International Dunhuang Project and bonus Asian culture link
Post #1295 • February 13, 2009, 8:31 AM • 69 Comments
Last week the Guardian ran a story about the International Dunhuang Project, an effort to build a digital archive of art and manuscripts associated with the Silk Road. Currently one can view 80,000 objects online, and the catalogue would be a pleasant way to surf away your morning.
The IDP has centres in China, Russia, Japan and Germany as well as its London base, and early next year the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris will become a partner when its collection of 10,000 treasures goes online. This will make available the vast hoard of manuscripts discovered by Stein's French contemporary Paul Pelliot in the Dunhuang Library Cave – this includes many secular texts, forming a basis for the development of economic, social and legal history of medieval China. There are also plans for the Institute of Korean Culture in Seoul to become a partner later in 2009.
For a newspaper piece, the Guardian supplied surprisingly rich technical details.
A Chinese version of the database was developed in 2001-02, and the database was redeveloped in 2005 involving the use of XML based on the TEI standard for the cataloguing and bibliographical data. These are stored in 4D and accessed using a 4D XML plug-in. Active 4D is used to serve the website and database.
Whitfield said the recent resolution of problems over Unicode, which were partly political, had made life much easier for encoding Chinese characters and other non-roman scripts.
You followed all that, right? XML is Extensible Markup Language, which is a flexible, text-based method for encoding information that both humans and machines can read. The TEI standard is an XML protocol for the Text Encoding Initiative, specifically aimed at encoding digital texts. 4D is a brand of database, and Active 4D is a 4D development environment. As far as I can tell, the political problems with Unicode had to do with the Han unification, but I can't find information on any recent resolutions thereof.
If your eyes are glazing over, just trust me - it's really cool.
In absolutely unrelated news, Chocolate opens this weekend.