Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Kālacakra Tantra Woodblock Prints: A Guestblog in Response


Woodcut miniature of Pad-ma-dkar-po,
or in Sanskrit Puṇḍarīka
Today’s guestblog was written by Marta Sernesi. 
It is in response to two recent Tibeto-logic blogs about early woodblock carvings of the Kālacakra Tantra in Tibetan language. 
Look here for the first one, and here for the second.

I don’t have much to add to your blogpost, except to point to Jörg Heimbel’s study of the Jo gdan tshogs sde bzhi,* where he also provides a short biographical sketch of gNyag phu ba bSod nams bzang po as the 8th seat holder of dGe ’dun sgang. In the abbatial succession of this monastery one can spot a La stod Byang pa mKhan chen Seng ge dpal ba (11th seat holder, tenure: 8 years, ca. 1416–1424), who is most probably the project leader for the Kālacakra edition. However, the seat holder in 1433 would have been the following master in the list, namely sNye mo Bong ra ba mKhan chen Chos ’grub pa (tenure: 20 years, in office during the compilation of the rGya bod yig tshang chen mo in 1434), so the edition may or may not have been prepared at the monastery itself.

(* “The Jo gdan tshogs sde bzhi: An Investigation into the History of the Four Monastic Communities in Śākyaśrībhadra’s Vinaya Tradition,” contained in: Franz-Karl Ehrhard and Petra Maurer, eds., Nepalica-Tibetica: Festgabe for Christoph Cüppers, International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies [Andiast 2013], vol. 1, pp. 187–242.)

Regarding the printing colophon, I read rather spar du sgrubs pa’i dpon yig dge ba kos (= rkos) mkhan mkhas pa nam seng dang //

Even though my eyes are not that good, I think that this is the most plausible reading, so I am afraid that there’s no explicit mention of women involved in the making of the blocks. dGe ba was the scribe and mKhas pa Nam mkha’ seng ge and mGon po dpal and bSod nams rgyal mtshan and Yon tan dpal the carvers. 

There are two other early editions of Kālacakra related works that I am aware of, that may be of some interest. One printing project is a late Hor-par-ma (1351) described by Sherab Sangpo as "text 8" in his “Analysis of Tibetan Language Prints Produced During the Yuan Period (hor spar ma),” Inner Asia, vol. 15 (2013), pp. 201–224.

Another printing project would have been more or less coeval with the “Nyagpuwa memorial edition”:  Ritual texts on the Kālacakra written by the ruler of La stod Byang rNam rgyal grags bzang (1395–1475) that were printed by himself, most probably at his palace or main monastic institution of Ngam ring[s].

1. dPal ldan dus kyi ’khor lo’i dkyil ’khor du bdag nyid ’jug pa’i cho ga dri med, 27 fols. (6 lines per folios). See Sakya Resource Center S4835, a copy in a private collection identified and documented by Mathias Fermer. The colophon (fol. 27a) reads: /dpal ldan dus kyi ’khor lo’i dkyil ’khor du/ /bdag nyid ’jug pa’i cho ga dri med ’di/ /pad ma dkar po ji ltar bzhed pa bzhin/ /rnam rgyal grags pa bzang po bdag gis sbyar/ /spar ’di [sby]in bdag brtsom pa po nyid de/ /zhus dag pa ni chos dbang bka’ bcu pa/ /yi ge mkhan po dpal ldan rgyal mtshan te/ /rkos mkhan mkhas pa bla ma nam seng yin/ /dge des srid gsum sems can ma lus pa’i/ bag chags (...) spangs nas/ blo bur dri ma’i sbubs las nges grol te/ /sku bzhi’i bdag nyid mngon du byed gyur cig/.

2. Title page: dPal ldan dus kyi ’khor lo’i bdag ’jug [bzhugs legs so], 34 fols. (6 lines per folio). See TBRC W2KG210288, at the beginning of vol. 2 for the scan of the whole copy. The colophon reads: /dpal ldan dus kyi ’khor lo’i dkyil ’khor du/ /bdag nyid ’jug pa’i cho ga dri med ’di/ /pad ma dkar po ji ltar bzhed pa bzhin/ /rnam rgyal grags pa bzang po bdag gis sbyar/ /spar ’di sbyin bdag brtsom pa po nyid de/ /zhus dag pa ni chos dbang bka’ bcu pa/ /yi ge pa ni byams pa sang mchog dang/ /rkos mkhan mkhas pa bla ma nam seng yin/ /dge des srid gsum sems can ma lus pa’i/ bag chags rigs bzhi’i dri ma kun spangs nas/ /blo bur dri ma’i sbubs las nges grol te/ /sku bzhi’i bdag nyid mngon du byed gyur cig//.

Notwithstanding the same title, the very similar colophon, and appearance, these are two distinct projects, unfortunately undated. They also have very similar illuminations. On the last folio, on the left hand side is ’Jam dpal grags pa (correct Sanskrit is Mañjuśrī Yaśas, see the comment below), and on the right side Pad ma dkar po (Puṇḍarīka), of whom the ruler was considered an emanation (see Cyrus Stearn’s biographical sketch in The Treasury of Lives website and references therein). So I imagine that these are indirect portrayals of the ruler in bodhisattva garb. On the first folio (1v) of the second edition are illuminations figuring Sākyamuni and Kālacakra (I don’t have images of the first folios of no. 1).

You’ll note that in both cases the carver is one mKhas pa bla ma Nam seng. However, this is unlikely to be the same lead carver of the edition in memory of Nyagpuwa, as the two projects would have been realized in distinct places. However, mKhan chen Seng ge dpal is called La stod Byang pa, so, there’s that. 

Also interesting, perhaps, is that in both the Nyagpuwa memorial edition and the La stod Byang edition no.2 , Sākyamuni is portrayed wearing robes that leave the right shoulder uncovered. While this is not uncommon in 15th century depictions of “Indian” monastic robes, Jörg points out that this was the special kind of monk’s robes worn by members of the Jo gdan tshogs sde bzhi: 

“That monks of the Jo gdan tshogs sde bzhi initially wore robes different from monks of other traditions can also be established from depictions in paintings. Two thangkas and one mural that portray masters of the four communities depict each of the main figures without the typical Tibetan style vest worn by most Tibetan monks, but instead with some sort of upper garment that, though covering the entire left upper body, leaves the breast area of the right side uncovered.  Two other related paintings depict the monks not with this type of dress, but with Indian-style robes without any vest at all. ” (p. 224)

Oh well, I don’t know if any of this is of any interest to you, but I thought to share it. Do with it whatever you wish.

(BTW, I am not very keen on repeating the common view that the Yongle canonical edition prompted the adoption of printing in Tibet. Indeed, there is evidence of at least one Western Tibetan edition that predates the completion of the canonical project (La stod lHo 1407), and masters such as O rgyan pa could have spread some copies of the Yuan editions and encouraged the/experimented with the adoption of the technology.* But well, this is another topic.)    

(*“Towards the History of Early Tibetan Printing: New Evidence and Uncharted Territories,” contained in: Volker Caumanns and Marta Sernesi, eds., Fifteenth Century Tibet: Cultural Blossoming and Political Unrest, Lumbini International Research Institute [Lumbini 2015], pp. 195–225.)

Woodcut miniatures from the initial folio of no. 2, listed above

 §   §   §

• Postscript (December 1, 2021)

Marta also recommended this very important writing on the subject that had escaped my attention by Kawa Sherab Sangpo: “Analysis of Tibetan Language Prints Produced During the Yuan Period (hor spar ma),” Inner Asia, vol. 15 (2013), pp. 201-224. It was originally published in Tibetan in 2009, and here translated into English by the late Tsering Gongkhatsang.

• Postscript (December 8-9, 2021)

I should take the opportunity add further items to the bibliography:

Orna Almogi & Dorji Wangchuk, “Prologue: Tibetan Textual Culture between Tradition and Modernity,” contained in Orna Almogi & Dorji Wangchuk, eds., Tibetan Manuscript and Xylograph Traditions: The Written Word and Its Media within the Tibetan Cultural Sphere, Indian and Tibetan Studies series no. 4, Department of Indian and Tibetan Studies, Universität Hamburg (Hamburg 2016), pp. 5-30, at p. 7:
“Note that according to Grönbold, the oldest Tibetan xylograph was found in Turfan and goes back to the 9th century (Grönbold 1982: 368).”
This refers to Günter Grönbold, “Die Schrift und Buchkultur Tibets,” contained in Claudius C. Müller & Walter Raunig, eds., Der Weg zum Dach der Welt, Pinguin Verlag (Innsbruck 1982), pp. 363–380.

And on p. 70 of the same volume, in an essay by Michela Clemente:
“It seems that the earliest extant Tibetan-language xylograph printed in Tibet was completed at Shel dkar (La stod lHo) in 1407.*”
* On this xylograph, see Diemberger 2012: 22, 23–26, 28–31; the contribution of Diemberger in this volume; Porong Dawa 2016. This xylograph was discovered by the dPal brtsegs Research Institute in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the British Library. The work is available in the CD-ROM of the dPal brtsegs book (see dPal brtsegs, text no. 1). 
Again, in the same volume, in the essay by Hildegard Diemberger, “Early Tibetan Printing in Southern La stod: Remarks on a 1407 Print Produced at Shel dkar,” pp. 105-125, at p. 106, this 1407 print is identified as the ’Grel chung don gsal: “so far the earliest extant print from Tibet.”* And do notice the photographed pages from Orgyanpa’s Kālacakra Tantra print on p. 107, and photos of the colophon pages of the 1407 print on p. 125.
(*As she says, this 90-folio print of the famous work by Haribhadra [སེང་གེ་བཟང་པོ་] in its Tibetan translation had been identified in 2009 by Porong Dawa and announced in a publication of 2013. It is most commonly known by its Sanskrit title Sphuṭārthā.)

Hildegard Diemberger, “Quand le livre devient relique - Les textes tibétains entre culture bouddhique et transformations technologiques,” Terrain, revue d’ethnologie europeénne, vol. 59, special issue entitled “L’objet livre” (2021), pp. 18-39. This includes a nice survey of Tibetan printing history.

Sam van Schaik, “The Uses of Early Tibetan Printing: Evidence from the Turfan Oasis,” contained in: H. Diemberger, et al., eds., Tibetan Printing: Comparisons, Continuities & Change, Brill (Leiden 2016) 171-194.  This volume is an open access publication, and Sam’s essay is especially recommended, and not only because it illustrates some of those remarkable early woodblock prints found in Turfan that Grönbold merely mentioned in his 1982 essay.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

This Is That Long Lost Buddhist History!

Buddha Miniature from the Gondhla Kanjur

I hope to better demonstrate the truth of it to you if you have a little time for it, but I can tell you one thing right away. I am ready to swear that the lion’s share of the over-600-year-old history composed by Üpa Losel (Dbus-pa Blo-gsal / དབུས་པ་བློ་གསལ་), has at long last emerged into the public record and is available to readers of Tibetan language. It should prove to be of use to all who ever felt the need to make histories out of the histories of the past. I guess that means historians, or them primarily. So if that label in some way fits you let’s get straight to it. Well, as straight as possible and with a straight face.

Just this year a very interesting set of 10 volumes was published. It may be a set, or it may be a series — books published in the PRC often seem to defy those distinctions. I’ll give the details later on. Its second volume bears the cover title Rgyal-rabs Chos-'byung Khag Drug, རྒྱལ་རབས་ཆོས་འབྱུང་ཁག་དྲུག, or “Six Distinct Dynastic and/or Buddhist Histories,” and it is here among those six things we must look to find it. One drawback: it has no title page as the first parts of the work are missing. Another drawback: in place of the final colophon identifying the author that we hoped to find, the editor copied only the first and last few words of it, and then comments that of the words that come in between the only thing legible is the name Üpa Losel.*

(*You have to bear in mind that this is an edited version of the text, in computerized script, and not a facsimile, as this may prove worth knowing for other reasons.)

All this is discussed by the editor in his introduction to the volume, and I can’t really add to it. Or if I can, I guess it would be by looking at the end of the chronological section near its end, where the author seems to identify himself as well as the date of his work.

The recent Tibeto-logic blog on chronology has had (according to Blogger's own inbuilt statistics) the lowest number of readers ever, so it looks as if I may be digging my own blog grave by doing it, but here goes :

Although he mentions other ideas, Üpa appears to go along with the idea found as well in the anonymously compiled Khepa Deyu (མཁས་པ་ལྡེའུ་) history of 1261* that Buddha Dharma will endure for 5,000 years (meaning 10 periods of half a millennium each) starting from the Parinirvana date. 

(*I’m happy to report that an English version will appear in print in May of next year. I see it’s already listed at this commercial site as forthcoming.)

He starts the discussion with Chömden Rigral (Bcom-ldan Rig-pa'i-ral-gri / བཅོམ་ལྡན་རིག་པའི་རལ་གྲི) who 

in a Hen year said that 2,093 years had passed since the passing of the Teacher according to the Kālacakra system.*

(*This must mean Rigral's 1261 history with the title Flowers Ornamenting the Sage’s Teachings [ཐུབ་པའི་བསྟན་པ་རྒྱན་གྱི་མེ་ཏོག], a work dated to 1261, an Iron Hen year. It is known to exist in manuscript form, but has not been published to the best of my knowledge, not even in his published collected works. Check BDRC to be sure, since there are by now at least three published sets of his compositions.)

(It is important to note that I follow Schaeffer & Kuijp’s dates for Rigral, meaning 1227-1305, and these agree with those supplied by BDRC, person ID no. P1217. It is clear that copies of his history work have been made available to some people somewhere. For a solid clue, try this link for example.) 

Then, in the Fire Female Pig year, Sönam Tsemo (Bsod-nams-rtse-mo / བསོད་ནམས་རྩེ་མོ་) did his calculations at Na-la-rtse Gnas-po-che saying that 3,300 years had passed.*

(*This must refer to the chronological section that ends Sönam Tsemo's most famous work, Entrance Gate to the Dharma, dated 1167, a Fire Pig year.)

Then, in a Fire Mouse year, at the death of the Great Jetsun (Rje-btsun Chen-po / རྗེ་བཙུན་ཆེན་པོ), Sakya Pandita (Sa-skya Paṇḍi-ta / ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜི་ཏ་) claimed that 3,347 years had passed.*

(*This means Sapan's calculation done upon the death of Dragpa Gyeltsen [Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan / གྲགས་པ་རྒྱལ་མཚན་] in 1216.) 

Then, in the time of the rainy season retreat at Sakya Monastery, Śākyaśrī made his calculations in an Iron Male Horse year in which he said that according to the Sen-dha-pa system, 1,753 years had passed.

And in the Fire Female Ox year the Lama Chökyi Gyelpo (Bla-ma Chos-kyi-rgyal-po / བླ་མ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ་) did calculations at Long Spring (Chu-mig Ring-mo / ཆུ་མིག་རིང་མོ་) in Tsang Province concluding that 3,110 years had passed. 

Hmm... That's a very interesting reference to the meeting known to history as the Dharma Convocation at the Spring (Chu-mig Chos-'khor / ཆུ་མིག་ཆོས་འཁོར་) that Pagpa ('Phags-pa / འཕགས་པ་) presided over in 1277 during his 2nd return visit to Tibet. Now I’ll understand if you need to check to make sure, but 1277 was in fact a Fire Ox year, so there is no reason for doubt, and the Lama Chökyi Gyelpo isn’t really a name but a respectful epithet used for Pagpa during his lifetime, usually in the slightly longer form Lama Dampa Chökyi Gyelpo, ‘Holy Lama Dharma King.’

Okay, I’m having fun with this, but it’s becoming evident from the look on your face that you are not. So despite myself I’ll stop here although I have to say, the list does keep getting so much more interesting with complications galore. That way we can jump forward two pages to the bit that is most relevant to us at the moment (starting at p. 225, the final paragraph):

Then, in the Iron Male Dragon year, in the Great Dharma College of Chomden Raldri (Bcom-ldan Ral-gri, i.e. Rigral), Üpa Losel did calculations finding that 3,316 years had passed. That means 1,680 years remain, and we are in the 500-year period of mere tokens.*

(*Earlier on in Üpa’s text as well as in the long Deyu history “mere tokens” (རྟགས་ཙམ་) means the 10th and final of the 500-year-long phases in Dharma's decline, at the end of which human lifetimes will be 50 years, and thereafter continue to decrease. Üpa had detailed this prophetic setup immediately before (at pp. 222-223), so it's a mystery why he thinks mere tokens is the phase he finds himself in, when it seems obvious that he is writing in what he himself ought to regard as the phase of Abhidharma (མངོན་པ་), the 7th of the 10 phases.)

Right now the Dharma phase is the one in which the life expectancy of the inhabitants of Jambu Island is 60 years, and in the phase of 50-year life expectancy the holy Dharma will decline, it is taught.

This means Üpa in his dating of Buddha’s death way back in 1977 BCE, was agreeing to disagree with Śākyaśrī, subject of that widely unread Tibeto-logic blog we mentioned before. Leaving the mildly complicated discussion aside for now, we take Üpa's dates to be ca. 1265-1355, so we have little choice but to date the history he wrote to the Iron Dragon year of 1340, even if the modern author of the introduction to the published volume, in his preface (p. 6), gives it a date of 1280. Your older hands in the realm of Tibet Studies will right away recognize how it is that this 60-year difference tends to happen with some regularity.

Now the updated Tibetan Histories book posted for download just before the holiday season last year needs updating now that this date is known. Finally, I have to say, if any readers have followed along this far, I commend your patience and admire your assiduity. As for me, it’s way past time for lunch.

- - -


It’s important to remember that the title given it in the book is not an actual title of the history, it’s simply descriptive. With neither title page nor colophon we cannot know what the title was intended to be:

Dbus-pa Blo-gsal, “Chos-’byung Skabs-bdun-ma” [‘Dharma Origins History in Seven Chapters’], contained in: Hor-dkar No-mo (Hor-shul Mkhan-sprul Dge-dpal), chief editor, Bod Rang-skyong-ljongs Rtsa-che’i Gna’-dpe’i Dpar-mdzod [‘A Print Treasury of Highly Esteemed Ancient Texts in the Tibet Autonomous Region’], Bod-ljongs Gna’-dpe Srung-skyob Mu-’brel Dpe-tshogs (Lhasa 2017), in 10 volumes, at vol. 2 (Rgyal-rabs Chos-'byung Khag Drug), pp. 175-227. 

Üpa Losel’s very valuable list of archaic words, with the title Brda Gsar-rnying-gi Rnam-par Dbye-ba, has been studied in two important articles by Professor Emeritus Mimaki Katsumi, a member of The Japan Academy:

Mimaki Katsumi, “Index to Two brDa gsar rñiṅ Treatises: The Works of dBus pa blo gsal and lCaṅ skya Rol pa'i rdo rje,” contained in a special issue of the Bulletin of the Narita Institute for Buddhist Studies (Naritasan Bukkyôkenkyûjo kiyô), vol. 15, no. 2 (1992), pp. 479-503. 

Mimaki Katsumi. “dBus pa blo gsal no "Shin Kyu Goi Shu" — Kôtei bon Shokô [The brDa gsar rñiṅ gi rnam par dbye ba of dBus pa blo gsal — a First Attempt at a Critical Edition],” contained in: Asian Languages and General Linguistics, Festschrift for Prof. Tatsuo Nishida on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday (Tokyo 1990), pp. 17-54.  Contains a critical text edition in Roman transcription (with numbers inserted so that one may first locate words in Mimaki's alphabetic index, and then locate them in the critical text edition).


Two volumes worth of Üpa Losel's works have been made available, with public access, by BDRC. Have a look and if you can find the history book anywhere among them do let us know.


David Wellington CHAPPELL, “Early Forebodings of the Death of Buddhism,” Numen, vol. 27, no. 1 (June 1980), pp. 122-154. 

This discussion can help people who have trouble imagining how much Buddhism’s sense of history turns around its inevitable decline and disappearance. Of course differing dates and rates of decline do  provoke discussions and continuing differences. If today there are some who would call themselves Buddhist progressivists, that would just serve as another sign of decline, am I right?


Dan MARTIN in collaboration with Yael Bentor, Tibetan Histories: A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Historical Works, Serindia Publications (London 1997).  

This by now out-of-print bibliography listed the then-lost history like this:  



mid 1300’s ?

Dbus-pa Blo-gsal, Chos-’byung. Evidently a history of Buddhism. Ref.:  MHTL, no. 10845.  K. Mimaki, “Two Minor Works Ascribed to Dbus-pa Blo-gsal,” contained in: S. Ihara and Z. Yamaguchi, eds., Tibetan Studies, Naritasan Shinshoji (Narita 1992), vol. 2, pp. 591-598, at p. 592. On the author, see Blue Annals, pp. 337-338.

The revised and expanded version of the book, dated December 21, 2020, may be freely downloaded here. Its entry no. 127 looks like this:

 - 127

mid 1300’s ?

Dbus-pa Blo-gsal (ca. 1265-1355), Chos-’byung. Evidently a history of Buddhism. Bio.: On the author, see Blue Annals, pp. 337-338. TBRC no. P3090. Lit.: Another work by this author is subject of Katsumi Mimaki, Blo gsal grub mtha’: Chapitres IX (Vaibhāṣika) et XI (Yogācāra) édités et Chapitre XII (Mādhyamika) édité et traduit, Zinbun Kagaku Kenkyusyo, Université de Kyoto (Kyoto 1982). Ref.: MHTL, no. 10845. K. Mimaki, ‘Two Minor Works Ascribed to Dbus-pa Blo-gsal,’ contained in: S. Ihara and Z. Yamaguchi, eds., Tibetan Studies, Naritasan Shinshoji (Narita 1992), vol. 2, pp. 591-598, at p. 592. See BLP no. 102. BLP no. 0421 lists what is apparently a description of the contents rather than a particular title for this work: Glang-dar-mas bstan-pa bsnubs rjes slar-yang bstan-pa dar-tshul, ‘The Way the Teachings Spread Once Again after Glang-dar-ma Put Them into Decline.’ BLP no. 1991 gives an even longer description: sangs-rgyas bstan-pa bod-du byung-tshul le-tshan gnyis dang glang-dar-mas bstan-pa bsnubs rjes slar-yang bstan-pa dar-tshul. Dung-dkar, pp. 164-165, identifies this as a rare Bka’-gdams Chos-’byung. This history is mentioned in Khri-chen Bstan-pa-rab-rgyas, Sog-yul Sogs-nas Mdo-sngags-kyi Gnad-rnams-la Dri-ba Thung-ngu Byung Rigs-rnams-kyi Dri-ba dang Dri-lan Phyogs-gcig-tu Bsdoms-pa, contained in: Blo-bzang Dgongs-rgyan Mu-tig Phreng-mdzes, Drepung Loseling Educational Society (Mundgod 1999), vol. 35, pp. 24-41, at p. 32: “Dbus-la Blo-gsal-gyi Chos-’byung-na / sngon-gyi rgyal-po-rnams-kyi mtshan / Deng-khri-btsan-po sogs rgyal-po mang-po-zhig-gi mtshan yang / deng-sang-gi Bod-skad-du ci zer?”


Kurtis R. SCHAEFFER and Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, An Early Tibetan Survey of Buddhist Literature, the Bstan pa rgyas pa rgyan gyi nyi 'od of Bcom ldan ral gri, Harvard Oriental Series, Harvard University Press (Cambridge 2009). 

This book is all about a canon catalog with a historical preface by Rigral. Although said to be known by the alternative title Bstan-pa Rgyas-pa Rgyan-gyi Me-tog, I do not believe it can be identified with the similar title given above, Thub-pa'i Bstan-pa Rgyan-gyi Me-tog (observe that almost all of Rigral's titles end with the same ‘poetic’ ending Flowers Adorning...). The most important information for us at this moment is found on p. 93 of Schaeffer and Kuijp’s book, where we see that the Thub-pa'i Bstan-pa Rgyan-gyi Me-tog (or a very similar title) exists in three (?) manuscript copies kept in various libraries and archives.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Kālacakra Tantra, the Second of Two Rare and Early Woodblocks

Folio 1 verso. The label below the miniature
seems to say “dang po'i sangs rgyas” ༼ ? ༽

2. Woodblocks Carved in Memory of Nyagpuwa

In his essay mentioned in the previous blog, Leonard van der Kuijp* uncovered written evidence that there was one Kālacakra Tantra woodblock printing done not too long after Orgyanpa’s ca. 1295 printing of the same. Done with Mongol imperial support in around 1310-1325, it was associated with the name of Rongpo Dorje Gyaltsen (1283-1325). I haven’t learned of the present existence of this early print, so I can’t show you any photographs and will say no more about it. 

(*The Kālacakra and Patronage of Tibetan Buddhism, pp. 26-29.)

In today’s blog I’d like to introduce an interesting early, but post-Mongol-era, printing that appears to have gone unnoticed even now that a scan of it has been made available. I won’t need to discuss it in much detail, since most of the information is already out there, and practically all I have to do is supply the links for you to explore for yourself. I’m trying to say, ‘Don’t read what I write, go to my links.’

I only visited Lhasa a few times. The first and second were very different experiences, even if both had their very high and very low points despite the fact the altitude remained a consistent 2.27 miles high throughout. You may know what I mean, don’t get me started on it. One high point of my second trip was to get the unusual permission to enter the stacks of the newly opened library in front of the Norbu Lingka, the Dalai Lamas’ summer residence. I noticed a lot of fantastic xylographs and manuscripts there on those cold metal shelves but today I’ll only speak of one of them. Unfortunately, although it was doable, I didn’t make any xeroxes of it. Still, I did take down the following notes:

Tibet Library, Lhasa, no. 13013:  Dpal dus kyi 'khor lo'i rgyud 'di thams cad mkhyen pa mnyag phu pa bsod nams bzang <?> thugs dgongs rdzogs pa'i phyir gdan gcig gi ring lugs pa jo gdan sengge dpal gyis …,  This is a copy of 5-chapter Kālacakra Tantra in 75 folios.  Gnyag-phu-ba appears in the printing colophon.
Well, just a few days ago, looking through some new postings of scanned collections on TBRC, I had a huge déjà vu. My eyes fell on what is surely the same woodcarving as the one I had seen long ago in Lhasa. Still, I was thinking it might possibly be a different printed example of it. If you compare my transcription of the title page above with the scan photo you see below, it seems that the right hand side is practically impossible to read in both, so I suppose they are identical, just that now I would read the faint letters a little differently:  

Dpal dus kyi 'khor lo'i rgyud thams cad mkhyen pa gnyag phu pa bsod nams bzang po'i (?) thugs dgongs rdzogs pa'i phyir gdan gcig gi ring lugs pa jo gdan seng ge dpal gyis bzhengs (?).

The colophon at the end of it starts out with the translation statements ending with Shongtön that we mentioned in the earlier blog. But then it continues, likely indicating that it is a somewhat later revision, as we may have expected anyway: 
gang zhig thugs dgongs rnam par dag pa yis // 
'di la bskul zhing 'thun rkyen bsgrubs pa dang // 
bdag gis 'bad las bsod nams gang thob des // 
kun gyis 'di rtogs sangs rgyas sar gnas shog //
slar yang dpal ldan bla ma dam pa chos kyi rje thams cad mkhyen pa* dang //  dpal dus kyi 'khor lo ba chen po dharma kî rti shrî bha dras** // 'di'i don rnams legs par dgongs shing bka' yis bskul nas de dag gi gsung bzhin du // pan ti ta chen po sthi ra ma ti'i*** bka' drin las legs par sbyar ba'i tshul rig pa // lo tstsha ba shâkya'i dge slong blo gros rgyal mtshan dang // blo gros dpal bzang pos // rgyud dang 'grel pa'i rgya dpe mang po la btugs nas // dag pa rnams dang mthun par bsgyur cing zhus te gtan la phab pa'o //****
(*This is a person too venerated to even name other than by giving this very long epithet. **This is none other than the Sanskritic form of the name of the Sanskritist Chos-grags-dpal-bzang-po (1283-1363) who ordered Bu-ston (1290-1364)  to translate Tôh. no 452.  TBRC Person ID no. P2251 tells us he was stabbed to death at the age of 81. ***This means one of the several Tibetans named Blo-brtan or Blo-gros-brtan-pa, all of them Sanskritists of the Bodong E school. ****This is included in the Tanjur, Tôh. no. 4288, a work by the Indian called Māṃ-hi-ka-wi (could it be Maṃmaṭa?!?) entitled Kalāpasūtravṛtti Syādivibhaktiprakriyā. It has a colophon that says, according to the catalogue, that it was translated by Blo-gros-brtan-pa and Chos-grags-dpal-bzang-po. But, as I read the colophon, it’s translated by the grammarian Bhikṣu translators Blo-gros-rgyal-mtshan and Blo-gros-dpal-bzang-po, at the orders of Chos-grags-dpal-bzang-po. Here it’s possible to recognize almost all of the persons mentioned in this paragraph of our colophon, so we may be sure the revised version of the tantra done in Bu-ston's times, around mid-14th century, is the one contained in this particular woodblock print).  

de ltar gsung rab rgya mtsho'i nges don stong nyid snying rje'i snying po ni // 
rnam kun mchog ldan stong pa nyid dang 'gyur med mchog gi bde chen du //  
legs ston dus kyi 'khor lor 'bad pa'i dge ba gang des 'gro ba kun // 
gzhung 'di rtogs shing lam der zhugs nas 'bras bu de nyid myur thob shog // 

[end translation/revision colophon, and begin printing colophon]

xxx xxx legs lam zab mo'i don bston rgyud kyi rgyal po mchog gyur 'di // rnam kun mchog ldan zab don mngon gyur chos kyi rgyal po gnyag phu ba // rnam mang gdul bya gang la gang gdul rang rang skal pa dang mtsham pa // rnam pa mang po yi smin grol mdzad de'i dgongs pa yongs su rdzogs phyir dang // rnam dkar nges don bstan pa dar rgyas mtha' yas sems can don [.8] phyir du // rnam par gus pas seng ger 'bod pa'i kha che paṇ chen rings lugs pas // spar du sgrubs pa'i dpon yig dge ba kos (~yi ge rkos?) mkhan ma las pa nam seng dang // mgon dpal bsod rgyal yon tan dpal te kun kyang kun mkhyen myur thobs shog // gang de'i mthu las bstan pa dar rgyas bstan 'dzin sku tshe ring ba dang // bstan pa kun dang rgyal khas bde skyid dg[e] legs 'ph[e]l ba'i bkra shis shog.


At the very end of this you can see a set of names, I think four names in all, the chief of them being the foreman of the wood carvers, with a name that isn't clear to me, perhaps Ma-las-pa Nam-seng? Or is the chief of the woodcarving shop a woman? That may make more sense of what we see there, which could be read as “yig-ge brkos-mkhan-ma,” ‘female letter carver,’ in which case her name would be Las-pa Nam-seng, or Craftsperson Nam-mkha’-seng-ge? I’m not sure of it. Let me know if you see or understand something else.*
(*Note, Dec. 4, 2021: Now, for what looks like a better reading, see this.)

The person who actually went about the business of getting the carving done here gives his name in a short form as "the one called Sengge,” but we know from the title page that he was Jo-gdan Seng-ge-dpal. The colophon adds the information that he was a follower of the tradition of Khache Panchen, and that means the Kashmiri pundit Śākyaśrībhadra as founder of a monastic lineage.* And it says again that it was made in part in fulfillment of the intentions of Nyagpuwa, describing him as a master of these teachings able to adjust them to the abilities and potentials of a wide variety of students.
(*See Hou Haoran, “Some Remarks on the Transmission of the Ascetic Discipline of the ‘Single Mat’ within the ’Bri gung Bka’ brgyud pa Tradition,” a PDF located on the internet. Try here.)
To see the entire woodblock print, see TBRC no. W3CN26624 by clicking on this sentence. Or if the link doesn’t work, search for that number on TBRC/BDRC or BUDA websites and when you find it go to volume 1.

For information on Nyagpuwa, his names and dates (1341-1433), see TBRC person ID no. P2460. Cyrus Stearns has written a remarkable summary of his biography in Treasury of Lives.

Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) has a brilliant portrait of Nyagpuwa belonging to the Rubin Collection that you can see at HAR no. 273. Once you get there, find Nyagpuwa depicted in the lower left-hand corner of the tanka painting. It’s really him as you can know if you “Take a closer look” and magnify the area next to him, where you ought to find his name revealed in golden letters.

Did I say what I think the date of the woodcarving would have been? No date is supplied in the colophon. Still, given that Nyagpuwa died in 1433, and seeing that it was accomplished as part of his death memorial observances, it must have been made soon after 1433. This was just the time when woodblock carving seems to have started becoming a Tibet-based printing art, outsourcing in China or Tangut Land no longer a necessity.

Well, there is a lot more to find out about the history of Tibetan-language woodblocks, but at the moment, if forced to generalize and guesstimate, I think it got its start in a small way with short texts in the middle of the 12th century in Tangut Land,* subsequently received the support of Mongolian royalty, and only started to take off as a serious profession for Tibetan craftspeople in the 15th.** In the next centuries, Tibetan workers showed themselves more than capable of taking on larger and larger projects, with their heyday in the 18th century. That general picture will need a lot of adjusting and fleshing out in the future, of that there is no doubt.

(*I could list references for this if you need them, just that I can’t seem to find the energy to do it right now. If you want to know when Tibetan-inscribed woodblocks first appeared in Tangut Land you had better ask a Tangutologist. Or have a look at the essays by Shen Weirong and by Heather Stoddard as contained in: Jean Luc Achard, Anne Chayet, Christina Scherrer-Schaub, Françoise Robin, eds., Édition, éditions: l'écrit au Tibet, évolution et devenir, Indus Verlag [Munich 2010], especially the sample xylographic print illustrated on p. 364. **The Yunglo xylograph of the Kanjur appeared in 1410, so I suppose it could have been a source of inspiration.) 


Works of Snyag-phu-ba Bsod-nams-bzang-po / སྙག་ཕུ་བ་བསོད་ནམས་བཟང་པོ་ (1341-1433)

I’ve tagged on here at the end a listing of Nyagpuwa’s works currently known to me, taken from Tibskrit. Not included in it is a history of the Lamas who transmitted the Fasting Rites of Avalokiteśvara entitled Smyung gnas bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar. I purchased a woodblock print of it in the Barkhor in Lhasa during the trip mentioned before.

Note that PPTK, pp. 145-146, has a listing of 17 titles from a manuscript volume of the works of “Jo gdan Snyag phu ba Bsod nams bzang po.”

PPTK means this catalog of collected works of Kagyü masters in the Potala Palace in Lhasa: Pho brang po ta la do dam khru’u rig dngos zhib ’jug khang, Pho brang po ta lar tshags pa'i bka' brgyud pa'i gsung 'bum dkar chag, Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang (Lhasa 2007).  

Most of the list compiled here is based on the Drepung Catalog, where his works are scattered here and there (I doubt I could find everything). 

Chos 'byung rin po che'i gter.

Drepung Catalog, p. 1452.  A 31-folio manuscript. This history book has in recent years been published at least three times. It's largely based on the history bu Bu-ston.

Chos kyi dris lan legs bshad rgya mtsho.

PPTK, p. 145.

Dbu ma chos kyi dbyings su bstod pa'i rnam par bshad pa snying po gsal ba.

Drepung Catalog, p. 1452.

'Dul ba bdud rtsi'i nying khu.

Drepung Catalog, pp. 1435, 1447.  Here the author is named as Jo gdan Gnyag phu ba Bsod nams bzang po.

PPTK, p. 145.

'Dul ba'i lag len rin po che'i gter.

Drepung Catalog, p. 1452.

Gsang 'dus gnyis med rnam rgyal gyi dkyil 'khor gyi cho ga bdud rtsi'i rgya mtsho.

Drepung catalog, p. 414.

Gtan tshigs rigs pa'i don bsdus pa rin po che'i phreng ba.

Drepung Catalog, p. 1452.

Jo bo bka' gdams pa'i nyin zhag phrug gcig gi mchod brjod kyi rim pa.

PPTK, p. 145.

Padma dbang chen gyi dkyil 'khor du 'jug cing dbang bskur ba'i cho ga padma'i rigs kyi snying po.

Drepung Catalog, p. 631.  Author named as Gnyags phu Bsod nams bzang po.

Padma dbang chen gyi sgrub thabs 'phrin las gsal byed nyi ma'i 'od zer.

Drepung Catalog, p. 631.

Padma dbang chen yang gsang khros pa'i dbang chog padma'i rigs kyi snying po.

PPTK, p. 145.

'Phags pa bcu gcig zhal gyi bla brgyud rnam thar.

PPTK, p. 145.

'Phags pa don yod zhags pa'i snying po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po'i mdo.

Drepung Catalog, p. 561.

'Phags pa gnas brtan bcu drug la gsol ba gdab pa'i cho ga bklag pa tsam gyi don 'grub pa.

PPTK, p. 145.

Rgyas pa'i bstan bcos tshad ma rnam 'grel gyi 'grel bshad rin chen phren ba.

Drepung Catalog, p. 1452.  A 247 folio manuscript.

Rgyud 'bum rin po che'i dkar chag paṇ chen ma ti nas brgyud pa.  Written by one of his students.

Drepung Catalog, p. 918.

Sangs rgyas kyi dus chen bzhi dang brgyad kyi ngos 'dzin.

Drepung Catalog, p. 618.

Sbyor ba yan lag drug gi ngo sprod rab gsal zla ba [khrid ma thob pa la gsang].

Drepung Catalog, p. 155.

Shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa'i lus rnam gzhag gi bsdus don.

Drepung Catalog, p. 1452.

Spyan ras gzigs kyi gzungs sgrub.

Drepung Catalog, p. 709.

Spyan ras gzigs phyag stong spyan stong gi sgrub thabs thugs rtse'i 'byung gnas.

Drepung Catalog, p. 945.

Thugs rje chen po bcu gcig pa'i sgrub pa nyams su len thabs.

Drepung Catalog, p. 561.


Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Kālacakra Tantra, the First of Two Rare and Early Woodblocks

1. Woodblocks Carved for Orgyanpa

One Thanksgiving holiday in Boston back in 1998, E. Gene Smith gave me free use of his library with permission to take out and photocopy anything I found interesting. I did find many astounding things. With one exception, I won’t bother you with them right now. That one thing I’d like to draw attention to is a woodblock printed copy of the Kālacakra Tantra with all five of its chapters in 179 folios. I didn’t photocopy it, but I surely did take some notes. I could scarcely believe I was holding such a precious object in my own hands and seeing it with my own eyes.

I noticed it had Chinese characters in the righthand margins. These are numbers for the benefit of printshop workers who couldn’t read Tibetan numbers, indicating that the woodcarving was not done inside Tibet. It also had glued directly onto every page tiny squares of paper bearing Arabic page numbers, as if in preparation for its photo-reproduction. The cloth label extending from the narrow end of the volume read: “dpal dus kyi 'khor lo'i rgyud yar 'brog par rnying” (which would seem to mean that it was an ‘old print’ [par rnying] from the area of Yamdrok Lake? I really can’t explain it). I will insert here a transcription of the printing colophon with part of the translator’s colophon that comes before it. It tells us that what we have here is the translation as established by one particular Sanskrit grammarian who was so important for the history of Tibetan literary arts, the fully ordained monk Shongtön (ཤོང་སྟོན་) who lived ca. 1235 to sometime after 1280. Since no later revisers are mentioned, we assume that this print represents Shongtön’s actual unrevised editorial work. This could prove of some significance for future studies of the changes in the Tibetan translation done over time. It has been said that the Tibetan version of the Kālacakra Tantra underwent around 25 different stages of translation and revision. The colophon says Shongtön compared two different Sanskrit exemplars from Magadha when he made his translation. And the Bla-ma Dam-pa Chos-kyi-rgyal-po mentioned there without a doubt intends the ruler Phagpa (འཕགས་པ་), known to have sponsored Shongtön’s philological pursuits with generous grants of gold.

According to what Gene told me later, this print in his collection had already been published in the works of Bodong Panchen Choglenamgyal (བོ་དོང་པཎ་ཆེན་ཕྱོགས་ལས་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་, 1376-1451). In fact, I could eventually locate it in vol. 116 of the set published under the English title Encyclopaedia Tibetica, where it fills the entire volume. Have a look at it. If you wonder what it is doing in the works of Bodong Panchen, wonder no more. Often things by other authors on subjects he had a special interest in were included,* and both he and Shongtön belonged to what might be called the Bodong E lineage of Sanskrit literary expertise. Shongtön would have been regarded by Bodong Panchen as an ancestor of sorts.**

(*The Padampa texts are another example of such texts not authored by him that were included. I may go into that another time. **A less important detail, but still worth noting is that this reprint version lacks the handwritten mchan-note that forms a part of the following transcription, but seems otherwise closely identical. If you were paying attention you would know that the text I saw in Gene's library was very likely the one used in the making of the published version just linked, so the absence of the mchan-note would seem to indicate an erasure in the publication process...  But then another small bit is clear only in the published version...)

Here are the colophon pages. I’ll transcribe them at the end of this blog:

So where would a poor Tibetanist like me turn for more information about the circumstances surrounding the making of this woodblock print? Where else but to Harvard professor Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp and his splendid essay entitled, The Kālacakra and Patronage of Tibetan Buddhism, at pages 20 and following. He dates the preparation of the woodblocks to somewhere between 1294 and 1309. That makes it a “Hor Par-ma” — let’s translate that as ‘Yuan Print’ — and one among the earliest woodblock prints ever made in the Tibetan language.* 
(*Some old Dhāraṇī prints may be considerably older, and notice, too, some other early and earlier things mentioned below in the bibliography. Small texts were woodblocked in Tibetan in Tangut Land already in the middle of the 12th century.) 

The colophon doesn’t state it in so many words, but it does appear that the Empress Mother (Ta’i-hu Yum) and Child, identified by Leonard as Kököcin and her son Öljeitü would have sponsored this printing as part of memorial observances for Qubilai following his death in the winter of 1294. To avoid possible confusion with another member of Mongolian royalty, this particular Öljeitü is one and the same as Qubilai's grandson and successor Temur (1265-1307).  The expressed function of the carving project is indicated in the line that could be translated, ‘completing the intentions of the Royal Lord of Men.’ Completing the intentions is a normal way to speak about meritorious donations of sacred objects (holy books, icons and so on) on behalf of the deceased person as one kind of funerary observance.

But I would say it isn’t just its age that makes it significant, the woodblock print itself is a veritable contact relic of the famous Kālacakra master Orgyanpa. And regardless of where it was made it’s a cultural monument of the Tibetan people’s literary and religious arts. Just knowing about its existence should go for a blessing.

Here’s my transcription of the colophon for the use of those who read transliterated Tibetan with ease. I made some of the names in red font to draw attention to them.

177v.2  kha che'i pandi ta so ma nā tha dang lo tsha ba 'bro dge slong shes rab grags kyis bsgyur cing zhus te gtan la phab pa las / dus phyis yon tan phul du byung ba dpag tu med pas spras pa'i bla ma dam pa chos kyi rgyal po'i bka' lung dang / dpon chen shākya bzang po'i gsung bzhin du / mkhas pa chen po zhang ston mdo sde dpal dang / dus kyi 'khor lo'i tshul khong du tshud pa'i dge slong tshul khrims dar gyis don gyi cha la legs par dpyad cing bskul te / legs par sbyar ba'i skad kyis brda sprod pa'i bstan bcos rig pa'i dge slong shong ston gyis / dpal sa skya'i gtsug lag khang chen por yul dbus kyi rgya dpe gnyis la gtugs shing / legs par bcos te gtan la phab pa'o // // 

gang gi thugs dgongs rnam par dag pa yis //

'di la bskul zhing mthun rkyen bsgrubs pa dang //

bdag gis 'bad las bsod nams gang thob ba //

kun gyis 'di [178r] rtogs sangs rgyas sar gnas shog //

bde legs su gyur cig //

dpal ldan dus 'khor rgyud kyi rgyal po 'di //

sangs rgyas bstan pa dar cing rgyas pa dang //

mi dbang rgyal po'i thugs dgongs rdzogs pa 'am //

tha'i hu yum sras chab srid brtan byas nas //

gdul bya sems can kun la phan phyir du //

u rgyan pa zhes grags pas par du bsgrubs //

[note: here there is a handwritten mchan-note saying “sprul sku rin chen dpal bzang po”]

'di las byung ba'i dge ba'i rtsa ba rnams //

'gro bas kun mkhyen thob phyir smon lam brdab //

phyogs bcu rgyal ba rgya mtsho sras dang bcas //

ka rgyud [=bka' brgyud] bla ma rgyal ba'i 'phrin las mdzad //

rgyal ba'i gsung rab tshig don bcas pa dang //

'phags pa'i dge 'dun rnam grol zhi ba'i thugs //

dkon mchog gsum la phyag 'tshal skyabs su mchi //

'gro ba ma lus rtag tu ghurs [=thugs] rjes skyobs //

dkon mchog gsum gyi rang bzhin 'gro ba'i 'gon //

dus gsum rgyal ba'i ngo bo chos kyi rje //

khams gsum 'gro ba kun gyi skyabs gyur ba'i //

dpal ldan dgod tshang ba la gsol ba ['debs] //

[illeg. about 10 letters;   i] bzang sk[ye] ba thams cad du //

rang gi 'dod pa gang yang mi sgrub cing //

mtha' yas 'gro ba'i dpal mgon bya ba'i phyir //

rnam pa kun du bzhan [=gzhan] don byed par shog //

[178v] [illeg, about 6 letters] spy[o?]d snyan grags gnyen 'dun dang //

bdag gi dge ba'i rtsa ba thams cad kyis //

sems can kun la phan pa'i don gyi phyir //

phangs sems zhen chags med par rtongs bar [?] shog [?] //

mtha' bral phyag rgya chen po'i don rtogs nas //

dmigs med snying rje chen pos rgyud [.....?] bsten //

stong nyid snying rje zung 'jug rtogs pa'i don //

mtha' yas 'gro ba kun la skye bar shog //

pha rol phyin drug bsod nams mthar phyin te //

ye shes rtogs pas bzung 'dzin rtsad nas dag //

'gro kun tshogs gnyis lhun gyis grub pa'i //

dpal ldan sku gsum rgyal srid skyongs par shog //

zab mo dbang bzhi dgongs pa mthar phyin te //

gnas skabs bzhi bor sku bzhir lhun gyis grub //

nyon mongs rnams ni ye shes chen por 'bar //

'gro kun zab mo'i sngags la spyod par shog //

skye zhing skye ba dag ni thams cad du //

sdom gsum dri med rtsang ma srun pa dang //

bla ma dam pa'i zhabs drung gus btud te //

zab mo rdo rje theg pa'i tshig don rnams //

thos zhing rtogs nas tshul bzhin sgrub par shog //

phyogs bcu nam mkha'i mtha' dang mnyam pa'i //

sems can rnams gyi don rnams sgrub pa'i phyir //

ji ltar [remainder missing, but it is found in the reprint in Bo-dong-pa's Encyclopaedia Tibetica, vol. 116, p. 359, =fol. 179r] rgya dang rgyal ba'i sras rnams kyis //

dpag med 'gro ba'i don rnams grub pa ltar //

de ltar bdag gis kyang ni sgrub par shog //

bdag gis dus gsum dgye ba ci spyad pa //

nam mkha'i mtha' las gyur pa'i sems rnams //

bla med theg pa mchog gi sgor zhugs nas //

kun kyang rdo rje 'dzin pa'i bdag nyid shog //

sdig sems mi dge' nam yang mi spyod cing //

rtag tu dge ba 'ba' zhig spyod par shog //  //

 dge'o /

bkra shis par gyur cig / /  

[scribal colophon:] yi ge'i mkhan po rtse lda [=rtse lde, =rtse lnga?] rin chen dpal gyi dag par bris //  

om ye dharmâ he du pra bha wa he dun te … … [ends with verse of interdependent origination, but the style of its printed {?} letters seems rather different]


Reading List for Early Woodblock Printings of Tibetan Language Works

Dungkar Lobzang Trinlé, “Tibetan Woodblock Printing: An Ancient Art and Craft,” translated by the late Tsering Dhondup Gonkatsang, Himalaya, vol. 36, no. 1, article 17 (May 2016), pp. 162-177.  A useful introduction to the subject, much recommended.

David P. Jackson, “More on the Old Dga’-ldan and Gong-dkar-ba Xylographic Editions,” Studies in Central and East Asian Religions, vol. 2 (1989), pp. 1-18.

David P. Jackson, “Notes on Two Early Printed Editions of Sa-skya-pa Works,” Tibet Journal, vol. 8, no. 2 (1983), pp. 5-24. From p. 6: “The earliest known Tibetan-language xylographic blocks from which prints survive are those of the Kālacakra Tantra that were carved under Mongol patronage at the request of lama U-rgyan-pa (1230-1309).” The attached footnote 14 located on p. 22, gives the published version of it in Encyclopaedia Tibetica and comments that it was E. Gene Smith who brought it to his attention.

Matthew T. Kapstein, “A Fragment from a Previously Unknown Edition of the Pramāṇavarttika Commentary of Rgyal-tshab-rje Dar-ma-rin-chen (1364-1432),” contained in: Franz-Karl Ehrhard & Petra Maurer, eds., Nepalica-Tibetica: Festgabe for Christoph Cüppers, International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies (Andiast 2013), vol. 1, pp. 315-324.

Kawa Sherab Sangpo, “Mongolian Female Rulers as Patrons of Tibetan Printing at the Yuan Court: Some Preliminary Observations on Recently Discovered Materials,” contained in: Hildegard Diemberger, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Peter Kornicki, eds., Tibetan Printing: Comparison, Continuities, and Change, Brill (Leiden 2016), pp. 38-44.

Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, “Faulty Transmissions: Some Notes on Tibetan Textual Criticism and the Impact of Xylography,” contained in: Jean Luc Achard, Anne Chayet, Christina Scherrer-Schaub, Françoise Robin, et al., eds., Édition, éditions: l'écrit au Tibet, évolution et devenir, Indus Verlag (Munich 2010), pp. 441-463. Here is some impressive information about how students of Smar-pa Shes-rab-seng-ge (1135-1203) had his works carved into woodblocks in the very early 1200’s in Tangut country (see p. 453). There is mention, too, of a 1278 Dadu (Beijing) woodblock edition of the Tshad-ma Rigs-pa'i Gter by Sakya Pandita (p. 445), the date making it a definite Hor Par-ma.

Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, The Kālacakra and the Patronage of Tibetan Buddhism by the Mongol Imperial Family, The Central Eurasian Studies Lectures series no. 4, Department of Central Eurasian Studies (Bloomington 2004), a booklet in 62 pages, especially pp. 20-29.

Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, “A Note on the Hor Par-ma Mongol Xylograph of the Tibetan Translation of Dharmakīrti's Pramāṇavārttika (Tshad ma rnam 'grel),” Journal of Tibetology, vol. 9 (2014), pp. 1-5.  This woodblock print, to be seen at TBRC no. W1CZ2047, dates to 1284.

Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, “Two Mongol Xylographs (Hor Par Ma) of the Tibetan Text of Sa Skya Pandita's Work on Buddhist Logic and Epistemology,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 16, no. 2 (Winter 1993), pp. 279-298. This is about two Yuan era woodblock prints of Tibetan works, the first a work of Sakya Pandita printed in 1284 that Leonard at the time suggested is "perhaps... the earliest Tibetan blockprint as such." With all the new facsimiles and published editions of old Tibetan texts popping up in recent years, he was bound to change his mind, and did. The 2nd dates to the mid-Mongol era, likely the year 1315.

Brenda W.L. Li, A Critical Study of the Life of the 13th-Century Tibetan Monk U rgyan pa Rin chen dpal Based on His Biographies, doctoral dissertation, Oxford University (Oxford 2011). This seems to be the latest word on the life of Orgyanpa. It’s downloadable here. Once you have it on your screen, go first to p. 46, then to p. 294 for illustrations from the "woodblock text printed by U rgyan pa in Dadu (Beijing) in c.1293." It looks like an independently existing original print from the same woodblocks. It does seem hasty to say that Sherab Sangpo ‘discovered’ the existence of Yuan period printings of Tibetan texts (with reference to his 2009 publication). “Until this discovery, there had been neither textual nor other material evidence to prove that texts in the Tibetan language were printed in Yuan China.” If there is a discoverer, I suppose it would, to the best of my knowledge, have to be David Jackson (his 1983 essay, listed above) or E. Gene Smith before him. But even then, using the language of discovery or ‘firsts’ is bound to prove risky, every bit as risky as statements of who got somewhere first, or when any particular thing first took place in history.

Porong Dawa, “New Discoveries in Early Tibetan Printing History,” contained in: H. Diemberger, et al., eds., Tibetan Printing: Comparisons, Continuities & Change, Brill (Leiden 2016), pp. 195-211. An open access publication, find it if you can.

Marta Sernesi, “A Mongol Xylograph (hor par ma) of the Tibetan Version of the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkārabhāṣya,” contained in: Vincent Tournier, Vincent Eltschinger & Marta Sernesi, eds., Archaeologies of the Written: Indian, Tibetan, and Buddhist Studies in Honour of Cristina Scherrer-Schaub, Università degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale (Naples 2020), pp. 527-549. I suppose I should have listed a lot of other works on Tibetan xylography by Michela Clemente and by Marta Sernesi, but I'll do this some other time.

Shi Jinbo, “A Study of the Earliest Tibetan Woodcut Copies.”  PDF from internet.  I hope you can find it if you search for it.

Heather Stoddard, “The Woodcut Illustrations in Tibetan Style from the Xixiazang,” contained in the 2nd edition of her Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Orchid Press (Bangkok 2008), pp. 33-42. In the century before they were very nearly wiped out by the Mongol invasion (see The Flood that Backfired), the Tanguts (མི་ཉག / Xixia) were the foreigners who patronized verbal and visual icons for Tibetan masters. The emphasis here is on woodblocks of artworks rather than Tibetan texts, but in any case, it’s entirely relevant.

This blog is offered in homage to Leonard, with gratitude.

Have a close look at the Metropolitan Museum’s outstandingly accomplished stitched silk ‘painting,’ dated to 1330-32, depicting in its lower left-hand corner, these two Mongol princes, their wives in the facing right-hand corner. All four are in typical devotional poses as patrons of the holy object that is none other than the very icon where their portraits appear. Try to identify them. Didn’t Heather write about this somewhere? At least one of the legends is legible enough.

A detail. See the rest of it at the Met's website.

Postscript (December 1, 2021)

I see that TBRC has put up a scan of the 1294 Kālacakra Tantra xylograph, but its first and last folios are either damaged or replaced by manuscript pages. Still, it's interesting as another impression from the same blocks.  Go to https://www.tbrc.org/#!rid=W4CZ75 to see it.

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