The study of the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms in the West can be traced back to the late 19th century, with the French Sinologist, Le Marquis d’Hervey de Saint Denys (1883), and the English missionary, George W. Clarke (1890). Others too had their own experiences of visiting and studying the remote Yunnan province in Southwest China.
In the 20th century, a group of scholars from various countries conducted research regarding the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms from diverse perspectives. For instance, N. Matsumoto (1950), a Japanese linguist, began to determine the origin of the language of the Ailao people, and the French researcher, Camille Auguste Jean Sainson (1904), focused his work on the translation of the Unofficial History of Nanzhao. Most significantly, Helen Burwell Chapin (1944), analysed the iconography of Nanzhao and Dali Buddhist art based on a rare painting held by the National Palace Museum in Taipei. This pioneering research analysed the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms from cultural, historical and religious perspectives, which today is the cornerstone for academic research.
The following articles are the important works that highlight the academic outcomes of study specifically related to Nanzhao-Dali subjects:
Backus, Charles. (1981). The Nan-chao Kingdom and T’ang China’s Southwestern Frontier, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Blackmore, Michael. (1967). “The Ethnological Problems Connected with Nanzhao.” In Frederick Sequier Drake (ed.), Symposium on Historical, Archaeological and Linguistic Studies on Southern China, South-East Golden Jubilee Congress of the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press: 59-69.
Bryson, Megan. (2017). “Between China and Tibet: Mahākāla Worship and Esoteric Buddhism in the Dali Kingdom.” In Yael Bentor and Meir Shahar (eds.), Chinese and Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism, Leiden: Brill: 402-428.
Bryson, Megan. (2013). “Mahākāla Worship in the Dali Kingdom (937-1253): A Study of the Dahei tianshen daochang yi.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol.35, no.1-2: 3-69.
Guy, John. (1994). “The Avalokitesvara of Yunnan and Some South East Asian Connections.” In John Guy and Rosemary Scott (eds.), South East Asia & China: Art, Interaction & Commerce, London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art: 64-83.
Howard, Angela, Falco. (1997). “The Dharani Pillar of Kunming, Yunnan. A Legacy of Esoteric Buddhism and Burial Rites of the Bai People in the Kingdom of Dali (937-1253).” Artibus Asiae, vol.57, no.1/2: 33-72.