Pelliot Made Full Use of His Talent
Pelliot was in Urumqi when Stein finished buying the mass of materials at the Library Cave. At that time, Pelliot had befriended Duke Lan, a cousin of Emperor Guangxu who had been expelled from the court as a result of the Boxer Rebellion.
Upon Stein’s departure from Urumqi Duke Lan presented Stein with a scroll of the Lotus Sutra written in the Tang Dynasty.
This farewell present was one of the manuscripts which had been discovered at the Library Cave. Pelliot had already heard about the rumor in Urumqi, but it was at this moment that he saw the first piece of evidence.
Since Pelliot was fluent in Chinese and could read ancient Chinese texts as well, he understood the significance and value of the manuscript and at one glance and immediately set out for Dunhuang.
As soon as he arrived at the Mogao Grottoes, he made friends with the Taoist monk Wang, and thereafter confined himself in the Library Cave for three weeks, where he went through the 15,000 manuscripts-- working alone by candlelight. Pelliot was extremely thorough with his work examining even the fragments.
Sorting them out, he purchased some 5,000 pieces; items that he considered important judging from their inscribed dates and scriptures containing words written in several types of ancient languages. Pelliot displayed his outstanding language ability and his deep knowledge of Chinese culture and history to its full to put together a collection of such excellent quality.
Many factors contributed to determining the outcome of the race for antiquities at Dunhuang. Stein had luck on his side at being in such close proximity, but was unable to make the most of it due to his lack of language abilities.
Pelliot, on the other hand, arrived second but was able to fully utilize his specialist expertise in attaining numerous manuscripts of high quality. And Le Coq, who was actually close enough to be first, lost all due to the bad luck of the toss of a coin. he would later regret about the big catch that he had missed.