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Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā online

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In 2009, the French School of Asian Studies (École française d’Extrême-Orient, EFEO) launched the project Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā (CIC), aiming to renew the tradition of scholarship on these inscriptions that had thrived at the institution in the early 20th century.

The primary aim of the project is to update and to continue the EFEO inventory of the inscriptions of Campā, compiled in the early decades of the 20th century by the renowned scholar George Cœdès. In this inventory, each inscription received a unique ‘C.’ number (C = Campā), under which were recorded various types of useful information, such as: the place where the inscription had been found; the place where it was currently located (if it had been moved after discovery); the language(s) used in it; its date; availability of reproductions of it in public libraries; bibliography of publications about the inscription. A first version of this inventory was published in 1908, comprising 118 entries; a revised and updated version came out in 1923, and at that time the list comprised 170 entries; supplements published in 1937 and 1942 raised the total first to 196, and finally to 200 entries. After this, the inventory fell into disuse, and for many decades there was no central registration of newly discovered inscriptions, or of changes in the situation of previously registered items.

And it was not only the maintenance of an inventory that came to be neglected. After a small handful of publications of inscriptions of Campā by EFEO scholars that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, the study of these inscriptions, inside and outside the EFEO, came to a complete stop due to World War II and the subsequent period of Vietnamese struggle for independence and reunification. At that time, only about half of all known inscriptions had been published, and in general the study of inscriptions in Sanskrit language had received much more attention — at least it had advanced more significantly — than that of inscriptions in Cam. Most Cam-language inscriptions whose texts had been published, had been published without translations. Even the existing translations were almost never precise renderings of the originals, but rather loose patch-works of understood, guessed and ignored elements of the originals. In this situation, the second important aim of the CIC project is to publish texts and translations of the inscriptions whose existence was known but had not yet been published; bring out texts and translations of newly discovered inscriptions; publish translations of texts that had been published without any translations; and, last but not least, review the texts published by previous scholars, which often allows the correction of wrong readings, and hence improvement in the interpretation of texts published a long time ago.

The project has opted for a two-pronged publication strategy. Results are being published in traditional print publications, both through international journals (mainly in French), and through publications in Vietnam (using Vietnamese). But simultaneously an online database is being developed, bringing together the corpus in its entirety, and presenting the most up-to-date versions of descriptions and translations of the individual inscriptions. About fifty detailed descriptions, some with translations, are accessible on this database already, with more information being added continuously. A very useful bibliography complements these online descriptions. To access the list of inscriptions, please view the homepage of the Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā (CIC).

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Cham manuscripts online

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The British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme aims to contribute to the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration world-wide. This is achieved principally through the award of grants in an annual competition. Last year, an award was granted to the Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, for a pilot project dedicated to the preservation of Cham manuscripts.
The Cham are an important ethnic minority in Vietnam. Descendants of the Champa kingdom that lasted from the 2nd to the 17th century AD, the Cham are the largest group of Hindu and Muslim people living in Vietnam.
The Cham’s writing system is mainly based on Sanskrit, with the majority of Cham manuscripts still in existence written in the akhar thrar script. Writings were previously inscribed on palm-leaves, but in more recent times they are recorded on paper. Cham manuscripts contain rich information about Cham customs, religious practice, literature and daily activities of Cham people. Many are records of officials and families in the communities. Manuscripts still in existence are mainly from 50 to 150 years old.
Cham manuscripts unfortunately have not been well preserved. Some have been collected by local governmental institutions and many more still exist in Cham communities. Cham manuscripts privately held by families in the communities are also disappearing. Many manuscripts are simply ruined over time by the hot and humid climate. Most young Cham people today are not able to read Cham scripts and thus pay little attention to the preservation of manuscripts in their families. Furthermore, some Cham people believe that it is bad luck to keep ‘deserted books’ (Akhar bhaw) in the home and hence, books not cared for or read frequently will eventually be discarded in rivers.
Three digitised Cham manuscripts from this project are now available online on the library’s Endangered Archives homepage.

(Information provided by Hao Phan / Endangered Archives homepage)