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.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Dan,
    Thank you for spotting and highlighting this fantastic book copy newly scanned (2021!) and added to the TBRC repository. It must have been quite a dèja-vu indeed.
    As much as it would be nice to read in the printing colophon a female leader of the carvers, I am afraid that I just read kos mkhan mkhas pa nam seng, a carver who is a learned person called Nam mkha' seng ge. My eyes are not so good, but it does seem more likely.
    Also, you might like to check another Yuan period (1351) edition of Kālacakra texts, described as TEXT 8 in Sherab Sangpo "Analysis of Tibetan Language Prints Produced During the Yuan Period (hor spar ma)", Inner Asia 15 (2013): 201–224.
    All best wishes, Marta


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