ASIAN ART 

Bakhshali Manuscript Reveals its Secrets

THE ORIGIN of the zero symbol has long been one of the world’s greatest mathematical mysteries and its origins were thought to have been in India in the mid-5th century. However, in mid September,


Bodleian Library announced that after carbon dating the Bakhshali Manuscript, held at the Bodleian Library at Oxford

University, is

actually centuries older. Te surprising results of the first ever radiocarbon dating conducted on the manuscript, a seminal mathematical text which contains hundreds of zeroes, reveal that it dates from as early as the 3rd or 4th century – approximately five centuries older than scholars previously believed.

Tis means that the manuscript now

predates a 9th-century inscription of zero on the wall of a temple in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, which was previously considered to be the oldest recorded example of a zero used as a placeholder in India. Te findings are

A folio from the Bakhshali Manuscript held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford since 1902

‘Today, we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics’.

Te Bakhshali Manuscript was

highly significant for the study of the early history of mathematics. Te zero symbol that we use today evolved from a dot that was used in ancient India and can be seen throughout the Bakhshali Manuscript. Te dot was originally used as a ‘placeholder’, meaning it was used to indicate orders of magnitude in a number system – for example, denoting 10s, 100s and 1000s. While the use of zero as a placeholder

was seen in several different ancient cultures, such as among the ancient Mayans and Babylonians, the symbol in the Bakhshali Manuscript is particularly

significant for two

reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number

zero that we understand today - this happened in 628 – just a few centuries after the Bakhshali Manuscript was produced,

when the Indian

astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta wrote a text called the Brahmasphutasiddhanta, which is the first document to discuss zero as a number. Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, commented on the find,


LOUVRE, ABU DHABI Te new museum will open to the public on 11 November and will be the first of its kind in the Arab world: a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures. Te opening celebrations will include a wide range of public programmes, including symposiums, performances, concerts, dance, and visual arts by renowned contemporary and classical artists. Located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel has designed a museum city (Arab medina) under a vast silvery dome, comprising almost 8,000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern.

On display will be some of the museum’s important collection of artworks, as well as loans from France’s other top museums, from prehistorical objects to commissioned contemporary artworks, highlighting universal themes and ideas and marking a departure from traditional museography that often separates according to origin.

Te inaugural special exhibition, From One Louvre to

Another (opening a museum for everyone), opens on 21 December 2017, and traces the history of Musée du Louvre in Paris.


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CREATIVE CHINA FESTIVAL Te Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation (BCAF) has created the first Creative China Festival with a specially curated programme of events in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. It runs from 7 September – to 24 November. Te festival aspires to highlight the depth of creativity and talent that contemporary China has to offer, through a series of exhibitions, talks, performances and more at globally recognised venues and cultural institutions in these cities.

Continued on page 2 Join us @ Asian Art Newspaper Follow us @ AsianArtPaper 33

discovered in 1881, buried in a field in a village of the same name, near Peshawar in what is now a region of Pakistan. It was found by a local farmer and was acquired by the Indologist AFR Hoernle,


presented it to the Bodleian Library in 1902, where it has been kept ever since.

A folio from the Bakhshali manuscript is on public display at the Science Museum in London as a centrepiece of the major exhibition Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation that opens on 4 October.

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Profile: Prabhakar Pachpute installation artist and painter Another India,

the Adivasi and other minorities Master print makers,

Kuniyoshi vs Kunisada in Boston Collector Extraordinaire, Colin Mackenzie’s collection on show in his home town of Stornoway Imagining the Divine, in Oxford The Gates of Paradise and Hiroshi Sugimoto

It is the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of Jim Thompson in Malaysia

Sadiq Kwaish Alfruz at the Venice Biennale

Ru Xui and Scarlet Infusion Asian Art in London gallery guide Auctions previews, UK, Germany, Austria and Sweden Japanese painting in Dallas, The Scythians in London, Chaekgeori in Cleveland, Chinese classical painting and Chinese contemporary in New York, Netsuke in Bath, Nalini Malani in Paris, and sufi moulids in London Fairs in London, gallery shows in London and New York

Next issue November 2017 Our contemporary issue

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