yang esa /tiada permulaan adanya Dia / tiada kesudahan kekal dan sedia, 'Ujud means 'existence' / a necessary attribute of the One God / no beginning has He / nor end, eternal and ever-there'.

EAP153_8_13-EAP_153_TPI_RAJA_FAHRUL_13_001_L Scan0002
(Left) Kitab Sifat Dua Puluh, by Uthman bin Abdullah bin Yahya, composed in Batavia in 1304 (1886/7), this undated lithographed copy printed in Bombay. British Library, EAP153/8/13
(Right) Syair simpulan iman, iaitu meringkaskan pelajaran sifat dua puluh, by Kapitan Haji Muhammad Said bin Haji Sulaiman. Singapore, 1920. British Library, 14653.d.24


Mohd. Nor bin Ngah,  Kitab Jawi: Islamic thought of the Malay Muslim scholars.  Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1983.
Martin van Bruinessen, Kitab kuning: books in Arabic script used in the Pesantren milieuBijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1990, 146(2-3): 226-269.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, British Library  ccownwork