Little known materials of V.V. Baradijn’s travels to Tibet in 1905–1907

Nina Nazirova
The Institute of Oriental Studies

Little known materials of V.V. Baradijn’s travels to Tibet in 1905–1907

47th Meeting of the PIAC, Cambridge 2004

At the beginning of the XX century the studies of Tibet received a new impulse and organizational form due to the creation of Russian Committee for the study of Middle and Eastern Asia (in 1903–1923).

The Russian Committee accepted the proposal of S. F. Oldenburg and F. I. Sherbatsky to entrust studies of Tibet to Buriat scholars, many of whom had a strict monastery education. In 1905, V. V. Baradijn who was at that time a student of the faculty for eastern languages at Petersburg University (1878–1939) was sent by the Russian Committee to join the Dalai Lama and his followers to temporarily stay in Mongolia and to proceed further to famous central Buddhistic Labrang Monastery in the north east of Tibet. The main aim of this expedition was to study the life of Buddhist Centers and to collect monuments of Tibetan culture there.

The expedition to Labrang lasted 9 months, from 24 June 1906 to 22 January 1907. From his voyage B. B. Baradijn brought back a rare and rich collection of Tibetan and Mongolian books, most of which belonged to scholars and religious people from Amdo, relating to Buddhist dogmatics and historical literature of Buddhist teaching and its origin in India, China, Tibet and Mongolia. While studying Tibetan sources, B. B. Baradijn came to the conclusion that they gave more accurate and more complete knowledge of Buddhism than all known “existing fragmentary Sanskrit and Pali sources and that Tibet was the only country where it was possible to study Indian (and Tibetan) Buddhism in all its historical developments.” The travels of Baradijn was pointed out by academician S. F. Oldenburg “most outstanding by its results and richness of obtained materials, specially relating to the ethnography of Tibet.”