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

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• 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.

1 comment:

  1. A miniscule correction to the awe-inspiring discussion of Kālacakra imprints in Tibet. In a Kālacakra context [rigs ldan] 'jam dpal grags pa represents Sanskrit [Kalkin] Mañjuśrī Yaśas. I've tried to clean up the wrong Sanskritization of Tibetan names of the dharmarāja-s and kalkin-s of Sambhala [yes, that is in fact the Sanskrit spelling, not "sham bha la"] -- which goes back to the very beginning of Tibetology -- for more than thirty years now, but I have failed miserably. I spent a couple of hours correcting the Wikipedia page on "Shambhala." When I returned a day later someone had carefully restored all of the falsely invented Sanskrit: "Kulika Mañjuśrīkī" (instead of correct Kalkin Mañjuśrī Yaśas); "Candrabhadra" (instead of correct Sucandra), and so forth. Oh well, maybe next life...


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