Talisman of the Pole Star, ink and colors on paper, mid-10th century, Cave 17, Mogao Grottos, Dunhuang (©The British Museum)
“Talisman of the Pole Star” was one of perhaps 40,000 manuscripts that Stein eventually removed from the caves. At 17×12 inches, it was designed to be carried, rather than read in a library. Certainly its magical powers and delightful design have made it an object of interest. However, the real value of the scroll for me was in its context in the history of human development, specifically the migration of Buddhism from India to China.