Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Works on the Works of Lama Zhang

Zhang Yudragpa: Detail of a tapestry portrait

Today’s small blog effort, I feel it is fair to warn you, is likely to be of limited interest to all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Tibeto-logical specialists.  Even then, I don’t have a whole lot of time to sit and chat. There are so many things on my plate, I hope you’ll excuse me if I excuse myself so I can dig in, or should I say bite the bullet, in the hope of completing one or another of my several assignments, at least. Don’t even say the word ‘deadline’ within earshot if you know what’s good for you. I’m not in the mood to hear it. I suppose you might even get a particularly nasty reaction if you’re not careful. Be forewarned.

Enough of these idle threats with nothing to back them up. If you find yourself curious to find out a little bit about the man this fuss is all about, look at Lama Zhang's biography in Treasury of Lives. For now I’m just going to list some outstanding new works about Zhang Rinpoche* and his Works that have appeared since the turn of the millennium. Then I will announce the first public release of a bibliographical survey of his Works that I’ve been working on for quite some time now. I’m thinking a couple of you will find it of interest, and among those, one or two will find it useful for some good purpose or another. Those numbers sound more than adequate to me.
(*The full and usual form of the name of the initiator of the lineage of the Tselpa Kagyü [Tshal-pa Bka'-brgyud] is properly spelled using the Wylie system as Zhang G.yu-brag-pa Brtson-’grus-grags-pa [1123-1193 CE], and as far as I’m concerned that’s the name that he ought to be remembered by in history, although you may prefer a phoneticized version, like Zhang Yudragpa Tsondrüdragpa or the like. There are hundreds of variations on his name, many of them of his own making. Still, if we want to keep things short and simple, I see no reason why we shouldn’t speak of him as either Lama Zhang or Zhang Rinpoche, do you?)

 Here is the list —

1.  Karl-Heinz Everding, Der Gung thang dkar chag: Die Geschichte des tibetischen Herrschergeschlechtes von Tshal Gung thang und der Tshal pa bKa’ brgyud pa-Schule, VGH Wissenschaftsverlag (Bonn 2000). This publication contains Romanization and German translation of a Tibetan Guidebook on the history and holy objects contained in the monastery of Tsel Gungtang that was composed by the Dge-lugs-pa author ’Jog-ri-ba Ngag-dbang-bstan-’dzin-’phrin-las-rnam-rgyal (b. 1748) in the year 1782 at a time when Gung-thang was under the administration of Sera Monastery.  To read a little more about this publication, press here.

2.    Per K. Sørensen & Guntram Hazod, in cooperation with Tsering Gyalpo, Rulers on the Celestial Plain: Ecclesiastic and Secular Hegemony in Medieval Tibet, a Study of Tshal Gung-thang, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Vienna 2007), in 2 volumes with 1011 pages! This contains an English translation of the same Guidebook by ’Jog-ri, but in addition to that it contains such a wealth of information in its introduction and multiple appendices — not to mention the many maps and great color photographs — that it may take Tibetology many decades to begin to absorb it all, let alone catch up. For a review by Bryan Cuevas, look here.

3.    Carl S. Yamamoto, Vision and Violence: Lama Zhang and the Dialectics of Political Authority and Religious Charisma in Twelfth-Century Central Tibet, doctoral dissertation, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia (May 2009). Although a work of high academic standards, it will certainly be published as a book very soon, and when it is I imagine many will find it to be the most accessible book yet on the subject of Zhang Rinpoche.  For an abstract, look here.

The newest book on Lama Zhang

4.    Gra-bzhi Mig-dmar-tshe-ring (b. 1983), Tshal Gung-thang Gtsug-lag-khang-gi Dkar-chag Skyid-chu'i Rang-mdangs, Bod-ljongs Mi-dmangs Dpe-skrun-khang (Lhasa 2011), in 383 pages. I suppose the title could be translated “The Kyichu River's Inherent Glow: Guide to the Temple of Tsel Gungtang,” although it is much much more than a guidebook, with so much information about the temple and monastery during more than eight centuries of its existence. It pleases me very much to know that someone in Tibet is interested in doing this work. It has some small color illustrations and among these perhaps the most worthy of notice are the before-and-after photos of Zhang Rinpoche's funerary chorten, now reduced to a pile of rubble. You can see it in the following old photo; it's the larger chorten on your right. Lama Zhang had just finished building its lower steps when he died in 1193.

Tsel Gungtang, negative of photo by Hugh Richardson

So, I would like to suggest that those who want to go to the web version of the catalog of Zhang Rinpoche’s works, try going here (a link at the bottom of each file will lead you to the next). Or if you are impatient and want to immediately download the complete catalog in a Word file, all you need to do is click the link just given, which ought to transport you to Dropbox (I hope someone will let me know if this works OK, since it’s my first experiment with this mode of file distribution; the file is supposed to truly exist there, even now, in something that takes the form of a cloud, ready to be precipitated down onto your personal machinery). The download should be quick. It's only about 265 pages long. I wanted to put up the Gung-thang Dkar-chag, but haven’t succeeded yet.* For now, I’ll just say: Good luck and gods’ speed, until we find the time to blog again.

(*Oh, wait a minute.  Try here.)

A modern (or restored?) representation of Lama Zhang,
Tsel Gungtang Monastery

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The frontispiece is from a very old fabric artwork that was preserved in the Potala Palace and is apparently now in the museum near the Norbu Lingka in Lhasa. It has an inscription on the back that has been and will be the subject of much discussion, but it does identify the main subject (“Dpal-ldan G.yu-brag-pa”), leaving no doubt that it is meant to represent Lama Zhang. This artwork may date from around the 15th century, but at the same time it may be a very faithful copy of an earlier artwork (perhaps a painting) dating much closer to the time of Lama Zhang. The details remain to be worked out. It has by now been published a number of times, but perhaps best is Bod-kyi Thang-ga at p. 62 (the catalog entry in this book says it was woven in the time of the late Sung).

Yes, there is a heaven.  If you are the sort of person who derives enjoyment from looking at listings of Wylie-transcribed Tibetan titles in Gsung-'bum-s and Bka'-'bum-s, you can find quite a few of them here.  If you are that sort of person, you are my sort of person.

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And one more thing.  If you’d like to read an English translation of what may very well be Zhang Rinpoche’s most famous literary work, try to get to the Dropbox download HERE.  I've also put up a never-before published Tibetan script edition of the original work.  If the link isn’t working, you can complain. Please do.

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Postscript (Feb. 11, 2013):  If you would like to hear Carl Yamamoto talk about his book (that was meanwhile published for only 178 USD), there is an hour-long interview in the form of a Podcast (available through iTunes) in the series "New Books in Buddhist Studies."  I haven't found a way to make a direct link, but you ought to be able to locate it with an internet search.  (Perhaps you will have to sign up with iTunes, but before going to that extreme try this link.)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

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.*

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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...).

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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.

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