Saturday, December 31, 2011

Two Proto-Berlitz Phrasebooks

Source:  HERE.
Sometimes when you are reading two books at the same time you can find yourself faced with some interesting juxtapositions, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t venture to say my two examples of early phrasebooks are entirely identical or parallel, but they do demonstrate a certain level of human commonality that probably doesn’t especially need to be pointed out to anyone, although I suppose there could be exceptions...

There is an especially long and richly detailed biography (for so it calls itself) of what may be the city holy for more people in the world than any other, although I’m not completely sure about that. I’m talking about Simon Sebag Montefiore's book Jerusalem, the Biography. Near the middle of the book, reached only after weeks of bedtime reading, I came across an amusing passage about a pilgrim, a German knight (Ritter) of the Rhineland named Arnold von Harff. He made for himself lists of handy words and phrases in  various languages, including both Arabic and Hebrew. I guess it’s clear he hoped these phrases would help him, as well as others, to better communicate with the local inhabitants of the countries he visited. Here are some phrases that leave only a little doubt what kind of business he was hoping to conduct:

"How much will you give me?
I will give you a gulden.
Are you a Jew?
Woman, let me sleep with you tonight.
Good madam, I am already in your bed."

This Herr von Harff was one pilgrim with plenty of pluck, and not just middling-to-average pickup lines. Among his other accomplishments (and quite apart from his evident heteronormalcy and Judaeophobia), he managed to go up on the — then as now Islamic — Noble Sanctuary (Haram as-Sharif) in disguise, making him look like a kind of proto-Sir Richard Burton.

Meanwhile, moving to the other end of the Eurasian world and back half a millennium further in human history, we learn from Sam van Schaik and Imre Galambos's even newer book Manuscripts and Travellers that there exists, until this day, a bilingual Sanskrit and Khotanese phrasebook for pilgrims on their way to China. You can almost hear the interrogating tone of the immigration officer:

"And where are you going now?

I am going to China.

What business do you have in China?

I’m going to see the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī .

When are you coming back?

I’m going to China, then I’ll return."

I’ll skip over some of the rest of the dialogue, in order not to spoil it for you. There is mention of a Tibetan monk suspected by a border official of being a liar. The following three lines may or may not be about him, but it does seem so:

“He is dear to many women.
He goes about a lot.
He makes love...

Bring a bowl! The Tibetan teacher has become ill.”

It’s evident that Tibetan monks, or at the very least traveling facsimiles of Tibetan monks, had developed a shady reputation in late-10th-century Khotan. Well, to judge from this phrasebook, which may have had humorous intent as well... At least one of these Tibetan monks seems to have had problems keeping down Khotanese road food, perhaps a common enough predicament after all.

No need to mention the notoriety 
of medieval European appetites 
set loose in the Outremer 
on their way to the Holy Sepulcher.

Of course, the Central Asia traveler’s assumed destination was the place most holy to the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning Mañjuśrī. It seemed like everyone wanted to go to Wutai Shan in those earlier days. Vairocanavajra went there, as did Padampa Sanggyé before him. I hope to go some day as well.

Mañjuśrī holding the Ruyi scepter,
seen in Taipei, June 2011.

Notice the lion.


Robert Elsie, Texts and Documents of Albanian History. This online essay is more concerned with the early documentation of Albanian language, but it does have a nice brief discussion of the phrasebook of Arnold of Harff, that included “words and phrases in Croatian, Albanian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Hungarian, Basque and Breton.” Of course von Harff was not the originator of the genre; there were Latin-Greek bilingual phrasebooks in the time of the Roman Empire, as I seem to recall from somewhere.

Kelly Lynne Maynard, I want to buy it in the Albanian Glossary of Arnold von Harff, Transactions of the Philological Society, vol. 107, no. 2 (2009), pp. 231-252.  Try to access it here.  Still more articles can be located that have to do with von Harff if you will only search for them.  There are also translations of his journal that are more and less available.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem, the Biography, Alfred A. Knopf (New York 2011), at p. 298.

Sam van Schaik and Imre Galambos, Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-century Buddhist Pilgrim, De Gruyter (Berlin 2012), at pages 141-3.

Here is something about a 10th-century German phrasebook, although mostly about one from the time of World War II. Here is an amusing piece about Berlitz phrasebooks, but by far the most amusing phrasebook incident ever is one I once read in a book by “Australian photojournalist” Sorrel Wilby, shortly before I closed the covers of the book forever (I think the book still exists in a sibling library in central Michigan). Her Journey across Tibet is not something I could ever bring myself to recommend. Sorry Sorrel, but if this is any consolation, it could just be me. We have to take that into account.

Not running a commercial operation here, I didn’t really intend to make an advertisement for Berlitz, and in fact my favorite phrasebook is one they didn’t publish:  Wicked Italian for the Traveler by Howard Tomb, Workman Publishing (NY 1989). There are lots of usable gems there, but try this one out the next time you unexpectedly find yourself in Italy. First the phonetic version, which you should pronounce aloud, within hearing of your loved ones, particularly if you have never studied Italian before:

    Eel pro-FOND-oh mee-STAIR-oh dee cho key sty dee-CHEND-oh me een-FWOKE-ah eel KWORE-ay.

    Il profondo mistero di ciò che stai dicendo mi infuoca il cuore.*

§    §    §

Happy New Year/Sylvester to everyone who has ever read Tibeto-logic, and equally to everyone who never has! And if you see our old friend Arno, tell him I’m sorry, I hope he’ll forgive me, and Please come back. I’ve been at this for over five years now, and will, before many more months have gone by, reach the 100th blog entry. Trying to think of something special to do for numero 100 besides just more of the same-old same-old...  Any ideas? Should I redecorate? Or is that too superficial?

˙ǝɹıɟ uo ʇɹɐǝɥ ʎɯ sʇǝs pıɐs ʇsnɾ noʎ ɹǝʌǝʇɐɥʍ ɟo ʎɹǝʇsʎɯ punoɟoɹd ǝɥʇ*

Happy 2012 (it's not the end of the world, you know, although it may be the end of the world you know...).

§    §    §

Postscript (January 2, 2012)

I forgot to say anything about Tibetan-language phrasebooks. So here's my collection of Lonely Planets. Someone told me there have been five, which must mean I’m missing one, but actually, to follow what it says inside the books, there have only been four editions up to and including the one of 2008. Is there a new one I haven’t heard about?

1st edition, October 1987 —
by Melvyn G. Goldstein, with
the help of Gelek Rinpoche &
Trinley Dorje

2nd edition, June 1996 — by
Sandup Tsering &
Melvyn C. Goldstein

3rd edition, May 2002 —
by Sandup Tsering

4th edition, February 2008 —
by "Phrasebooks" &
Sandup Tsering.

Someday somebody will write a history of Tibetan language learning that will include these things.

Has anyone noticed any good or passably good Tibetan phrasebooks on-line?  This one is very interesting, a little awkward to use just because it’s so technologically advanced it takes my primitive machine a long time to maneuver from one phrase list to the other.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Marginal Amusement at the Bodleian

Earlier today, under inspiration from the latest blog entry from Janus, I was doing an internet search for ‘Hero Capable [of overcoming all comers all at] Once,’ or, in the original tongue, Dpa'-bo Chig-thub. What to my great surprise could possibly pop up, but a rare catalog of Tibetan manuscripts and so forth that are kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. It’s so rare it’s not even a publication, really, just a typescript done, as you might expect, on a typewriter. I could hardly believe my eyes. What could explain this outrageously good fortune?
A Descriptive Catalogue of the Tibetan Manuscripts Held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, prepared by John E. Stapleton Driver in ca. 1970, and revised by David Barrett, 1993. Total page count: 152.
Some very thoughtful person put it up for us in a searchable PDF format. Here.

You can find something entertaining already, 4 pages into it (there are no page numbers) in the entry for MS.Tibet.a.1, described as "a meditation text," with the title Bla mgon dbyer med kyi rnal 'byor thun mongs ma yin pa nyamsu len tshul rin chen dbang gi rgyal po'i do shal.

Someone wrote on the title page (I give it 'as is,' except for changing it into Wylie):  'di mang gi yi ge phal cher ma dag pa dang 'ga zhig rang zo byas pa'ang mang tsam 'dug pas zhu dag tong tshod mi 'dug go.  This is there translated, “As the text in this is generally corrupt and in a good many cases even made up, there’s no end to correcting it.”

A second person wrote on the title page in a different hand:  'di 'bri mkhan dang khyed rang gnyis ka ma dag pas skyon dan[g] .... rang bzo byed mkhan gtso bo khyed rang 'dra.  — khyed 'dra bas zhus dag gtong ba las ma gtang ba dga 'dug. This is translated, “Of the writer of this and yourself, the chief introducer of corruptions and inventions seems to be yourself." — "Rather than have someone like you make corrections, they were better not made at all.”

And finally, at the end of the text, somebody wrote (in English? Well, no Tibetan is given):  “It would shame you if a scholar were to see such a corrupt text, so I suggest you burn it.”

The original text was purchased in 1885 from two of the Schlagintweit brothers: R.H. and A. If you are like me you may well have trouble keeping straight which of the five Schlagintweit brothers was which, in which case this webpage would be a big help.

But what about the person given as the author of the text, the monk Legshé Ludrub (Legs-bshad-klu-sgrub)?  

A quick search of TBRC and a few other places turned up neither the title of this guruyoga text nor its author.  Who can he be? Where’s our good Doctor Watson?

John E. Stapleton Driver, in case you don’t remember, was the one who translated R.A. Stein’s Tibetan Civilization into English.

As part of this catalog, you can find some of the papers that were left behind by W.Y. Evans-Wentz (1878-1965) — famous editor of such well known works as The Tibetan Book of the Dead — after his own entry into the bar-do. Among these papers are some draft translations by Lama Kazi Dawa Samdrup.

Some of the Tibetan books here came from Solomon C. Malan (1812-1894), a friend and student of Csoma de Körös. For more about this, see P.J. Marczell, The Tibetan Mss. of the Malan Bequest in the Bodleian and Their Relation to the Life and Works of Csoma Körösi, Studia Asiatica, vol. 2, nos. 1-2 (2000), pp. 55-71.  Get it for free (or not!) here.

Other materials came from Samuel Turner (1749-1802), author of An Account of an Embassy to the Court of the Teshoo Lama in Tibet (London 1800).

”A.D. 1806.
”Fifty pounds were paid for some ' Tibetan MSS.' of Capt. Samuel Turner,E.I C.S., who had been sent by Warren Hastings,on a mission to the Grand Llama, in 1785. Of this mission he published an account, in a quarto volume, in 1800. His MSS. consist chiefly of nine bundles of papers and letters in the Persian and Tartar languages, written in the last century, together with a few Chinese printed books. Capt. Turner died Jan. 2, 1802; but as one of his sisters was married to Prof. White,* it was probably through him that the papers were now purchased.”  
        For the source, look here.

(*My note: I guess this means Joseph White, since he did indeed marry Mary Turner, sister of Samuel.)
For more about this, see the late Michael Aris’s article, A Note on the Resources for Tibetan Studies at Oxford, Bodleian Library Record, vol. 10, no. 6 (May 1982), pp. 368-375. Or look at this page of the Bodleian's own website (scroll down the page to the section about Tibet).

Even if they do have street lamps in Oxford, this is not one of them.
Look up the word panopticon for a clue.
Wasn't it invented by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832),
and isn't he the one they still keep locked up in a closet
in London University? None of it makes sense to me. Not really.

If the kind person who did this is still in a generous mood, I suggest they put up two other rare catalogs of Tibetan manuscripts that exist (however seldom) in typescripts.  They are:

P. Denwood, Catalogue of Tibetan Mss and Block-prints outside the Stein Collection in the India Office Library (1975), in 145 pages.  For a reference, look here.

E. Gene Smith, University of Washington Tibetan Catalogue, vols. 1-2 (Seattle 1969).  For a reference, look here.

Or is this asking too much?

Overlooking something?

Who took the photos?  I must confess, it was moi.  All 4 were taken in Oxford, around the time of the Xth IATS in 2003.

Update —  December 31, 2011

For an update with important further information by Charles Manson, particularly the part about an upcoming online catalogue of the Bodleian's Tibetan collection, look here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No Prophet in Buddhism?

You might well wonder what any normally Tibeto-centric Tibeto-logician would be doing spending his evenings leafing through a — well, not-so-recent — book about a Muslim theologian and Sufi contemplative by the name of Simnani. Wonder no more. For decades now I have been intrigued by the fact that for a time Buddhist teachers called Bakshis were active in the Middle East. We know that Simnani had very much contact with those self-same Bakshis. As I think I will be able to show — if not now, on another day — he was one of the most visible contact points that allowed some aspects of cultural-religious electrical currents to flow into the western parts of Eurasia in a crucial time in her history. Am I being too grandiose? Trying to be dramatic? A little overexcited, no doubt. Forgive me.

It is well known, to a few at least, that in the last part of the 13th century there were certain Kagyü lineages that were allied with the Mongol royal house of Hulegu (reigned 1256-1265) and his immediate successors, receiving their patronage and protection. Hulegu’s son Khaidu (1236-1301) even led (or sent?) western Turk troops — what Tibetans call Stod Hor — into Tibet (see Everding’s article). Despite a few such Mongolian armed incursions, Tibet was never actually occupied by Mongol forces during China's Yüan dynasty like China was.

From 1256 to 1295, apart from a brief two-year interlude, the Ilkhanid realm was ruled by Buddhists. They held a great deal of the Middle East from their center in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran. I labeled this bad map to show its imprecise location, although you are probably better off to see the map of the Ilkhanid realm (at its greatest extent) at Wikipedia, where you can see that it actually did cover quite a big part of the area you see on the map just below.

Most writers on the subject repeat the idea that there were Tibetan Lamas among the Bakshis. But for years now I’ve been on the lookout for anyone named (let’s say) Jamyang, Kunga or Tenzin among them, and so far no good luck. Although I’ve asked some real experts in the field to look into the matter, they never did get back to me. They may have been right for not taking me seriously. People have always complained that they’re not sure when I’m joking.

Well, there is the surprising story, told in the Berzin Archive, about Emperor Arghun’s brother Gaikhatu who succeeded him as Il Khan. Someone (usually they say, with apparent good reason, this someone must’ve been a Tibetan monk) gave Gaikhatu the 100% Tibetan name Rinchen Dorje.

He liked this Tibetan name well enough to put it, in Mongolian and sometimes in Arabic script, on many of the coins he had minted in Tabriz (you can see quite a few examples on the internet if you look for them). The following lustrous gold example, one of many, is supposed to have his name on it (I apologize that I am unable to read it, but I found it here).

He did make one disastrous political mistake. He introduced Chinese paper money into the Middle East. It looks as if he just took the Chinese paper bills and overstamped them. Or did he directly copy the money, Chinese inscriptions and all? Paper doesn’t have half the glitter of gold, and none of the jingle, so it didn’t catch on, to say the least. Exactly the opposite. And Gaikhatu lost his position, so to speak, when he was assassinated. Arghun’s sons soon succeeded Gaikhatu, but they stopped supporting Buddhism and converted to Islam.

Did you ever have one of those minor epiphanies, the kind that seizes you, gives you a kind of electrical jolt, even before you have time to think about the reason? It has happened to me more than a few times in museums, actually, come to think of it. But once when I was touring, together with a Tibetan monk, the al-Quds al-Sharif sanctuaries on what non-Muslims are more likely to know as the Temple Mount, we had scarcely entered the Islamic Museum off to the side of al-Aksa Mosque, when both of us found ourselves astoundedly fixated on the same thing at the same time. It was an artistic motif around the base of a large metal candle holder.  It was just so closely similar to the lotus base that you see under practically every Indo-Tibetan divine image, only more in the Tibetan style, or perhaps even more in the style of the Swat Valley bronzes. 

Full description here.

The monk and I had identical epiphanies at the very same moment. Stopping to inspect the museum label, we could read that the inscription engraved on it contained the name of Arslan.*  This touched something off.  Some hidden alarm button?
(*Aslan, or Arslan, means 'lion' in both Turkic languages and Mongolian.)
Despite what may have seemed like a moment of clarity, I was puzzled and the more I find out the more puzzling it becomes, really. If this use of the lotus design is a result of Mongol (or just vaguely Central Asian) influence, the reign of this Arslan (1203-1239) is almost too early. He ruled quite a huge area from his capital of Mardin, a still remarkably well preserved historical mountaintop city in southeastern Turkey with a breathtaking view over the Syrian plains. Since that time, I’ve become more accustomed to seeing East and Central Asian artistic influences in Middle Eastern art (see especially the book by Kadoi listed below).  There is even a body of literature tracing Ilkhanid eastern artistic influences on early Italian painters like Giotto (see Tanaka's article)

You can’t exactly see it in this low-resolution photo, but if you look in the lower right corner, the scene of the Roman soldiers gambling over possession of the robe, you will see the robe has golden bands in its design, and on the bands (if you don’t want to take my word for it, I think you can actually make them out on the fringed garment of the person standing to the robe's left side) are Phagspa letters. I visited the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua a few years ago, but with the 15-minute limit (preceded by an hour in a dessication chamber) it is really very difficult to take it all in, let alone notice all the details. I have to confess I didn’t notice any Phagspa script when I was there. I was far too overwhelmed by the art.

The Crucifixion, by Giotto of Bondoni (1266-1337),
Scrovegni Chapel, Padova, Italia

Now Simnani belonged to a family with a number of members who served in the court of Arghun, and Simnani himself was no exception. Yet he had an interest in Sufi meditations from a young age, specifically inspired by Kubra and his school, the Kubrawiya, with its strong emphasis on visionary experiences of lights which Simnani himself would further develop in his later years. Kubra didn’t live to see the rule of the Mongols. It is said he died in hand-to-hand combat with the Mongols when they invaded Khwarezm in 1220.

Now I see the hour is getting late and I want to get this in the mail before I miss my bedtime, so just let me say these few words about Simnani and we will call it a day. As you may know, the Mongols were in the habit of holding inter-religious discussions (debates, if you prefer) in their courts. The general idea is that Mongolians had their own shamanic ideas; other religions they had trouble comprehending — they found them curious — so they would enlist the smartest people around to try to explain them. A number of early Mongol rulers married Christians. Arghun’s mother was one of them, and there are yet other reasons for his willingness to deal with Christians... as well as Muslims, and needless to say Buddhists. I believe Arghun’s Buddhism was not just superficial.  

The following describes an event of April 1288. It was probably the first, but definitely not the last, time Buddhist relics were displayed in the Middle East:

“Buka’s envoys brought back with them to Persia one of the relics so much esteemed among the Buddhists, called Sharil. These are hard pieces of a substance which is said to be found in the ashes of some saintly persons when cremated. Von Hammer says that Buddha's heart was supposed to be made of bone and not of flesh, similarly with the hearts of great men, and that the sharil is really held to be the ossified heart of the cremated person. Arghun, we are told, treated this relic with the greatest honour, gold was strewn over it, while a feast was duly celebrated.”  — Howorth, History of the Mongols, pt. 3, p. 321, as cited in Numen, vol. 41 (1994), pp. 284-285.
Arghun sometimes had Simnani hold religious discussions with the Buddhist Bakshis. The usual story is that they belonged to a number of nationalities, not only Tibetans but also Indians, Uighurs, Chinese and so on. They say that Simnani would win these debates because he was able to convince his audience that the Buddhists didn’t really know about their own religion.
"Arghun then called for a Buddhist monk and ordered him to engage Simnani in a debate, but Simnani defeated the Buddhist by demonstrating that he was ignorant of the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings."  (Elias, p. 26)
Although generally antipathetic to Buddhism — he believed the main problem with Buddhism is that it has no prophets — he was actually fond of one particular Bakshi, and this Bakshi (surprise, surprise) has a personal name attached. He was an Indian who was called Bakhshī Parinda (Elias, p. 18).

Parinda was supposed to be from a monastic community of Somnāth in coastal Gujerat, although Mayer believes it may be a similarly-named place in Bengal. I differ with them both. I think this is probably the same monastic institution, in what would nowadays be Orissa, that the famous Vairocanavajra (subject of a great study by Kurtis Schaeffer) belonged to before he went to Tibet and translated Doha songs into Tibetan in around the 1240’s or so.

Not sure what to make of the name Parinda, I’m inclined to think it might be a reformed version of the Indic name Varendra (a common enough personal name with the meaning ‘True Indra’). Simnani confessed that he regarded Parinda as, to quote Elias, “spiritually very advanced despite his non-Muslim status.”

All this was intended as hardly anything more than an introduction to still different matters, touching on religious devotional and meditative practices and visions that I regard as more interesting than anything you have heard here so far. I do hope you did find it interesting anyway.

§   §   §

Interrelated matters worth exploring:

Hamid Algar, "Kubrā, Shaykh Abu 'l-Djannāb Aḥmad b. ʿUmar Nadjm al-Dīn," Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, P. Bearman, et al., eds. Brill (Leiden 2011). Brill Online.

Reuven Amitai-Preiss, Sufis and Shamans: Some Remarks on the Islamization of the Mongols in the Ilkhanate, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 42 (1999), pp. 27-46.  See especially p. 32, relevant to Simnani's relations with Buddhists.

Arezou Azad, Three Rock-Cut Cave Sites in Iran and Their Ilkhanid Buddhist Aspects Reconsidered, contained in: Anna Akasoy, et al., eds., Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes, Ashgate (Farnham 2011), pp. 209-230, and plates 10.1 through 10.11. This article does not establish that, as has sometimes been speculated in the past, the caves in question were definitely Buddhist, but neither does it eliminate the possibility. Other articles in the same volume are relevant, not only the introduction by Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, but also the contributions by Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani (see p. 100 for a bit on lotus-type designs on metal pots) and Paul Buell (on connections in the field of medicine and cooking).

Jamal J. Elias, The Throne Carrier of God: The Life and Thought of 'Alā' ad-dawla as-Simnānī, SUNY Press (Albany 1995). Seventy-nine of Simnani's works (excluding epistles) have survived, and very little has been written about them in English apart from this book, and a bit translated from the French of Henry Corbin.

Karl-Heinz Everding, The Mongol States and Their Struggle for Dominance over Tibet in the 13th Century, contained in: Henk Blezer, ed., Tibet, Past and Present: Tibetan Studies I, Brill (Leiden 2002), pp. 109-128. On p. 120 are what may be the most horrifying scenes in all of pre-modern Tibetan history. Here it is evidently Khaidu who is hiding under the Tibetan[ized] name Ga-du Rin-chen.

Cover Image
Jean Maurice Fiey, Esquisse d'une bibliographie sur le patriarche turco‑mongol Yahwalaha III (1281‑1317) et son maître Rabbam bar Sawma, envoyé du Khan Arghun au pape et aux princes européens en 1287‑1288, Proche‑orient Chrétien, vol. 38 (1988), pp. 221‑228. Morris Rossabi has written a whole book about Mar Sauma, and I hope to see it before long.

Yuka Kadoi, Islamic Chinoiserie: The Art of Mongol Iran, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh 2009).

Toby Mayer, Yogic-Ṣūfī Homologies: The Case of the "Six Principles" Yoga of Nāropa and the Kubrawiyya, The Muslim World, vol. 100 (April 2010), pp. 268-286.  I believe you can get free access to it here. (Or if not, go here: and then search for it from there.)

Leo Jungeon Oh, Islamicised Pseudo-Buddhist Iconography in Ilkhanid Royal Manuscripts. Persica, vol. 20 (2005), pp. 91-154. The thesis of this long and rather confusing paper (well, I found it so) is that there were Asian artistic influences on paintings produced for the Ilkhanid court.

Elliot Sperling, Hülegü and Tibet, Acta Orientalia Hungarica, vol. 44 (1990), pp. 145-158. As pointed out at the very beginning of this Tibetological article, the Ilkhanid ruler Hülegü was known inside Tibet by his name Hu-la-hu (or more simply Hu-la), he was known as one who patronized the Phagmodru school of the Kagyupas, and as the “King of Upper Hor” which this author identifies with the Chagatais. Given this is so, chances are that the Tibetan Bakshis may well have been Drigung monks, so Drigung histories — and histories of other lineages stemming from the Phagmodru school — would be logical places to look for clues about them, you would think.

Hidemishi Tanaka, Giotto and the Influences of the Mongols and Chinese on His Art: A New Analysis of the Legend of St. Francis and the Fresco Paintings of the Scrovegni Chapel, Art History (Tohoku University, Japan) (1984) 1-38 [in English].  Other writings on related subjects by the same author have appeared in English, Japanese and Italian.  Among the most intriguing is one entitled Oriental Scripts in the Paintings of Giotto's Period, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, series 6, vol. 113 (1989), pp. 214-226.  You can actually recognize some of the 'Phags-pa script letters in some of these paintings, which is about as clear a sign of Mongolian influence as you could possibly wish for. Of course there is now a Wiki page on the subject, with interesting illustrations. But better if you have a look at this Babelstone blog.

Late 13th-century Ilkhanid tile, Istanbul

David Ohanessian (1927), is responsible for the frontispiece

P.S. (Nov. 14, 2011):

I forgot to mention that there was another South Asian Bakshi with a name working in Tabriz. This was the relatively well-known Kashmiri Buddhist teacher Kamalaśrī, who helped the illustrious and industrious but ill-fated Rashid ad-Din with his stories about the life of the Buddha. Some have identified him with Padampa Sanggyé, who has Kamalaśrī (as well as Kamalaśīla) as a monastic given name. For chronological reasons their identification is simply impossible. Two centuries separate them. Well, if Padampa was 600 years old when he came to Tibet, as is sometimes told, he would have had to live another 200 years to be off visiting eastern Iran, now, wouldn’t he? That hardly seems likely. I’ll refrain from listing all the bibliography for this problem for the moment. Or if you insist on having something to read, be my guest and check out Karl Jahn’s article in Central Asiatic Journal, vol. 2 [1956], pp. 81-128.)

P.P.S. (Nov. 25, 2011):

Just to add to the list of Bakshis with names, we also are aware of names of two that came from China. I’ll just repeat here something you find in the comments section below:

Johan Elverskog's book Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia 2010), p. 149, says that Rashid ad-Din had in addition to the Kashmiri Buddhist teacher Kamalaśrī two Chinese collaborators named Litaji and Kamsun (quoting Thomas Allsen's book Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, p. 92; here you can see that it would be quite difficult to find out the actual Chinese names behind these names...).


That a couple of Chinese would have been in Tabriz isn’t in itself all that newsworthy. You also have the cases of Rabban Sauma and his disciple who came from the general area of Khanbaliq (OK, Dadu or Peking if you prefer or insist) both of them of Turkic stock. The disciple, Yaballaha III,* was made Patriarch of the Nestorian Christian world. As soon as I can lay hands on a copy of Morris Rossabi’s book on the subject I plan to read the whole thing through in several sittings.**
(*He was supposed to be Uighur Turkish by birth, was known by the Greek name Markos as a young person, and had the ability to speak Mongolian, a skill that definitely helped to endear him to the Ilkhanid Emperor. The two of them, Sauma and Markos, set off from China on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but things didn’t turn out quite as they had planned. Sauma’s name is supposed to be of Syriac origins with the meaning of Faster [that means one who fasts, but you knew that].)
(**Morris Rossabi, Voyager from Xanadu: Rabban Sauma and the First Journey from China to the West, Kodansha [Tokyo 1992].)

P.P.P.P.S (NOV. 27, 2011), added to illustrate one of the comments, below.

Figure from Tanaka's article, p. 221, a detail from Giotto's Crucifixion,
Scrovegni Chapel, Padova,
with Tanaka's interpretation below.

Figure from Tanaka's article, p. 221, 
with Tanaka's interpretation below.
Sample of early P'agspa script (edict dated 1277 or 1289), after Precious Deposits, vol. 3.
P'agspa script was invented in 1269.

P.P.P.P.P.S. (October 24, 2015):
I think it could have added to the discussion to include the line of Arabic script you can see in the coronation mantle of Norman King Roger II of Sicily (1095-1154 CE). Here you see one side of the mantle only, depicting a lion attacking a poor camel. Garments hemmed with inscriptions in exotic scripts were on extremely famous luxury fabrics like this one on the Italian peninsula (and not only Sicily, his kingdom extended north nearly to Rome) much before Giotto's time. The original is kept in a museum in Vienna, I believe.

P.P.P.P.P.PS. (Aug. 3, 2016):
Notice that the discussion within Islam on the issue of whether or not the Buddha can be regarded as a prophet is an ongoing one. The best writing I've noticed on this topic is this:  "The Muslim Doctrine of Prophethood in the Context of Buddhist-Muslim Relations in Japan: Is the Buddha a Prophet? by Keiko Obuse, published in The Muslim World, vol. 100 (April-July 2010), pp. 215-232. This article reveals something else that some will find surprising, that there do exist some Japanese Buddhist converts to Islam.

The Museum entry for this piece can be seen here.

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