Research Achievements to Date
DARC has been constantly building and publishing a variety of different digital archives of cultural property and academic material, including classical documents. The rare and precious classical documents of Japanese and foreign origin stored in the libraries of Ryukoku University, and the antiquities collected mainly from Central Asia by the Ōtani expeditions are cultural heritage that deserve a platform to the world, and classifying, sorting, and preserving these artifacts for generations to come is a major project for Ryukoku University.
In particular, items collected by the early 20th century Ōtani expedition sent by Kōzui Ōtani, the 22nd head of the Hongwanji sect of Jōdo Shinshū, awakened the need for cross-disciplinary research that brings researchers together from multiple fields through the Seiiki Bunka Kenkyukai (Research Society for Central Asian Cultures), and produced various research achievements from international collaborations. Many of the documents collected have been digitally archived by DARC and transmitted to the world through the IDP (19,273 items as of October 18, 2021).
DARC has also completed the digital restoration of a Silk Road mural (Bezeklik cave temple mural/oath illustration restoration), opened the Kurosawa Digital Archive of creative notes, film scripts, handwritten materials, photographs, and other items left by the world-renowned film director Akira Kurosawa, opened the Ryukoku University Library Rare Document Visual Database of rare books on Buddhist studies and Shin Buddhist studies in the possession of Ryukoku University Library, and opened “Buddhism’s journey east: Artifacts collected by the Ōtani expeditions” among other databases.
In 2019, DARC collaborated on a project to commemorate the 380th anniversary of the founding of Ryukoku University and selected exhibits for the special exhibition “Treasures of Ryukoku University: Messages beyond time and space” (July 13 to September 11, 2019) held at Ryukoku Museum, and also featured on the editorial board and was an author of “Messages beyond time and space: Treasures of Ryukoku University” (Editing Committee for Book Commemorating 380th Anniversary of Ryukoku University, Hozokan, 2019) that was published concurrently.
In 2019, material to be covered in a general research meeting that was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was published as “Ryukoku University DARC 2019 Research Report” (March 2020). DARC also contributed to “Digital archives of cultural property and academic material and research into versatile publishing methods: Outline of research and prospectives” (“Ryukoku University Research Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion, Science and Humanities Research Bulletin” 1. pp. 123-134) with a report of research accomplishments up to 2020 when DARC was selected for the Ryukoku University Priority Reinforcement Research Promotion Project.
Furthermore, on December 3rd and 4th, 2021, DARC held a research exhibition entitled “Creating a digital archive of cultural property: Aiming to revive the Buddhist culture of the Ōtani exhibitions and Nishi Hongwanji” at the Ryukoku Museum, where it published the results of its research in the final year of a 3-year research period.
Research achievements can be grouped through the following five lenses.
(1) International Collaboration
An example of international collaboration is collaboration with the IDP that is ongoing since 2004. IDP has reciprocal relationships with the seven institutions mentioned earlier and other holding institutions throughout the world. To date, DARC has digitally archived and published (online) materials unearthed in Central Asia that belong to Ryukoku University Library and established an environment that allows the viewing of key materials with a focus on images. DARC has also collaborated with various relevant institutions outside Japan to create exchanges between researchers, hold international symposiums, and publish research reports.
In 2003, the year before commencing collaboration with the IDP, DARC held “Cultures of the Silk Road and modern science” (Ryukoku University Seta Campus, September 12, 2003), an academic project commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Ōtani exhibitions. Research representatives also participated in and presented (May 22, 2007) at the IDP Conservation Conference 2007 (The British Library). In recent years, DARC researchers have been personally involved in international symposiums, inviting Dr. Susan Whitfield from the IDP and holding “The Current Situations and Issues as for the Digiitization [sic] of Materials Excavated in Central Asia” (Ryukoku University, November 18, 2016), as well as “Documents unearthed on Silk Road and in Xinjiang: Lushun Museum centennial international academic seminar” (Lushun District, Dalian, China, November 6, 2017) based on a research agreement with the Lushun Museum that houses an Ōtani expedition collection, and “Arcadia in Serindia: Buddhist culture in Kucha in the eyes of the Ōtani Expeditions” (Ryukoku University, February 23, 2019) co-hosted with the Research Center for World Buddhist Cultures. International collaborative research to date has also resulted in the publishing of “A Catalogue of Chinese Buddhist Fragments Collected by Otani and the German Turfan Expedition” (Mazumi Mitani Ed., 2018). And on November 2, 2018, one researcher, Iwao from Unit B, and Shiba from Unit A visited The British Library and participated in the IDP Partners Workshop, where they presented a report entitled “Current status of IDP-Japan and Ryukoku University Digital Archives Research Center (DARC)” and discussed future directions.
(2) Societal Collaboration
In addition to working with Nishi Hongwanji, the head temple of Jōdo Shinshū Hongwanji-ha, DARC has taken the lead in cross-industry collaboration pertaining to the restoration of cultural property, including joint research with companies and individuals with expertise related to traditional crafts in Kyoto. It should also be noted that, in 2008, as part of the Nishi Hongwanji “Hongwanji digital archive project,” when restoring the Tora-no-ma wall paintings (tigers in a bamboo forest), X-ray fluoroscopy was used to perform pigment analysis and the restoration was carried out in coordination with the Kawamo Art Research Institute.
DARC also collaborates with museums and local governments by producing videos to be shown at the Ryukoku Museum, running interactive experience programs at the museum, and producing videos for the VR experience corner at the Otsu Station Tourist Information Center.
From August 2 to 9, 2021, DARC held a special viewing of the above-mentioned Tora-no-ma at Hongwanji, ran an exhibit on the conservation and restoration of the wall paintings based on scientific analysis, ran an exhibit on how the mineral pigments used in conservation and restoration of the wall paintings were made, and held an interactive workshop where visitors could experience how the mineral pigments were made. In addition to the general public, these events were attended by local children and their families.
DARC also assisted with the restored “Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Cave” murals installed on the external wall of the Fuyoku Hall of Chuo Bukkyo Gakuin Buddhist Seminary.
(3) Developing Young Researchers
DARC has endeavored to place not only professors, but also associate professors and lecturers on its steering committee to ensure the latest research is used. DARC has also provided assistant professors and graduate students the opportunity to present and publish research.
Furthermore, in addition to graduate students, undergraduate students and students on the museum curatorial course also assisted in the exhibition of research findings held in December 2021.
Chao-jung Ching, employed as a research assistant (visiting researcher) from 2019 to 2020, was appointed Associate Professor at Kyoto University’s Hakubi Center on October 1, 2021, after serving as Associate Professor with tenure at Collège de France.
(4) Obtaining External Funding
To date, DARC has been selected for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology “Academic Frontiers Project to promote advancement of academic research at private universities” for the 2002 academic year and “Project to support foundation of strategic research at private universities” for the 2009 and 2012 academic years.
The adjunct researchers participating in the DARC research agenda have a strong track record of obtaining external funding, including from “Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research” and the “Project to support foundation of strategic research at private universities,” and a track record of furthering research in their academic fields in conjunction with this research agenda.
(5) Ripple Effect on Graduate Education
In past academic years, DARC has provided opportunities for master’s and doctoral program graduate students with findings in highly specialized fields to report their latest findings at research report meetings. Kim Heakyoung’s doctoral degree application thesis “3D Measurement of Hanji and Movable Types: A Study of Ancient Korean Printed Books” was submitted in 2018 and a doctoral degree (Engineering) was awarded following review.