The Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation
The Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation evolved from the Fragile Palm Leaves manuscript preservation project, which began in Bangkok in 1994. The project became a registered foundation under Thai law on 21 February 2001 (Registration No. To. 66/2544)
The Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation is dedicated to the study of the Buddhist literature of South-East Asia. This literature, preserved in inscriptions and manuscripts in diverse writing systems and languages, has not been adequately described or studied. Texts were traditionally inscribed on specially prepared palm leaves and locally made paper. Chinese records suggest that Indian writing systems were in use by the second century CE, if not earlier, but no early manuscripts survive. Texts inscribed on stone and precious metals formatted in imitation of the palm-leaf manuscript show that by the fifth century or earlier this was one of the media for the recording of literature.
Palm-leaf manuscripts were produced throughout the region. The bulk of the existing manuscripts date from the nineteenth century, a period of intense production. Manuscripts continued to be produced into the twentieth century, especially in remoter regions. With the increased use of print technology, manuscripts generally fell into disuse. Since the last century neglect, the ravages of the tropical environment, and civil disruptions have threatened the manuscript heritage of the region.
The Fragile Palm Leaves Collection preserves manuscripts in several languages and scripts.
The collection of the Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation contains more 5,000 manuscripts containing more than 10,000 titles. The texts are being scanned in cooperation with the Lumbini International Research Institute (Lumbini, Nepal). A catalogue of Burmese-script palm-leaf manuscripts in the Pāli and Burmese languages is in progress. Database entry receives support from the Pali Text Society (Oxford, England).
An experimental and incomplete searchable data base is available on-line as part of the Max Planck Institute's European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO) web site:
Fragile Palm Leaves has no permanent funding. It depends entirely on donations from concerned individuals and institutions. For those wishing to help, please direct transfers to the Pali Text Society. Our bank details are available on request.