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Volume 38 – Number 8

Nov/Dec 2007

'Objects of Instruction: Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies' is an aptly named exhibition. It demonstrates that the true capital of an institution of learning does not merely lie with its material resources but with the ability of its teachers to use them to further and impart knowledge, and to inspire. In each of the articles about the SOAS collections, the author's dedication to and passion for her or his field of expertise is clearly present.

Anna Contadini, the exhibition's curator, explains what motivated her to agitate for a long-term project to highlight the school's collections. John Carpenter's introduction to its East Asian rare book and manuscript collection bears out the need for research. Contadini's second article introduces the Anvar-i Suhayli, an early Mughal illuminated manuscript. Carpenter places key works in SOAS within the overall context of manuscript and print culture in Japan. Timon Screech relates the exciting tale of sixteen Japanese castaways told in an early 19th century manuscript. Crispin Branfoot examines paintings made by an Indian artist for a Western patron from the missionary archives at SOAS. Elizabeth Moore deciphers an astrological manuscript from Burma and places it within the context of its Buddhist culture. Yoshiko Yasumura and Stacey Pierson profile George Eumorfopoulos and Sir Percival David, two early British collectors of Chinese art, whose benefactions have significantly enhanced the school's holdings.
Jane portal described recent discoveries from the tomb of China's first emperor, currently on view at the British Museum, and Xu Zhengwei introduces a new museum of bamboo carving in Jiading. We pay tribute to Dietrich Seckel and William Watson, pioneering professors of Asian art history in Europe.
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