The discourse on digital humanities in Korea began in the early 2000s. After discussing the crisis of humanities, and digital humanities as a breakthrough, academic organizations have built basic humanities databases through large-scale projects, and researchers have applied digital humanities to their respective fields. In the future, the discourse on digital humanities is likely to develop into a stage where small groups or individuals can produce digital materials and build databases. This paper proposes digital manuscript studies as a field of digital humanities. While Western traditional manuscript studies mainly research the appearance and the material aspects of the manuscript itself, recent Chinese manuscript studies are more focused on their content and meaning. The Institute of Manuscript Studies of Xihua Normal University, China combines traditional manuscript studies and recent Chinese manuscript studies with Dunhuang digital manuscripts as the main research materials.
In the era of the “new normal” brought by the COVID-19 outbreak, Dunhuang digital materials are sufficient to become the subject of manuscript studies. The numerous images of Dunhuang manuscripts provided by the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) at the British Library are of good quality to be used in research. In particular, those provided by Gallica at the National Library of France have higher resolution than the IDP, which is useful for detailed research. In addition, the National Library of China consistently produces digital images of Dunhuang and provides them through the IDP.
This paper first introduces the discourse of digital humanities and the meaning of digital manuscript studies and then discusses the research methodology and future direction of digital manuscript studies with the Dunhuang digital materials as the main subject.