Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dreaming Giant Thangkas, the Final Installment

Continued from here.

In 1968, in his introduction to the Eighth Dalai Lama’s biography of His Tutor Yeshé Gyaltsen, the late E. Gene Smith emphasized the importance of locating and making use of information about particular artworks in Tibetan literature. At the same time he pointed out the wealth of such information to be found in this particular biography.[1] What he  said then still rings fairly true today,

The Pasadena Tangka (click on the picture to enlarge it)

“It is sad to say that up to the 1970s there was little attempt to utilize Tibetan biographical materials to identify and accurately date Tibetan icons, even though there is an abundance of relevant literary sources... Only after a thorough comparison of
thang-kas and literary evidence can we establish valid stylistic sequences. Only then can we begin to speak of the study of Tibetan art history.”[2]

Belatedly following Gene’s advice, it was possible, with a small amount of effort of course, to locate a short mention of the giant brocade made after the death of the Tutor, the one now found in Pasadena. 



This was found in the very same biographical work that Gene Smith introduced. It adds some brief yet significant bits of information about the Pasadena tangka, including its size in Tibetan measurement system and the specific ritual purpose for which it was intended. It verifies the 1793-1794 dating.[3] It tells us, in the Dalai Lama's own words, His justification for having His own image placed in the tangka opposite that of His Tutor.[4]  A translation follows:

Besides [those just mentioned artworks made in his memory], for the purpose of spreading out[5] upon [the occasion of] the Maitreya Aspiration,[6] it was ordered that a new brocade tangka of Lord Maitreya be constructed.[7] So for the purpose of completing the [two] accumulations (of merit, puṇya, and Full Knowledge, jñāna), a brocade tangka of Maitreya was made from exceptionally sublime old material, the gan-type silk.[8] In height it was 21 cubits. In width, 13 cubits. As [Maitreya's] divine guests[9] it had the five-visions biography of Lord Tsongkhapa and the four Great Kings. To the right and left of Maitreya were: an image of the Lord Himself and — to indicate the interdependent connections on account of which in all [future] generations of lifetimes I would never be separated from this same guru — an image of myself was placed in it as well. The workmanship and composition were utterly perfect and blessings adhered to it.[10]

Pratapaditya Pal has said, more than once, that the Pasadena tangka is in such perfect condition that it seems to have remained always in storage and may have never been displayed. This passage at least tells us that it was intended to be displayed on a particular ritual occasion. Whether it ever actually served this purpose is unknown at present, although it does seem likely. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing where exactly it was kept, although it was surely originally in the Lhasa area. The most likely site is Drib Tsecholing (Grib Tshe-mchog-gling), but I have been able to learn little about the artworks in the possession of that monastery, originally built by either the Eighth Dalai Lama, His Tutor, or both of them, in the year 1788.[11] The most extensive source on Drib that I know of is appended to the Eighth Dalai Lama's biography of His Tutor.[12] Here we may learn what is actually meant by the “Maitreya Aspiration,” on occasion of which the Pasadena tangka (or one that looked just like it) was meant to be displayed.  This three-day holiday, held on the full moon days (the 14th to 16th) of the fifth month, called Maitreya Aspiration (Byams-pa'i Smon-lam),[13] was instituted by the Tutor at Drib Tsecholing as a way of fulfilling the intentions of Lobzang Palden Yeshé (Blo-bzang-dpal-ldan-ye-shes, the Panchen Lama III, who died of smallpox while visiting Peking in 1780).[14] Of course, this same holiday was held at other monasteries, certainly in monasteries affiliated with Tashilhunpo, so here is no certain proof that the Pasadena tangka was kept there.[15]  Still, it remains the most likely place.  How it then moved away from Lhasa to come into the hands of the Sikkimese royal family, thence to a chateau outside Paris, to a London art dealer, to Baltimore (in 1974, when the asking price was $75,000 USD), and then onward to Pasadena, is another matter that ought to be explored and explained in greater detail, although a very informative article has been written by Pratapaditya Pal that is my source for most of the information just given. From this article we learn some interesting details, including the fact that Arianne Macdonald made a translation of the inscription long ago in Paris.

To conclude, we cannot be sure that the Pasadena tangka was ever displayed during the Maitreya Aspiration observance that began on the full moon of the fifth Tibetan month. We can be sure that this ritual usage was one of the primary motives for its making. This observance was instituted at Tashilhunpo by the First Dalai Lama, occasioned by the founding of the Giant Maitreya Temple there, and later instituted at Kyirong Samtenling (Skyid-grong Bsam-gtan-gling) by the future Tutor (he became Tutor only in 1782) immediately after the death of the Third Panchen Lama in 1780. When the monks of Kyirong fled the Gurkha troops they were resettled and carried on their ritual traditions, including the Maitreya Aspiration, at Drib Tsecholing in 1790 or so. We cannot be completely sure that the Pasadena tangka was kept and displayed at Drib Tsecholing. Still, I believe this is the most likely scenario. Evidence may emerge in the course of further reading — and research efforts of still other kinds — that could lead to its modification.

Perhaps the museum in Pasadena could be brought to realize more fully the importance of this Tibetan cultural property and treat it with the respect it richly deserves. They could at least incorporate into their building a wall tall enough that it could be displayed from time to time,[16] or even permanently given the proper museum lighting, so that this “utterly perfect” brocade monument can be marveled over by future generations. It was meant to be displayed and seen by everyone. I understand that it was displayed once, by constructing a special ramp inside the museum. The use of a ramp for this purpose is traditional enough, since some monasteries did display their giant tangkas on the slope of a mountain rather than vertically. Anyway, the association of giant tangkas with mountains is present already in the 14th-century tangka brought to Tibet by the 4th Black Hat Karmapa. You might be a person who believes strongly in cultural property rights, and so you might want to see it returned to its original owner: perhaps to the Samten Ling Monastery in Boudhanath, Nepal?

A final puzzling note on the Pasadena tangka:  It is quite large, and in terms of tangkas, size surely does, in some ways, matter. The passage in the Tutor’s biography gives its size as 21 by 13 cubits. If it is true as Dagyab Rinpoche has said, that one finger-width is 2.12 centimeters, and given that twenty-four finger-widths equals a cubit, this works out to 10.68 by 6.61 meters. If we were to base ourselves instead on the metric conversion made by Rin-chen-dpal-bzang, at .425 meters to a cubit, this works out to 8.925 by 5.525 meters. Or perhaps we should follow Dungkar Rinpoche, who says that a fathom is equivalent to 1.8 meters (therefore a cubit would be .45), following which, it would be 9.45 by 5.85 meters. 

Now the catalogue puts the overall size of the Pasadena tangka (including the cloth frame surrounding the brocade picture) at only 6.8 by 4.5 meters. Several possible rationalizations for the size discrepancy might suggest themselves. One possibility is that the cloth frame has been replaced, reducing the overall size. A second possibility:  the Pasadena tangka is not in fact the original, but a somewhat smaller but otherwise faithful copy, perhaps copied in order to replace an original that had become worn through annual display. This is, in fact, an additional and quite plausible explanation for the nearly perfect mint condition of the tangka of Pasadena.



In Mustang, Nepal.  Notice the photo of the Sakya Tridzin on the throne.


As this and the following make clear, monks are surely involved, but these events
are extremely popular with laypeople still today.





Bibliographic Key

Appey, Dkar-chag — Khenpo Appey (Mkhan-po A-pad), et al., Dkar-chag Mthong-bas Yid-'phrog Chos Mdzod Bye-ba'i Lde-mig, Ngawang Topyal (New Delhi 1987).
Bhattacharya, “Stūpa” — Gouriswar Bhattacharya, “Stūpa as Maitreya's Emblem,” contained in: Anna Libera Dallapiccola and Stephanie Zingel-Avé Lallemant, The Stūpa: Its Religious, Historical and Architectural Significance, Franz Steiner Verlag (Wiesbaden 1980), pp. 100-111.
Bod-kyi Thang-ka — Bod Rang-skyong Ljongs Rig-dngos Do-dam U-yon Lhan-khang, Bod-kyi Thang-ka, Rig-dngos Dpe-skrun-khang (Lhasa 1984?).
Bsod-nams-don-grub, Bod-kyi Lo-rgyus — Bsod-nams-don-grub, Bod-kyi Lo-rgyus Dpe-tho, Bod-ljongs Mi-dmangs Dpe-skrun-khang (Lhasa 2000).
Bstan-'dzin-dpal-'byor, Rdo-ring — Rdo-ring Bka'-blon Bstan-'dzin-dpal-'byor (b. 1760), Rdo-ring Paṇḍi-ta'i Rnam-thar (=Dga'-bzhi-ba'i Mi-rabs-kyi Byung-ba Brjod-pa Zol-med Gtam-gyi Rol-mo), Si-khron Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Chengdu 1987), in 2 volumes.
Chan, Tibet Handbook — Victor Chan, Tibet Handbook: A Pilgrimage Guide, Moon Publications (Chico, California 1994).
Chandra, “Colossi” —  Lokesh Chandra, “Buddhist Colossi and the Avatamsaka Sutras,” Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, n.s. vols. 24-25 (1995-7), pp. 35-58.
Chandra, “Maitreya” — Chandra, Lokesh, “Maitreya,” Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan (New Delhi, 2003), vol. 7, pp. 2056-2104. 

Czaja, Olaf, “The Maitreya Festival at Tashi Lhünpo: A Historical and Art Historical Study.”  With thanks to the author for sending a pre-published draft. I haven’t made use of it, but include it in the bibliography because it is an excellent study that goes far beyond what I have been able to do in many ways.

Dagyab, Tibetan Religious Art — Loden Sherap Dagyab, Tibetan Religious Art (Part 1: Texts), Otto Harrassowitz (Wiesbaden 1977).

Dalai Lama V, Gsan-yig — 1970-1: Dalai Lama V Ngag-dbang-blo-bzang-rgya-mtsho, Thob-yig Gangga'i Chu-rgyun: The Gsan-yig of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Nechung and Lhakhar (Delhi 1970-1971), in 4 volumes.
Dalai Lama VIII, Biography — Dalai Lama VIII 'Jam-dpal-rgya-mtsho (1758-1804), Biography of Tshe-gling Yongs-'dzin Ye-shes-rgyal-mtshan, Ngawang Gelek Demo (Delhi 1969), with introduction by E. Gene Smith.
Dam-chos Thub-pa Lnga'i Sngon-'gro Skor, Topden Tshering, Tibetan Bonpo Monastic Centre (Dolanji 1976).
Das, "Five Visions" — Sarat Chandra Das, “The Five Visions of Khadudje,” Journal of the Buddhist Text Society, vol. 1, no. 3 (1893).
Das, Journey — Sarat Chandra Das, Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet, ed. by W.W. Rockhill, Mañjuśrī Publishing House (New Delhi 1970), reprint of 1902 edition.
Douglas and White, Karmapa — Nik Douglas and Meryl White, Karmapa: The Black Hat Lama of Tibet, Luzac (London 1976).
Dpa'-bo's history — Dpa'-bo II Gtsug-lag-phreng-ba (1504-1566), Chos-'byung Mkhas-pa'i Dga'-ston, ed. by Rdo-rje-rgyal-po, Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Beijing 1986), in 2 volumes.
Dreyfus, Sound — Georges B.J. Dreyfus, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk, University of California Press (Berkeley 2003).
Dung-dkar’s dictionary — Dung-dkar Blo-bzang-'phrin-las, Mkhas-dbang Dung-dkar Blo-bzang-'phrin-las Mchog-gis Mdzad-pa'i Bod Rig-pa'i Tshig-mdzod Chen-mo Shes-bya Rab-gsal, Krung-go'i Bod Rig-pa Dpe-skrun-khang (Beijing 2002).
Essen and Tingo, Götter — Gerd-Wolfgang Essen and Tsering Tashi Thingo, Die Götter des Himalaya. Buddhistische Kunst Tibets, Tafelband, Prestel-Verlag (München 1989).
Fontein, “Notes” — Jan Fontein, “Notes on the Tshechu Festival in Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan,” contained in: Dick van der Meij, ed., India and Beyond: Aspects of Literature, Meaning, Ritual and Thought: Essays in Honour of Frits Staal, Kegon Paul (London 1997),  pp. 148-160.
Gangs-can Mkhas-grub — Ko-zhul Grags-pa-'byung-gnas and Rgyal-ba-blo-bzang-mkhas-grub, Gangs-can Mkhas-grub Rim-byon Ming-mdzod [‘A Dictionary of Historical Masters of Learning and Accomplishment in the Snow Land’], Kan-su'u Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Lanzhou 1992).
'Gos Lo-tsā-ba’s history — 'Gos Gzhon-nu-dpal (1392-1481), Blue Annals, tr. by G. Roerich, et al., Motilal Banarsidass (Delhi 1976).
Grags-can Mi-sna — Don-rdor and Bstan-'dzin-chos-grags, Gangs-ljongs Lo-rgyus Thog-gi Grags-can Mi-sna [‘Select Famous Persons in the Snow Land’s History’], Bod-ljongs Mi-dmangs Dpe-skrun-khang (Lhasa 1993).
Guenther and Kawamura, Mind — Herbert V. Guenther and Leslie S. Kawamura, Mind in Buddhist Psychology: A Translation of Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan’s “The Necklace of Clear Understanding,” Dharma Publishing (Emeryville 1975).
Gyeten Namgyal, “Tailor's Tale” — Gyeten Namgyal (Rgyal-bstan-rnam-rgyal), as recounted to Kim Yeshi, “A Tailor's Tale,” Chö Yang (Chos-dbyangs): The Voice of Tibetan Religion and Culture, no. 6 (1994), pp. 28-63.
Gyurme Dorje, Tibet — Gyurme Dorje, Tibet Handbook with Bhutan, Passport Books (Chicago 1996).
Heller, “Development” — Amy Heller, “On the Development of the Iconography of Acala and Vighnāntaka in Tibet,” contained in: Rob Linrothe and Henrik H. Sørensen, eds., Embodying Wisdom: Art, Text and Interpretation in the History of Esoteric Buddhism, The Seminar for Buddhist Studies, SBS Monograph series no. 6 (Copenhagen 2001), pp. 209-228.
Heller, Tibetan Art — Amy Heller, Tibetan Art: Tracing the Development of Spiritual Ideals and Art in Tibet, 600-2000 A.D., Jaca Book (Milan 1999).
Henss, “Liberation” —  Michael Henss, “Liberation from the Pain of Evil Destinies: The Giant Appliqué Thang kas (Gos sku) at Gyantse (Rgyal rtse Dpal 'khor Chos sde),” contained in:  Erberto F. Lo Bue, ed., Art in Tibet: Issues in Traditional Tibetan Art from the Seventh to the Twentieth Century, Brill (Leiden 2011), pp. 73-90.
Henss, Monuments — Michael Henss, Monuments of Central Tibet, Prestel (Munich 2014), in 2 volumes.  I haven't directly made use of this work, but I do list it here because of its photographs of giant thangkas, many of them never seen before in published form.
Henss, “Silken Images” — Michael Henss, “Silken Images: The Monumental 15th Century Appliqué Thangkas of Gyantse,” Orientations, vol. 42, no. 5 (June 2011), pp. 58-66.
Henss, “Woven” — Michael Henss, “The Woven Image: Tibeto-Chinese Textile Thangkas of the Yuan & Early Ming Dynasties,” Orientations, vol. 28, no. 10 (November 1997), pp. 26-39.
Huntington, “Great Buddhas” — John C. Huntington, “The Great Buddhas of Asia,” In the Arts (October 1985), pp. 6-11.
Huntington, “Notes” — John Huntington, “Notes on the Iconography and Iconology of the Paro Tsechu Festival Giant Thang-ka,” Orientations (July 1986), pp. 51-57.
Jackson, History — David Jackson, A History of Tibetan Painting, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Vienna 1996).
Karma Thinley, History — Karma Thinley, the Fourth Karma Thinleypa, The History of the Sixteen Karmapas of Tibet, Prajñā Press (Boulder 1980).
Karsten, “Note” — J. Karsten, “A Note on Ya sor and the Secular Festivals following the Smon lam chen mo,” contained in: Ernst Steinkellner and Helmut Tauscher, eds., Contributions on Tibetan Language, History and Culture (Proceedings of the Csoma de Körös Symposium Held at Velm-Vienna, Austria, 13-19 September 1981, Volume 1), Motilal Banarsidass (Delhi 1995), pp. 117-149.
Khag-cig Mtshan-byangBod-kyi Bstan-bcos Khag-cig-gi Mtshan-byang, Mtsho-sngon Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Chengdu 1985).
'Khrungs-rabs'Phags-pa 'Jig-rten-dbang-phyug-gi Rnam-sprul Rim-byon-gyi 'Khrungs-rabs Deb-ther Nor-bu'i 'Phreng-ba, Sku-sger Yig-tshang (Dharamsala 1977), in five volumes.
Khyongla Rato, My Life and Lives — Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, My Life and Lives: The Story of a Tibetan Incarnation, edited with a foreword by Joseph Campbell, Rato Publications (New York 1991).
Las-chen's history — Las-chen Kun-dga'-rgyal-mtshan, Bka'-gdams-kyi Rnam-par Thar-pa Bka'-gdams Chos-'byung Gsal-ba'i Sgron-me, B. Jamyang Norbu (New Delhi 1972), in 2 volumes.
Ldan-ma, Dpal — Ldan-ma 'Jam-dbyangs-tshul-khrims, Dpal Karma-pa Sku-phreng Rim-byon-gyi Mdzad-rnam, Kan-su'u Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Lanzhou 1997).
Lo-ras-pa, WorksSmad 'Brug Bstan-pa'i Mnga'-bdag Rgyal-ba Lo-ras-pa Grags-pa-dbang-phyug Mchog-gi Gsung-'bum Rin-po-che, Ven. Khenpo Shedup Tenzin & Lama Thinley Namgyal, Shri Gautam Buddha Vihar (Kathmandu 2002), in 5 volumes.
Loh, “Decision” — Jacinta Boon Nee Loh, “Decision from Indecision: Conservation of Thangka; Significance, Perspectives and Approaches,” Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies, issue 8 (November 2002), pp. 1-19.
Macdonald, “Portrait” — Ariane Macdonald, with the collaboration of Dvags-po Rinpoche and Yon-tan Rgya-mtsho, “Un Portrait du Cinquième Dalai-Lama,” contained in: Ariane Macdonald and Yoshiro Imaeda, eds., Essais sur l’art du Tibet, Librairie d’Amérique et d’Orient, J. Maisonneuve (Paris 1977), pp. 119-156.
Martin, “Painters” — Dan Martin, “Painters, Patrons and Paintings of Patrons in Early Tibetan Art,” contained in: Rob Linrothe and Henrik H. Sørensen, eds., Embodying Wisdom: Art, Text and Interpretation in the History of Esoteric Buddhism, The Seminar for Buddhist Studies, SBS Monograph series no. 6 (Copenhagen 2001), pp. 139-184.
Martin, Tibetan Histories — Dan Martin in collaboration with Yael Bentor, Tibetan Histories: A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Historical Works, Serindia (London 1997).
Miyaji, “Idea” — Miyaji Akira, “The Idea and Realization of the Colossal Buddhas: Maitreya and Vairocana,” contained in: Shoun Hino & Toshihiro Wado, eds., Three Mountains & Seven Rivers: Prof. Musashi Tachikawa’s Felicitation Volume, Motilal (Delhi 2004), pp. 275-296.
Mullin, Fourteen — Glenn H. Mullin, The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, Clear Light Publishers (Santa Fe 2001).
Mullin, “Tse-Chok-Ling’s” — Glenn H. Mullin, “Tse-Chok-Ling’s Biography of the Third Dalai Lama,” Tibet Journal, vol. 11, no. 3 (Autumn 1986), pp. 23-39.
*Nairitipa, Ajitanāthasādhana — *Nairitipa, Ajitanāthasādhana (Dpal Mi-pham-mgon-po'i Sgrub-thabs), Derge Tanjur, Rgyud section, vol. MU, folios 261v.2-262r.3 [Tôhoku catalogue no. 3649].  Translated by Gnubs Lo-tsā-ba Byams-pa'i-dpal (i.e., Khro-phu Lo-tsā-ba).
Nietupski, Labrang — Paul Kocot Nietupski, Labrang: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery at the Crossroads of Four Civilizations, Snow Lion (Ithaca 1999).
Padma-dkar-po, Gsan-yig — 'Brug-chen IV Padma-dkar-po (1527-1592), Bka'-brgyud-kyi Bka'-'bum Gsil-bu-rnams-kyi Gsan-yig, contained in:  Collected Works (Gsung-'bum) of Kun-mkhyen Padma-dkar-po, Kargyud Sungrab Nyamso Khang (Darjeeling 1973-76), vol. 4, pp. 309-496.
Padma-dkar-po’s history — 'Brug-chen IV Padma-dkar-po (1527-1592), Tibetan Chronicle of Padma-dkar-po (Chos-'byung Bstan-pa'i Padma Rgyas-pa'i Nyin-byed), Lokesh Chandra, Śatapiṭaka Series no. 75 (New Delhi 1968).
Pal, “Monumental” —  Pratapaditya Pal, “A Monumental Applique Thangka from Tibet,” located on the internet at http://www.kaleden.com/articles/1018ḥtml, accessed June 1, 2005 (it is no longer there).
Patrul, Words — Patrul Rinpoche, Kunzang Lama’i Shelung: The Words of My Perfect Teacher, tr. by the Padmakara Translation Group, Harper Collins (San Francisco 1994).
PotalaGangs-ljongs Gnas-mchog Pho-brang Po-ta-la (The Potala: Holy Palace in the Snow Land), Krung-go Yul-skor Dpe-skrun-khang [China Travel & Tovrism [!] Press] (Beijing 1996).
Rdzong-rtse’s history of Se-ra — Rdzong-rtse Byams-pa-thub-bstan, Mkhas Mang Rgya-mtsho'i Bsti-gnas Dbus-'gyur Gdan-sa Chen-po Gsum-gyi Ya-gyal Se-ra Theg-chen-gling-gi Chos-'byung Rab-gsal Nor-bu'i Me-long, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan (New Delhi 1995).
Rdzong-rtse’s history of Bkra-shis-lhun-po — Rdzong-rtse Byams-pa-thub-bstan (b. 1933), Chos-grwa Chen-po Bkra-shis-lhun-po Dpal-gyi Sde-chen Phyogs Thams-cad-las Rnam-par Rgyal-ba'i Gling-gi Chos-'byung Ngo-mtshar Dad-pa'i Sgo-'byed, Bod-kyi Dpe-mdzod-khang (Dharamsala 1991)
Reynolds, “Fabric” — Valrae Reynolds, “Fabric Images and Their Special Role in Tibet,” contained in: Pratapaditya Pal, ed., On the Path to Void: Buddhist Art of the Tibetan Realm, Marg Publications (Mumbai 1996), pp. 244-257.
Reynolds, “Luxury Textiles” — Valrae Reynolds, “Luxury Textiles in Tibet,” contained in: Jane Casey Singer and Philip Denwood, eds., Tibetan Art: Towards a Definition of Style, Laurence King Publishing (London 1997), pp. 118-131, 298.
Rhie and Thurman, Worlds — Marylin M. Rhie and Robert A.F. Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, Tibet House and The Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation (New York 1999).
Ricca and Lo Bue, Great Stupa — Franco Ricca and Erberto Lo Bue, The Great Stupa of Gyantse: A Complete Tibetan Pantheon of the Fifteenth Century, Serindia Publications (London 1993).
Richardson, Ceremonies — Hugh Richardson, Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year, ed. by Michael Aris, Serindia Publications (London 1993).
Rin-chen-dpal-bzang, Mtshur-phu — Rin-chen-dpal-bzang (b. 1924), Mtshur-phu Dgon-gyi Dkar-chag Kun-gsal Me-long, Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Beijing 1995).
Sde-srid, Mchod-sdong — Sde-srid Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho (1653-1705), Mchod-sdong 'Dzam-gling-rgyan-gcig-gi Dkar-chag, Mtsho-sngon Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Xining 1990).
Sde-srid’s history — Sde-srid Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho (1653-1705), Bai-ḍūrya Ser-po (= Dpal Mnyam-med Ri-bo Dga'-ldan-pa'i Bstan-pa Zhwa-ser Cod-paṇ 'Chang-ba'i Ring-lugs Chos Thams-cad-kyi Rtsa-ba Gsal-bar Byed-pa Bai-ḍūrya Ser-po'i Me-long), International Academy of Indian Culture, Śatapiṭaka series no. 12 (New Delhi 1960).
Se-ra Theg-chen-gling — Tshe-dbang-rin-chen, ed., Se-ra Theg-chen-gling [Sera Thekchen Ling], Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Beijing 1995).
Si-tu, Account — Kah-thog Si-tu Chos-kyi-rgya-mtsho, Gangs-ljongs Dbus Gtsang Gnas-bskor Lam-yig Nor-bu Zla-shel-gyi Se-mo-do [An Account of a Pilgrimage to Central Tibet during the Years 1918-1920], Sungrab Nyamso Gyunphel Parkhang (Tashijong 1972).
Si-tu and 'Be-lo’s history — Si-tu Paṇ-chen Chos-kyi-'byung-gnas and 'Be-lo Tshe-dbang-kun-khyab, History of the Karma Bka'-brgyud-pa Sect, Being the Text of Sgrub-brgyud Karma Kaṃ-tshang Brgyud-pa Rin-po-che'i Rnam-par Thar-pa Rab-'byams Nor-bu Zla-ba Chu-shel-gyi Phreng-ba, D. Gyaltsan and Kesang Legshay (New Delhi 1972), in two volumes.
Sle-lung Rje-drung, Collected Works — Sle-lung Rje-drung Bzhad-pa'i-rdo-rje (b. 1697), The Collected Works (Gsung-'bum) of Sle-lung Rje-drung Bzhad-pa'i-rdo-rje, T. Sonam and D.L. Tashigang (Leh 1983), in 11 volumes.
Sman-sdong, Bzhi-pa — Sman-sdong Mtshams-pa Karma-nges-don-bstan-rgyas (late 19th century), Bzhi-pa Chos-rje Rol-pa'i-rdo-rjes Rnam-thar Rag-rim, contained in: Collected Biographies of the Successive Embodiments of the Karmapas, 1st to 16th, Konchog Lhadrepa (Delhi 1994).
Smith, Among Tibetan Texts — E. Gene Smith, Among Tibetan Texts: History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau, ed. by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Wisdom Publications (Boston 2001).
Sponberg and Hardacre, Maitreya — Alan Sponberg and Helen Hardacre, Maitreya, the Future Buddha, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge 1988).
Stratton, “Paro” — Carol Stratton, “The Paro Tsechu Festival and the Giant Thangka,” Orientations (July 1986), pp. 46-50.
Tanaka, “Note” — Yuko Tanaka, “A Note on the History, Materials and Techniques of Tibetan Appliqué Thangkas,” contained in: Per Kvaerne, ed., Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Fagernes 1992, The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture (Oslo 1994), vol. 2, pp. 873-876.
Tokarska-Bakir, “Naive” — J. Tokarska-Bakir, “Naive Sensualism, Docta Ignorantia, Tibetan Liberation through the Senses,” Numen, vol. 47, no. 1 (2000), pp. 69-112.
Tsepak Rigzin, Festivals — Tsepak Rigzin, Festivals of Tibet, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Dharamsala 1993).
Temple and Nguyen, “Giant” — Terris Temple and Leslie Nguyen, “The Giant Thangka of Tsurphu Monastery,” available at the website of Asian Arts. GIVE LINK!
Thurman, Life and Teachings — Robert A.F. Thurman, ed., Life and Teachings of Tsongkhapa, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Dharamsala 1990).
Tshe-mchog-gling, Works — Tshe-mchog-gling Ye-shes-rgyal-mtshan (1713-1793), The Collected Works (Gsung-'bum) Of Tshe-mchog-gling Yongs-'dzin Ye-shes-rgyal-mtshan, Tibet House Library (New Delhi 1974), in 25 volumes.
Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls — Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, SDI Publications (Bangkok 1999), reprint of 1949 edition, in 3 volumes, with graphic editing by Bruce L. Miller.
Turner, Account — Captain Samuel Turner, An Account of an Embassy to the Court of the Teshoo Lama in Tibet, Containing a Narrative of a Journey through Bootan, and Part of Tibet, Mañjuśrī Publishing House (New Delhi 1971), reprint of London edition of 1800.
van der Kuijp, “Lives” — Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, “On the Lives of Śākyaśrībhadra (?-?1225),” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 114, no. 4 (1994), pp. 599-616.
Willis, Enlightened — Janice D. Willis, Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition, Wisdom (Boston 1995).
Ye-shes-rtse-mo, Biography of Dalai Lama I — Paṇ-chen Ye-shes-rtse-mo, Rje Thams-cad Mkhyen-pa Dge-'dun-grub-pa-dpal-bzang-po'i Rnam-thar Ngo-mtshar Rmad-byung Nor-bu'i Phreng-ba, contained in: The Collected Works of the First Dalai Lama Dge-'dun-grub-pa, Dodrup Lama Sangye (Gangtok 1981), vol. 5, pp. 385-509.  Composed in 1494 CE.
Yon-tan-rgya-mtsho’s history — Yon-tan-rgya-mtsho, Dge-ldan Chos-'byung Gser-gyi Mchod-sdong 'Bar-ba, Yonten Gyatso (Paris 1994-1995), in 2 volumes.



Sunset over Kathmandu Valley from Tinchuli





[1] This introduction by E. Gene Smith has been republished in a more widely available format as Chapter Thirteen in Smith, Among Tibetan Texts, pp. 171-176.
[2] Smith, Among Tibetan Texts, pp. 175-176. Just to mention one remarkable  exception to the rule, Paris researchers uncovered the very  passage in the Fifth Dalai Lama's biography which mentions a cast-metal image of Him that is now found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This passage permitted a precise dating of the Boston image to the year 1679. For the details, see Macdonald,  et al., "Portrait."
[3] Since the biography was completed in 1794 I assume that the passage that follows also dates to that year, and this passage fairly proves that the brocade thang-ka had been completed by the time of its writing.
[4] This image of the Tutor is iconographically identical to the modern drawing found in Guenther & Kawamura, Mind, which is a translation of one of the Tutor's books. Therefore it is initially quite puzzling why this drawing is identified as one of Dpal-sprul, the famous 19th-century Rnying-ma-pa teacher (however, it would seem that Dpal-sprul's iconography is identical — well, very nearly so, since the hat does differ slightly — to that of the Tutor; see the woodblock printed [?] image in Patrul, Words, p. xlvi).
[5] The verb 'grems-pa (some dictionaries spell the present tense form without the 's') is used in very many gos-sku descriptions. It seems that the more basic meanings of this transitive verb are 'to strew about' [straw or flowers] or 'to spread out flat' [something that was not flat before], but it is so often used in this sense that one is tempted to translate it as to display. But it is notable that the same verb is used for the display of thang-kas of all types, and not just the giant ones.
[6] One might think that this Maitreya Aspiration holiday refers to the part of the Lhasa Aspiration (Lha-sa Smon-lam) in which an image of Maitreya is taken in procession around the 'intermediate circumambulation route' (Bar-skor, or in English-language literature, the Barkhor). On this holiday, known as Byams-pa Spyan-'dren, or Invitation of Maitreya, see Richardson, Ceremonies, pp. 52-55; Tsepak Rigzin, Festivals, pp. 19-20; and Karsten, "Note," p. 125, the latter supplied with a large number of further references. Dreyfus, Sound, p. 258, argues that the main motive for the Smon-lam festivities that follow the Tibetan New Year is to bring about the coming of the future Buddha Maitreya. The Maitreya procession is the final religious act of the Smon-lam period (athletic events coincide with it and continue on the following day). See the personal account of these events in Khyongla Rato, My Life and Lives, pp. 101-102.  However, I believe that we must instead understand the specific Maitreya Aspiration of this passage as referring to the three-day observance held on a different date entirely at Grib Tshe-mchog-gling, on which more below.
[7] Some silk Maitreya icons have already been mentioned,  Apart from those, there is a 4-folio text listed in the works of Lcang-skya Ngag-dbang-chos-ldan (1642-1714)  entitled Rgyal-ba Byams-pa'i Gos-sku Mthong-ba Don-ldan-gyi Dkar-chag, not currently available to me. It ought to contain an account of a giant Maitreya brocade thang-ka older than that of the Eighth Dalai Lama. In the works of Sle-lung Rje-drung Bzhad-pa'i-rdo-rje (b. 1697), is a work in 27 folios entitled Bsam-yas-su Byams-pa Gtsor Gyur-gyi Gos-sku Gsar-bzhengs-kyi Dkar-chag (it may be located in Sle-lung Rje-drung, Collected Works, vol. 5, pp. 249-268). It describes the new construction at Samye of a large brocade thang-ka portraying Maitreya as its central subject.
[8] The same gan-type silk (gan-gos) is said to have been used as well for making the Mtshur-phu monumental thang-ka (see Rin-chen-dpal-bzang, Mtshur-phu, p. 235). I am for the moment unable to identify which exact type of silk is intended.
[9] It might be worthwhile to draw attention to the particular Tibetan word that is used here, lha-mgron, since it appears to be absent from the dictionaries. It is commonly used in thang-ka descriptions for the entire group of deities and holy personages that are depicted surrounding the larger sized central figure.
[10] Dalai Lama VIII, Biography, p. 384: gzhan yang byams pa'i smon lam gyi thog tu 'grem rgyu'i byams mgon gyi gos thang gsar bzheng gnang bzhed yod pa ni / bdag nyid tshogs rdzogs pa'i ched du gan gos rgyu rnying khyad 'phags las bsgrubs pa'i byams pa'i gos thang srid du khru nyi shu rtsa gcig dang / zheng du khru bcu gsum yod pa / lha mgron du rje tsong kha pa'i rnam thar gzigs pa lnga ldan dang / rgyal chen sde bzhi / byams pa'i g.yas g.yon du rje nyid kyi sku brnyan dang / tshe [385] rabs thams cad du bla ma 'di nyid dang mi 'bral ba'i rten 'brel mtshon byed bdag nyid kyi gzugs brnyan yang 'khod pa bzo bkod phun sum tshogs shing byin chags pa zhig gsar du bzhengs shing.
[11] The main building survived the cultural revolution, and may still be visited today. See Chan, Tibet Handbook, p. 170 (here the date of founding is given as 1782). The full name of the monastery is Grib Tshe-mchog-bsam-gtan-gling (and it should not be confused with monasteries of similar names in other parts of Tibet, and even in Bodhanath in Nepal, some of them being affiliates of the Grib monastery). One reason for the building of this monastery was to house monks from the Tutor's earlier establishment, Skyid-grong Bsam-gtan-gling, who had been displaced by the Nepalese-Tibetan war.  See Dung-dkar's dictionary, pp. 560-561 (here the date of founding is given as the Earth Hen year of 1789). It would seem that its construction basically spanned the years 1788 through 1790 (see Dalai Lama VIII, Biography, pp. 392, 394).
[12] Dalai Lama VIII, Biography, pp. 386-410.  A less detailed inventory of the artworks kept in this monastery appears in Si-tu, Account, pp. 142-143, based on a visit made at the end of the year 1918 or the beginning of 1919. Perhaps the most remarkable among the sacred objects was the clay sculpture that contained the Tutor's embalmed body.
[13] Note that this is the exact wording used in our passage. One might point, as well, to an anonymous 'Phags-pa Byams-pa'i Smon-lam (no Sanskritic title is supplied here) contained in the Gzungs-'dus section (in its vol. 2 [Waṃ], fols. 266-267) of the Derge Kanjur scripture collection. It has sometimes been attributed to Sthiramati.  It is very often chanted by Tibetan Buddhist monks, and it occurs immediately after the Samantabhadracaryapraṇidhānarāja in most monastic liturgical handbooks (chos-spyod), just as it does in the Gzungs-'dus. It is worthy of note that the date of the Maitreya Aspiration coincides with that of a holiday celebrated quite widely in Tibet, the 'Dzam-gling Spyi-bsangs, 'Juniper Burning Rite for [Purifying] the Whole World.' On this holiday, see Richardson, Ceremonies, pp. 94-95. People, especially laypeople, go up to high places to offer juniper as incense for the local mountain deities (who of course are also protectors of Buddhism), and many of the oracles go into trance on that day. It is interesting to note, although not much is said about it, a reference to the annual observance of something called the Byams-pa'i Smon-lam in Las-chen's history, vol. 2, p. 162 (general context is the early history of Snar-thang Monastery).
[14] The passage on which this information is based occurs as part of a list of annual observances held at Grib Tshe-mchog-gling contained in Dalai Lama VIII, Biography, p. 405: hor zla lnga ba'i tshes bco lnga dang bstun rje btsun blo bzang dpal ldan ye shes kyi dgongs rdzogs su byams pa'i smon lam nyin gsum dang.
[15] I could locate in a collection of prayers in the use of Skyid-grong Bkra-shis-bsam-gtan-gling and its affiliate monasteries (which does include Grib Tshe-mchog-gling), a short aspiration prayer (smon-lam) dedicated to Maitreya. It has neither title nor authorship attribution. It is known, like so many other popular prayers, by a title that places a final ma syllable after the first words of the text, hence Byams-pa'i Sku-gzugs-ma. By checking in a liturgical handbook, I could find out that the author of this short prayer is the First Dalai Lama Dge-'dun-grub [it ought to be contained in vol. NGA of His works, according to Klong-rdol Bla-ma, in His Gsung Thor-bu]. His authorship is confirmed in Rdzong-rtse's history of Bkra-shis-lhun-po, p. 229, which says this prayer was offered at the presence of the Great Maitreya image of Bkra-shis-lhun-po on its completion. In its opening verse it says, "May those embodied ones who brought about the conditions and causes / for the erection of [this] perfect image of Maitreya / live their lives in the glory of the supreme Vehicle teachings / at the feet of Lord Maitreya (byams pa'i sku gzugs phul byung bzhengs pa la // mthun rkyen sgrub par byed pa'i lus can rnams // rgyal ba byams pa mgon po'i zhabs drung du // theg mchog chos kyi dpal la spyod par shog). It was written on the occasion of the completion, after four years of work, of the giant gilded copper image of Maitreya at Bkra-shis-lhun-po (Rdzong-rtse's history of Bkra-shis-lhun-po, pp. 69-70), an event that occurred in 1463 (Ibid., p. 199). This metal image measured  25 cubits (Ye-shes-rtse-mo, biography of Dalai Lama I, p. 462). The construction history of giant sculptures of Maitreya is not entirely disconnected with the history of giant brocade Maitreyas. The Great Maitreya of Khro-phu was built under the direction of Khro-phu Lo-tsā-ba and consecrated in 1212 CE.  It in turn was no doubt inspired by a text Khro-phu Lo-tsā-ba translated that recommends the visualization of Maitreya in the colossal size of 80 cubits (*Nairitipa, Ajitanāthasādhana). In fact the Great Maitreya that Khro-phu built is said to have been 80 cubits high (for a very old source, see van der Kuijp, "Lives," p. 614, but also Dpa'-bo's history, p. 843; Gyurme Dorje, Tibet, p. 348). It was located about 60 kilometers away from Bkra-shis-lhun-po.
[16] For example, the large thang-ka  of Mtshur-phu was displayed on a ramp especially designed for it, with stepped walls all around, on a hillside close to the monastery.


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