With libraries and archives closed around the world, the value of BDRC’s online platform has gained new significance as the most comprehensive collection of Buddhist writings in classical Asian languages. Our recently launched new platform, called the Buddhist Digital Archives or BUDA, now offers open access to Buddhist canonical and vernacular works in a panoply of languages including Sanskrit, Chinese, Pali, and Tibetan, as well as Burmese, Khmer, and Newari, among others.
We are able to offer such a vast and diverse collection because of data-sharing agreements with partners who have committed to making access to knowledge free and open: the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme, the Internet Archive, the Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association, the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project, the SAT Daizōkyō Text Database, the Treasury of Lives, the Sakya Research Centre, and others. BUDA is therefore not simply a fresh library interface for BDRC resources but also an expanded library search platform that connects a universe of Buddhist resources. All resources integrated into BUDA from BDRC partners receive full attribution.
Thanks to the technology and data sharing agreements spotlighted in this article, BDRC is able to make thousands of Sanskrit and Chinese titles available. For example, here is a 19th-century illustrated manuscript of the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti digitized in Kathmandu under the auspices of the Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library. BDRC Resource ID: WEAP676-1-14
The architecture of the innovative BUDA platform and our partnerships with complementary resources provide many benefits to BDRC’s users. BUDA is an access point for the widely researched Sanskrit manuscript collections held by Cambridge University Library and the Royal Asiatic Society, and will lead you to every title in the Taishō Tripiṭaka, with high resolution images of these texts provided to our viewer directly from their respective servers. We are also expanding the metadata available on the platform. BUDA enhances BDRC records with links to Michael Radich’s Chinese Buddhist Canonical Attributions Database, and data from Marcus Bingenheimer’s Bibliography of Translations from the Chinese Buddhist Canon, Treasury of Lives, Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, and others. For instance, users can query the comprehensive descriptive catalogue of the 37,000 Tibetan manuscripts and printed books microfilmed by the Nepal German Manuscript Preservation Project, with search results appearing alongside pertinent texts from the BDRC archive and elsewhere. The result is a vastly expanded research resource.
The technology underlying BUDA’s interconnectedness with other digital resources is Linked Open Data (LOD), a method of structuring information on the web according to a shared vocabulary. LOD data is easy to access, update, export, search, and link to, and can bring machine-readable coherence to complex and multi-lingual datasets such as the Buddhist canons. In practical terms, LOD makes it possible to summon scans from the servers of our partners and display them seamlessly within BUDA’s state-of-the-art image viewer, and to integrate the associated metadata within the BDRC database.
BUDA is a collaborative network, transforming silos of information into a web of Buddhist resources. Thanks to the generous grant from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation that made BUDA possible, the support of Zhejiang University’s Buddhist Research and Resource Center, and our partners’ commitment to open data, we are able to unite these various resources as one mandala for the Buddhist community.