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Tibetan Manuscript and Xylograph Traditions

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The Written Word and Its Media within the Tibetan Culture Sphere

Edited by Orna Almogi


To the Tibetan scholars, scribes, and carvers of the past, present, and future


Preface


Textual scholarship, including text and book cultures, has a long and rich history throughout the Tibetan cultural sphere. Since the development of the Tibetan script—according to traditional sources sometime in the 7th century—tens (or perhaps hundreds) of thousands of texts, be they of Indic origin or autochthonous Tibetan, have been written down on Tibetan soil. Consequently, a much greater number of books, be they in the form of manuscripts or xylographs, were produced, transmitted, and further reproduced throughout the centuries. Tibetan textual scholarship thus becomes highly interesting and relevant for all of us who strive to gain a nuanced and wellfounded knowledge of Tibetan intellectual culture, intellectual history, religion, philosophy, textual criticism, literature, or language. In recent years we have been witnessing a growing interest in Tibetan textual scholarship—including Tibetan text and book cultures—that goes beyond the mere textual and contentual matters. Issues concerning material and visual aspects of Tibetan book culture—including writing materials, economical and

logistical aspects of production, patronage, codicology, palaeography, technology, craftsmanship, artistry, and art—and such concerning Tibetan text culture—including traditional textual scholarship in general and compilatory processes and editorial policies in particular—have come to the forefront of Tibetan Studies. Religious and sociological aspects of Tibetan book culture have likewise been increasingly addressed—particularly those focusing on the book as being a ritual or reverential object, an artefact possessing magical powers, a prestigious item to be owned, a merit-accruing object, or a piece of art. With the conviction that a better understanding of these aspects will advance and enhance Tibetan textual studies as a whole, a conference on “Manuscript and Xylograph Traditions within the Tibetan Cultural Sphere: Regional and Periodical Characteristics” was held at the Universität Hamburg in May 15–18, 2013. As the title suggests, the conference aimed at discussing and identifying regional and periodical characteristics of various manuscript and xylograph traditions within the Tibetan cultural sphere. The present volume contains twelve of the papers presented at the conference along with

an introductory essay, which all together cover many of the abovementioned issues regarding Tibetan manuscripts, xylographs, and legal handwritten documents, stemming from different periods of Tibetan history and from various regions within the Tibetan cultural sphere, including such that had been under its influence in the past. Although the volume is far from addressing neither all traditions of text and book cultures within the Tibetan cultural sphere nor all issues concerning them, it is hoped that it nonetheless will be a modest contribution to the advancement of research in this field along with several other recent publications with a similar or related focus. I would like to particularly thank Dorji Wangchuk for his cooperation and assistance in organising the conference and in making it possible through the financial support of the Khyentse Center for Tibetan Buddhist Textual Scholarship (KC-TBTS), and likewise for his support in various ways during the editing of the present volume. Special thanks are also due to the Khyentse Foundation whose financial support of the KC-TBTS enabled both the conference and the publication of the present volume. And last but not least thanks are also due to Eric Werner for his help in solving some last-minute technical problems during the preparation of the final version of the volume.

Orna Almogi

Hamburg, July 30, 2016


1. Prologue What is referred to here as Tibetan ‘deluxe editions’ of Buddhist scriptures and treatises can be perhaps seen as the centrepieces of the Tibetan expression of aesthetics and craftsmanship; pomposity and exclusivity; social-economic power and prestige; and piety and religiosity. The tradition of producing exquisite editions of those scriptures and treatises—associated with great sanctity (rtsa chen po) and hence highly cherished—by using precious materials, such as gold ink and dark-blue paper, is the culmination of cultivating what Tibetan Buddhists refer to as the ‘receptacle of Speech’ (gsung rten), which includes not only texts as intangible entities but also manuscripts, xylographs, and books as tangible realities, both of which are the main objects of research of all among us who are interested in gaining a nuanced and reliable understanding of the Tibetan intellectual world (Geisteswelt).1 A thorough and detailed study of the phenomenon of Tibetan deluxe editions of Buddhist scriptures and treatises—which, by the way, was already noted by the Jesuite missionary Ippolito Desideri (1684–1733)2—seems worth attempting. In the present contribution, however, I seek to briefly discuss eight points that pertain to deluxe editions, namely, (1) Tibetan terms that express what I call ‘deluxe edition,’ (2) the nature and types of deluxe editions, (3) legendary accounts of deluxe editions of scriptures written with lapis ink on golden plates or tablets, (4) scriptures and treatises considered worthy of such exquisite editions, (5) reports on some deluxe editions of the bKaʼ ʼgyur and

1 The concept and practice of commissioning such deluxe editions is widely known also in other Buddhist traditions, including the Sino-Japanese, Mongolian, and South and South-East Asian Buddhist traditions. 2 de Fillippi 2005: 278: “All these [i.e. the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur] at great expenses the King got from Hindustan, had them translated into the Thibettan language and copied in large script; the principal ones have gold letters and are richly adorned.” See also Bell 1931: 197–199.


bsTan ʼgyur produced within the Tibetan cultural sphere, (6) possible motives or objectives for producing them, (7) the social, religious, or intellectual standing of the persons who commissioned them, and (8) some remarks regarding the tools and techniques of producing deluxe editions. What I will not attempt here is to trace, document, and describe all possible accounts or reports of such editions made within the Tibetan cultural sphere, which, if at all possible, would be an enormous task that would overextend the scope of this article.

2. A Terminological Delimitation Most of the deluxe editions produced within the Tibetan cultural sphere are either physically inaccessible or no longer extant. One of the first steps towards the study of the phenomenon of deluxe editions is the gathering of as much information as possible from diverse written sources. One of the challenges that one faces in this regard is the terseness of language and the terminological ambiguity of the written sources. In particular, it seems necessary to determine the meaning of several key disyllabic words in which the first syllable stands for a precious metal or material, such as gser (“gold”), and the second being either (1) chos, (2) yig, (3) bris, or (4) pod. The ambiguity of the second component is often a cause of misinterpretation. (1) The term gser chos seems to be employed at least in two senses, namely, (a) in its literal sense of scriptures written with gold (or golden) ink, and (b) in a metaphorical (or an ornamental) sense, as in the case of the gser chos known in the Shangs pa bka’ brgyud and Sa skya schools. Both are lexically attested.3 Similarly, the terms sngo chos (“dark-blue scriptures/ treatises”) and skya chos (“white scriptures/treatises”) have also been employed to refer to texts on the basis of the paper used, that is, blue

3 For a recent discussion of the term gser chos, see Hufen 2010: 112–117. See also the Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. gser bris) & Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser chos): mthing shog gi ngos su gser zhun gyis bris pa’i dpe chos. See also Yul shul bsTan ’dzin dar rgyas, Lam ’bras tshig mdzod (p. 470) for gser chos and gser chos bcu gsum. The expression gser chos bcu gsum is recorded in the Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v.): tshar lugs las lcags ri’i phyi rol tu mi ’da’ ba’i chos te | mkha’ spyod skor gsum | dmar chen skor gsum | dmar chung skor gsum | ’chi med rdo rje lha mo | dzam dmar | seng gdong ma | ’jam dpal nag po ste bcu gsum|. See also Yul shul bsTan ’dzin dar rgyas, Lam ’bras tshig mdzod (p. 433), where the thirteen are listed under sa skya’i gser chos bcu gsum. This expression is, however, not recorded in Nor brang’s Chos rnam kun btus.


and white paper respectively.4 To be noted is that sngo chos is not semantically coextensive with ‘golden manuscript’ (gser bris)5 inasmuch as the former can be a scripture/treatise written either in gold or silver, or any other colourful precious substance. (2) The term gser yig seems to have at least three levels or layers of meaning or usage. (a) The primary (‘literal’) meaning of the term seems to be “an inscription/letter/document/scripture/treatise written with gold,”6 and hence should be understood in concrete terms. (b) Obviously, gser yig in the sense of ‘an imperial letter/decree’ is secondary in meaning,7 and ‘gold’ in this case is to be understood figuratively.8 It is, however, possible that royal decrees or letters of grave importance were written with gold, as the legend of Srong btsan sgam po’s wooing the Chinese princess as his bride suggests. The Tibetan emperor is said to have sent a letter threatening the Chinese emperor, which is described as “a letter in Chinese characters written with gold on blue paper” (rgya nag stong khun gyi yi ge mthing shog la gser gyis bris pa) placed in a “casket of the royal

4 For the occurrence of the terms sngo chos and skya chos, see Vitali 1999: 67, 73, 75, 158, 165, 169. 5 Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. gser bris): gser chus bris pa’i chos dpe (“scriptures written with golden water”). The example provided there is rdo rje gcod pa gser bris ma (“The golden manuscript edition of the Vajracchedikā”). 6 The first meaning of gser yig in Brag g.yab’s Bod brda’i tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig) is gser gyis bris pa (“[something] written with gold”). This primary meaning has been presupposed in bTsan lha’s gSer gyi me long (s.v. gser gyi yi ge), which states: gser gyi byang bu’i thog tu go gnas sogs bkod pa’i yi ge zhig gi ming (“a designation for an inscription on a golden writing support on which rank-title and the like have been written”). Interestingly, this meaning does not seem to be recorded in the Tshig mdzod chen mo. 7 Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. gser bris): gong mas btang ba’i bka’ yig (“letter/decree sent by the emperor”). See also the Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig pa). The second meaning given by Brag g.yab in his Bod brda’i tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig) is yi ge’i zhe sa (“honorific for letter”). 8 The figurative use is made explicit in the Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig pa): rgyal pos btang ba’i bka’ yig la gser yig zer zhing gser dang ’dra bar rin thang che zhing dkon pa yin pa’i don (“a letter sent by a king is called a ‘golden letter’ and it has the connotation of being precious and rare like gold”).


command” (bka’ shog sgrom bu).9 (c) Another secondary meaning of the term gser yig (or gser gyi yi ge) seems to be ‘first (class) award certificate (yig tshangs)10 or ministerial rank,’ said to have been bestowed during the imperial period in Tibet.11 Such a ministerial rank was called gser yig obviously because the minister received from the emperor a kind of a certificate or decree made of gold (or gilded) plate upon which the rank was inscribed. It is said that during the time of the Tibetan king Srong btsan sgam po, ministerial ranks were classified hierarchically into three groups: first class (rab), consisting of g.yu yig (“turquoise certificate”) and gser yig (“gold certificate”); second class (’bring), consisting of dngul yig (“silver certificate”) and phra men gyi yi ge (perhaps “manganese certificate”);12 and third class, consisting of zangs kyi yi ge (“copper 9 For the content of the letter, see, for example, the Nyang ral chos ’byung (pp. 210.16–211.1). Cf. dPa’ bo gTsug lag phreng ba, mKhas pa’i dga’ ston (p. 109.23). 10 Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. yig tshangs): sngar chos rgyal srong btsan gyis blon po rnams la bya dga’ gnang ba’i yig lam (“award certificate bestowed upon ministers by the Dharma King Srong btsan [sgam po]).” See also ibid. (s.v. yig tshangs drug). See also bTsan lha, gSer gyi me long (s.v. yig tshangs). See Jo sras or mKhas pa lDe’u, lDe’u chos ’byung (pp. 255.21– 256.4): na drug (yi ge che ba drug = g.yu gser phra men che chung gnyis re byas pas drug) and ne drug (yi ge chung ba drug = dngul, ra gan, ’khar ba, zangs, dpal lcags, shing skya chu ris); ibid. (p. 263.12–21): (1) dgung blon chen po = yig tshang g.yu’i yi ge che ba, (2) dgung blon ’bring po = yig tshang g.yu’i yi ge chung ba, (3) dgung blon chung ba = yig tshang gser gyi yi ge chen po; (4) nang blon tha chung dang yo ’gal ’chos pa ’bring po = yig tshang gser yig chung ba, (5) yo ’gal ’chos pa chung ba = yig tshang ’phra men gyi yi ge mtho (ba); ibid. (pp. 266.15–267.11): che drug chung drug; ibid. (p. 270.13–14): yig tshang drug. Dunhuang manuscripts also mention terms such as tha shing skya chu rus kyi yi ge, ke ke ru’i yi ge, and ra gan gyi yi ge. See the annotation in bSod nams skyid & dBang rgyal, Tun hong shog dril (p. 52, n. 2). The note also quotes the relevant passage from the mKhas pa’i dga’ ston (dBang gyal & bSod nams skyid, Tun hong yig cha, p. 79, n. 117). These are found also in Pelliot tibétain 1071 (online) and reproduced in Tun hong shog dril (pp. 12–51); Tun hong yig cha (p. 79, n. 124); bTsan lha, gSer gyi me long (s.v. gser gyi yi ge). 11 bTsan lha, gSer gyi me long (s.v. gser gyi yi ge): gser gyi byang bu’i thog tu go gnas sogs bkod pa’i yi ge zhig gi ming. 12 The term phra men poses a challenge. Giuseppe Tucci has identified phra men as “Silver inlaid,” for which, see Tucci 1956: 88 and Ehrhard 1990: 103, n. 71. It may also be noted that phra men is a gender-unspecific Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit ḍāka or ḍākinī. A gender-specific translation of


certificate”) and lcags kyi yi ge (“iron certificate”). sBa gSal snang, for instance, is said to have been awarded the “Grand Gold Certificate” (gser gyi yi ge chen po) by Khri srong lde btsan.13 In addition to the actual document/certificate inscribed in gold and the highest ministerial rank, the term gser yig also refers to the person who is directly associated with it. The term is unambiguous if it is employed in its nominalised form gser yig pa (or gser gyi yi ge pa). But even when this is not the case, it is clear from the context when gser yig has been employed as a possessive (bahuvrīhi) compound, namely, as meaning ‘one who bears or is associated with a gser yig.’ Thus, gser yig (pa) or gser gyi yi ge pa refer to three kinds of persons, namely, (a) a minister who holds a gold insignia or certificate,14 (b) a messenger who bears a royal letter or decree,15 and (c) a clerk or calligraphist who prepares such a letter or certificate.16 The terms which concern us the most for our purpose are gser bris (ma) and dngul bris (ma), which are fortunately quite unambiguous and can be understood as either ‘gold or silver manuscripts’ or ‘texts written with gold or silver ink.’ They can also be employed as possessive compounds as in the case of bka’ ’gyur gser bris ma (“a corpus of scriptures in [Tibetan] translation written in gold”) or bstan ’gyur gser bris ma (“a corpus of treatises in [Tibetan] translation written in gold”). Some sources, however, while

ḍāka is phra men pha, and of ḍākinī, phra men ma. See, for examples, Negi’s Bod legs tshig mdzod (s.vv. phra men, phra men pha & phra men ma), which provides the Laṅkāvatārasūtra as a source. Cf. Jäschke 1881: (s.v. phra men) “sorcery, witchcraft.” 13 Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 1258.10–12). 14 This meaning is not mentioned in the Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig pa) and Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. gser yig pa), but the expression gser gyi yi ge pa referring to a minister (zhang blon) is attested in Dunhuang materials (e.g. Pelliot tibétain 1071). 15 Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig pa): bka’ yig khyer ba’i mi de la gser yig pa zer (“a person who bears a royal decree is called a gser yig pa”). See also the Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. gser yig pa): gong ma’i bka’ yig skyel mi bang chen (“an envoy bearing a letter (or decree) of the emperor”). 16 Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser yig pa): skabs re rgyal po’i mdun gyi drung yig la’ang gser yig pa zhes ’bod gsol yod pa skabs dang sbyar shes pa dgos so (“One should know according to the context that occasionally there is also the custom of referring to a clerk in the presence of the king as gser yig pa”). See also the Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v. gser yig pa): gong ma’i drung yig (“emperor’s clerk”).


specifying deluxe editions as golden, do not specify the titles of scriptures and merely mention “scriptures written in gold” (gsung rab gser bris).17 Additionally, it may be stated that the term ‘deluxe edition’ employed here is not to be taken as semantically co-extensive with ‘illuminated edition,’ inasmuch as the former excludes manuscript editions with illuminations if no precious materials such as gold and silver ink have been used.18 3. The Nature and Types of Deluxe Editions The nature or constitution of a deluxe edition can be defined by several factors. (a) The primary factor seems to be the kind of material used, particularly, the kind of precious ink and the type of paper, although it is self-evident that the selection of the type and texture of paper will partly depend on the kind of ink to be used. When talking about gser bris, for example, we shall have to bear in mind factors such as the genuineness, purity, and density of gold. Leaving aside the possibility of fraud, it seems to have been taken for granted that if one could not afford genuine gold, one could use “gold-like” (gser ’dra) ink.19 The 101-volume bKa’ ’gyur kept in the Rig ’dzin lha khang of the Potala Palace, for example, is reportedly “written in liquid brass” (rag zhun mas bris pa).20 Consequently, not all editions that glitter as ‘golden editions’ may be written with gold. 17 rNga rgod Blo bzang byams pa rab rgyas (1781–1849) is said to have produced scriptures in gold (gsung rab gser bris), but it is not clear which ones and how many. See Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 464.10–13): dgung lo sum cu par gdan sa bkra shis bshad sgrub gling du phyir phebs nas gtsug lag khang dang | rten dang rten [= brten] pa | gsung rab gser bris bcas gsar bzhengs mdzad nas rnam dkar gyi phrin las rgya chen spel |. 18 For sample images from an ‘illuminated edition’ of some Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan translation, see Lunardo 2014: 138. Note, however, that the identification of the scriptures in the description and the titles found in the sample pages do not agree. 19 See, for example, Mi pham, bZo gnas nyer kho (pp. 430.21–431.7), where a recipe for making “gold-like” (gser ’dra) ink can be found. It has been shown in Almogi, Kindzorra, Hahn, Rabin 2015—which contains a report of the results of an analysis of the golden ink used in the rNying rgyud ʼbum stored in the National Archives in Kathmandu—that the quality of golden ink could range from pure gold to having no gold at all. 20 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 84.6–9). The 101-volume brass bKa’ ’gyur is said to be based on the Tshal pa edition of the bKa’ ’gyur.


mDo mkhar ba Tshe ring dbang rgyal (1697–1763), for example, reports that during the production of a gold edition of the bKa’ ’gyur, Pho lha ba bSod nams stobs rgyas (1689–1747), the royal commissioner of the project, would chastise those scribes who used “thin liquid gold” (gser zhun sla ba) and praise and reward those who used “thick liquid gold” (gser zhun gar po).21 Even in the same set, therefore, one is bound to find variation in the quality caused by different factors. (b) In terms of the size of folios and script, the maxim seems to be the bigger the better. Among the various kinds of Tibetan scripts, dBu can seems to be preferred for deluxe edition, although we do have examples of gold manuscripts written in some elegant variants of dBu med script as well.22 (c) The exquisiteness of a deluxe edition would be defined by the quality of its calligraphy. (d) In addition, decorations and accessories, particularly on the front and back folios and the covers, would enhance the value of a deluxe edition. (e) Importantly, as is the case with any manuscript edition, we are always dealing with a unique copy. (f) Although gold and silver editions are by definition manuscript editions (bris ma),23 we do have cases in which the first one or two folios of a xylographic edition would be replaced by handwritten folios executed in gold (or any other precious materials) and further decorated with painted illustrations and silken curtains mounted on the verso of the first folio.24 To an extent, such cases present a conflation of a manuscript and a xylographic edition, and an overhasty inspection may lead one

21 mDo mkhar ba, Mi dbang rtogs brjod (p. 823.4–14). 22 See, for example, the stunningly exquisite golden edition of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s (1617–1682) gSang ba rgya can, which is written in a type of dBu med script called ’Bru tsha. For images of the opening leaves of the golden manuscript and more details about it, see Karmay 1998. 23 In general, there seems to be a need for generating greater awareness among cataloguers of Tibetan literary collections working within the Tibetan cultural sphere of the importance of recording whether the catalogued item is a manuscript, or what one may perhaps call ‘manugraphic,’ edition (bris ma) or a xylographic, or ‘xyloscript,’ edition (par ma = shing par). The scholarly value of the gSung rten gyi tho published by the National Library of Bhutan, for example, has been diminished because the cataloguers did not always specify whether the item catalogued by them is a manuscript or xylograph. 24 For an example of a xylographic edition having front folios (dbu shog) that are handwritten with gold, one may mention the xylographic edition of the sNar thang bka’ ’gyur kept in Chos ’khor lhun grub chos ldan temple in Bumthang (rGyal yongs dpe mdzod, gSung rten gyi tho, p. 343, no. 3686).

to wrongly take the entire volume or collection to be a manuscript edition. The types of deluxe editions can also be determined in terms of (a) the kind of precious materials and (b) the extent to which they have been used. We have seen that the types of precious material such as turquoise, gold, silver, (perhaps) manganese, copper, and iron symbolised the different types and hierarchy of certificate and ministerial rank. Similarly, one could define the types of deluxe edition according to the kinds of precious materials used and the degree of exquisiteness. Following the legendary accounts of deluxe editions of scriptures, to which we shall return, Tibetans seem to have cherished the notion of scriptures written with lapis-ink on golden plates as the most exquisite form of deluxe edition. Indeed we are told that in general deep blue ink made from finely crushed lapis lazuli (a deep blue copper-bearing mineral) is more valuable than gold and silver inks, and that it was also favoured by Byzantine illuminators. When juxtaposed to gold or silver in illuminations the results are said to be stunning. In fact, manuscripts with such beautiful bright glowing illumination are said to constitute some of the best-quality Byzantine manuscripts. Four types of ink came to be most popular in later Tibetan manuscript culture, namely, ink made of gold powder (gser ’dul), silver powder (dngul ’dul), vermilion (mtshal), and soot. Occasionally, however, inks made of other precious materials are also reported to have been used. Most deluxe editions are thus either (a) gold editions (gser bris), (b) silver editions (dngul bris), or (c) hybrid gold-and-silver (gser dngul ra ma lug / gser dngul khra can / gser dngul spel ma) editions,25 which are manuscripts in which the lines are written alternately with gold and silver. The deluxe edition of the bsTan ’gyur commissioned by the Third Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje (1284–1339) mentioned below, for example, is said to be such a hybrid edition. It is doubtful whether and to what extent other precious materials such as turquoise were actually used for writing, but we do have accounts of deluxe editions of certain scriptural corpora that are said to have been written with various kinds of precious materials. One form of such deluxe editions is what is referred to as a seven

25 The term gser dngul ra ma lug occurs frequently in the writings of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The terms gser dngul khra can and gser dngul spel ma have been used in the sense of gser dngul ra ma lug by ’Bri gung dKon mchog rgya mtsho in his ’Bri gung chos ’byung (pp. 444.21, 490.26).


precious-material (rin chen sna bdun) edition. bKra shis don drub in his mThing shog bzo rim, for example, notes that each line in such editions, for which blue paper was used, was written with a different ink: the first line in gold, the second in turquoise, the third in silver, the fourth in coral, the fifth in iron, the sixth in copper, and the seventh in conch-shell ink.26 One could, however, also employ fewer types of ink in such variegated manuscripts or employ different ink for each volume or a corpus of texts rather than on every page. Drung chen mkha’ spyod pa Nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan (1370–1433), for example, is said to have commissioned deluxe editions of the large, medium, and small Prajñāpāramitā scriptures in turquoise, gold, and silver, respectively.27 It is said, again, that the Bi ma snying thig cycle of the sNying thig strand of the rDzogs chen system contains what is designated as “extremely profound [texts] in four volumes” (shin tu zab pa’i po ti bzhi), which include “five [corpora of] texts [written] in precious materials” (rin po che’i yi ge lnga), namely, (1) a “[corpus] written in gold” (gser yig can), (2) a “[corpus] written in turquoise” (g.yu yig can), (3) a “[corpus] written in copper” (zangs yig can), (4) a “[corpus] written in conch-shell” (dung yig can), and (5) a “[corpus] written in (perhaps) manganese” (phra yig can). 28 According to Klong chen pa, the first corpus written in gold consists of “nine primary and secondary [texts]” (ma bu dgu),29 the second corpus written in turquoise and the third written in copper consist of 26 bKra shis don drub, mThing shog bzo rim (p. 120.8–13): shog bu de’i steng du gna’ bo’i dus nas bzung ’gro stangs ltar snag tsha rin chen sna bdun gyis yi ge ’bri srol ’dug | de’i go rim ni | [1] yig ’phreng dang po | gser | [2] yig ’phreng gnyis pa | g.yu | [3] yig ’phreng gsum pa | dngul | [4] yig ’phreng bzhi pa | byu ru | [5] yig ’phreng lnga pa | lcags | [6] yig ’phreng drug pa | zangs | [7] yig ’phreng bdun pa | dung bcas go rim gral ltar bsgrigs yod pa red |. 27 Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 893.15–16): g.yu dang | gser dang | dngul gyis yum rgyas ’bring bsdus gsum tshar re re bzhengs |. 28 In secondary literature, these terms have been translated as ‘Golden Letters’ and so forth. See, for example, Reynold 1996, which bears the title “The Golden Letters,” a translaion of the Tibetan gser yig can. Compare Ehrhard 1990: 22, where these titles have been rendered “ein (Band) der mit den Goldlettern,” and so on. 29 In general “mother” (ma) has been understood to be the actual Tantric scripture (commonly referred to as the “root” or “basic” text (rtsa ba)), and the “child” (bu) a commentary on it by a specific Vidyādhara. See Klong chen pa, Grub mtha’ mdzod (p. 330.5–7): rtsa ba ma rnams ni rgyud dngos yin la | bu rnams ni rig ’dzin so sos mdzad pa’i bshad tig [= ṭīk?] yin te |.


eighteen texts each, the fourth corpus written in conch-shell consists of three texts, and the fifth corpus written in (perhaps) manganese consists of five secondary texts related to the corpus of texts written in copper. It is said that these scriptural corpora were concealed by Vimalamitra at bSam yas mChims phu and were not revealed even to the King (Khri srong lde btsan) let alone his subjects.30 Klong chen pa does not tell us why these textual corpora were titled such but perhaps he considered it self-evident: that it was because they were written with five kinds of precious materials. In a colophon ascribed to Vimalamitra, we find an explanation.31 But only four volumes are mentioned there,32 each written with ink made of one of the following four precious materials: (1) melted white conch (dkar po dung bzhus), (2) melted copper (zangs bzhus), (3) refined blue turquoise (sngon po g.yu sbyangs), and (4) red-blue (perhaps) manganese (phra men). The gold ink is missing here. The fascinating accounts of the transmission of the Prajñāpāramitā scriptures in Tibet (as, for instance, found in sDe srid Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho’i Bai ḍūrya’i g.ya’ sel) also disclose information about the kinds of material used for producing deluxe editions.33 Khri srong lde btsan for one is said to have commissioned a deluxe edition of the Prajñāpāramitā scriptures translated into Tibetan by Rlangs Khams pa go cha from the original text he had memorised (and is thus called Rlang kyi thugs ’gyur ma) written with ink made from a mixture of his own blood (mtshal khrag), the blood of his deceased queen, and the milk of a white goat (ra dkar gyi ’o ma) in commemoration of the queen. There is also said to be an edition of the largest 30 Klong chen pa, Grub mtha’ mdzod (pp. 330.10–331.5). 31 This has already been pointed out in Ehrhard 1990: 103, n. 71. 32 Evidently, for Klong chen pa, the five textual corpora arranged according to the type of precious ink do not make up five separate volumes but merely four. See his Grub mtha’ mdzod (p. 330.1–3): … shin tu zab pa’i po ti bzhir rin po che’i yi ge lnga bsdus…; ibid. (pp. 331.1): de’ang po ti bzhi la | rin po che’i yi ge lnga zhes bya’o || de’ang gser yig can | g.yu yig can | dung yig can gsum la re re | zangs yig can dang ’phra yig can bsdoms pas gcig te bzhi gter nas byon pa’o ||. See also the Klong chen chos ’byung (p. 350.12–16), for an identification of the zab pa’i po ti bzhi and thun mong gi po ti bzhi. 33 For a description of the various versions and Tibetan translations of Prajñāpāramitā scriptures, see sDe srid, g.Ya’ sel (pp. 940.4–942.3) and mKhyen brtse’i dbang po, Zin bris sna tshogs (pp. 181.6–182.3). Titles such as Klu ’bum skya bo, Bla ’bum smug po, ’Bum nag, and ’Bum dmar also occur in the Nyang ral chos ’byung (p. 394.17–19). Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

Prajñāpāramitā scripture called the ’Bum dmar (“Red [Prajñāpāramitā in] 100,000 [Lines]”) written with the “nose-blood” (shangs mtshal) of Śāntarakṣita, Padmasambhava, and Khri srong lde btsan. There is said to be another special edition of a Prajñāpāramitā scripture written with special ink made from Khri srong lde btsan’s singed hair (dbu skra’i gzhobs)34 and indigo (rams),35 using the milk of a white goat (ra dkar gyi ’o ma) as the binder. Often only the first one or two folios of a volume are in a deluxe execution, while the rest are ordinary ‘white,’ as is the case with many large collections, for example, most rNying ma rgyud ’bum sets, and some canonical collections such as the two sets of the bsTan ’gyur preserved in the bKa’ ’gyur lha khang in Potala Palace.36 Similarly, in some cases only the first volume in a collection is in a deluxe execution, while the rest of the volumes are simple. For example, the first volume (i.e. vol. Ka) of the works of rGya gar Shes rab rgyal mtshan (1436–1494), the ninth throne-holder of Sa skya monastery, is said to be written in gold.37 4. Legendary Accounts of Deluxe Editions Of the legendary accounts surrounding the origination and transmission of some famous Buddhist scriptures, the accounts of scriptures written on golden plates or tablets (gser gyi glegs bu/bam: suvarṇapatra) with liquid lapis lazuli (bai ḍūrya yi zhun ma) seem to be the most intriguing ones. It has possibly inspired wealthy and influential people in Tibet and elsewhere to commission their own 34 Jäschke: s.v. gzhob. 35 Jäschke: s.v. rams. 36 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 60.11–17). Two sets of the bsTan ’gyur are mentioned here. The beginning folios (dbu shog) of the first bsTan ’gyur set of 224 volumes are said to be of gold (gser ma), while the rest are excuted as a “white edition” (skya bris can). Similarly, it seems that only the beginning folios of the second bsTan ’gyur set of 94 volumes are in gold. Again, the beginning folios (dbu shog) of the manuscript edition of the bKa’ ’gyur in sMin grol gling monastery in Tibet, which is, however, called the ’Brum nag bka’ ’gyur—named thus because it was made in a year in which an epidemic (i.e. lha ’brum nad yams) broke out—are said to be in gold (gser bris ma). See bsTan pa’i sgron me, sMin gling dkar chag (p. 93.9–11). 37 Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 363.11–13): khong gi gsung rtsom ni po ti ka pa gser bris can gcig da lta pe cin mi rigs rig gnas pho brang du bzhugs so ||. It is kept today in the Mi rigs rig gnas pho brang (in Beijing).


deluxe editions of scriptures to which great sanctity has been attributed. The deluxe edition of the best kind in Tibet was, however, apparently the reverse of these (partly mythical) ones, inasmuch as manuscripts written with gold ink on dark blue paper came to be the product of choice rather than ones written with lapis lazuli ink on golden paper (or tablet). It has been already pointed out that Tibetans were well aware of lapis lazuli as a semi-precious stone but normally did not use it as a pigment (for painting), as claimed, for example, by Giuseppe Tucci.38 Regardless of whether lapis lazuli ink was used by Tibetans for making deluxe editions of scriptures, the legendary accounts of golden scriptures written with lapis lazuli ink— associated with the origin of several scriptures—seem to be as old as Tibetan Buddhism itself. To begin with, the legend of gold manuscript written with lapis lazuli ink has been brought into connection with the transmission of a rDzogs chen scripture titled rDzogs pa chen po ye shes gsang ba’i rgyud (in its colophon).39 One suspects that this association is rather late. One of the legendary accounts of texts or manuscript written with precious materials is connected with the legends surrounding the origin and transmission of Tantric scriptures of the Mahāyoga system of the rNying ma school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the famous *Guhyagarbhatantra. Obviously, not only do the various versions of the legend differ in their detail but also in the manner the legend has been employed to explain the origin and transmission of Tantric scriptures of the rNying ma school. The existence of various interpretations seems to have evoked Mi pham rNam rgyal rgya mtsho (1846–1912) to write a small work devoted to the “removal of doubt” (dogs sel) regarding the origin of rNying ma Tantric scriptures.40

38 Jackson & Jackson 1988: 79, 88, n. 10; Jackson & Jackson 1976: 276–278. 39 See the colophon of the rDzogs pa chen po ye shes gsang ba’i rgyud (Cantwell, Mayer, Kowalewski, Achard 2006: 22): rgya gar dga’ rab rdo rjes | bram ze bde mchog la | bde ldan gyi yang thog tu rin po che gser gyi glegs bam la bai ḍūrya zhun mas bris pa’i bla dpe gnang ste | gdung rabs lngar bla dpe las mi bzhugs so || rdzogs pa chen po ye shes gsang ba’i rgyud rdzogs so ||. 40 Mi pham’s rGyud byung dogs sel (pp. 241.5–244.6), though very brief, addresses some interesting controverises about the origin of Tantric scriptures including the idea of Tantric texts being written on golden [sheets] with lapis lazuli ink (p. 244.1), and it is concluded with a ha ha! Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials


According to Rog Shes rab ’od (1166–1244),41 Tantric doctrines (of the rNying ma school) were taught by the Buddha in the Realm of the Great Akaniṣṭha (’og min chen po’i gnas) and in the various locations within the celestial realm (lha’i gnas), human realm (mi’i gnas), and non-human realm (mi ma yin pa’i gnas). Then Vajrapāṇi, who is known as the codifier of all esoteric Buddhist doctrines, codified them, wrote them on golden sheets (gser gyi glegs bam) with liquid lapis lazuli (bai ḍūrya’i zhun ma), and concealed them in space.42 King Jaḥ, as a result of seven dreams that he had and his subsequent practices, managed to cause the Tantric scriptures to (re)appear in the human realm. Tantric scriptures of the Kriyā, Yoga, Mahāyoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga classes are all said to have descended (babs) in various places, and notably the Mahāyoga Tantric scriptures on the roof of King Jaḥ’s palace. Rog also notes that all except the Atiyoga scriptures are said to have descended in the form of real books (po ti). A noteworthy fact, according to Rog, is that not merely the Mahāyoga scriptures were written on golden paper with liquid lapis lazuli, but indeed all Tantric scriptures of the rNying ma school that were codified and concealed by Vajrapāṇi. Nyang ral Nyi ma ’od zer (1124–1192), 43 too, in the context of explaining the “making of the first scriptures of the Buddha” (sangs rgyas kyi gsung rab bzhengs par snga ba), alludes to the idea of Tantric scriptures being written in the celestial realm on golden sheets (gser gyi glegs bam) with liquid lapis lazuli (bai ḍūrya’i zhun ma). According to Nyang ral,44 it was twenty years after the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha in a place south-east of Buddhagayā that King Jaḥ had his seven dreams. The fifth [dream] was as follows: “[King Jaḥ] dreamt that [multi-colored] rays of various precious gems were shining from the solar disc amidst clouds. In the middle of [these rays] was a mystical knot (dpal be’u: śrīvatsa) made of a 41 Rog, Grub mtha’ bstan sgron (pp. 24.3–27.3). For an English translation of the passage and some notes and references, see Cabezón 2013: 84–87. 42 Rog, Grub mtha’ bstan sgron (p. 24.3–5); Cabezón 2013: 84. 43 Nyang ral chos ’byung (p. 72.6–8): gsang sngags rnams lha gnas su | rdo rje ’dzin don sdud pa po rnams kyis rin po che gser gyi glegs bam la bai ḍūrya zhun mas bris pa dang |. 44 Nyang ral (revealed), gSang sngags bka’i lde mig (pp. 283.6–284.2): ngas mi rtag pa’i tshul bstan nas lo brgyad [= brgya?] dang bcu lon te ¦ nga ’dzam bu gling gyi mi rnams la ’bras bu’i chos ’di gser gyi gleg bam la ¦ bai ḍūrya rtsa ba rang gnas su bris la ¦ thugs rje mthun pa’i byin brlabs kyis ¦ rgyal po dzaḥ’i khang thog gu rang babs su mthong bar ’gyur ¦ zhes bskul bas ¦.


purple-brown precious stone that was endowed with light from fire and was totally transparent. Within it was a golden book written with liquid lapis lazuli.” King Jaḥ dreamt that books rained on the roof of his palace like the falling of shooting stars on the ground. “Those books that appeared in his dream appeared in his hands.”45 The Tantric scriptures of the Sādhana Section (sGrub sde) of Mahāyoga as represented by Nyang ral’s bKa’ brgyad bde bshegs ’dus pa cycle, too, are said to have been codified by Vajradharma (rDo rje chos) and put by vidyādharas into writing on golden sheets (gser gyi glegs bam) with liquid lapis lazuli (baiḍūrya’i zhun ma).46 We all know the legendary account of the appearance of the first signs of Buddhism in Tibet during the reign of the twenty-eighth Tibetan ruler lHa Tho tho ri, which has been narrated repeatedly by Tibetan authors in its various versions and with varying details. Among the objects that fell from heaven on the roof of the king’s palace, the Yum bu bla sgang, Nyang ral, for example, mentions a scripture which he describes as “a golden book [stamped] with the sign of a seal [and] placed in a casket made of precious materials” (rin po che’i za ma tog gi nang du gser gyi glegs bam mu tra’i [= drā’i] phyag rgya dang bcas pa zhig), and which “appeared from heaven accompanied by sunrays while [gliding] on top of rays of five colors” (nam mkha’ nas tshur la nyi ma’i ’od zer dang ’grogs nas ’od zer sna lnga’i sna la).47 According to some Tibetan sources, such as the Maṇi’i bka’ bum, the scriptures that fell on the roof of the Yum bu bla sgang palace was “written in Tibetan script with liquid lapis lazuli on gold plates” (gser gyi glegs bu la bai ḍūrya zhun mas bod yig tu bris pa).48 As one would perhaps anticipate, some Tibetan 45 Nyang ral chos ’byung (pp. 90.21–91.5): lnga pa la ni …rmis so ||; ibid. (p. 92.13–14): rmi lam du byung ba’i glegs bam rnam phyag tu byung ngo ||. 46 See, for example, Nyang ral (revealed), bDe ’dus byung tshul (p. 238.1–2): rdo rje chos zhes kyang bya ba des bsdus nas ¦ bar der rig ’dzin rnams kyis gser gyi glegs bam la baiḍūrya zhun mas bris te ¦ bde bshegs ’dus pa ’di la rnam pa lngar phye ¦. 47 Nyang ral chos ’byung (pp. 164.4–165.14). 48 Grub thob dNgos grub, Nyang ral Nyi ma ’od zer & Shākya ’od or Shākya bzang po (revealed), Maṇi bka’ ’bum (vol. 1 (E), p. 200.3–4): gser gyi glegs bam la bai ḍūrya zhun mas bod yig tu bris pa’i mdo sde za ma tog bkod pa dang | pang kong phyag rgya pa dang | rten ’brel bcu gnyis kyi mdo dang | dge ba bcu’i mdo dang bcas pa bcug nas nyi ma’i ’od zer dang ’grogs te pho brang gi steng du babs pa dang |; Tshe tan zhabs drung, Tshe rdo’i dri lan (pp. 103.5–104.22). It is suggested therein that the rGyal po bka’ ’bum (i.e. Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

scholars have connected King Jaḥ’s story with that of lHa Tho tho ri’s, stating that when the scriptures descended on the roof of the palace of King Jaḥ, some scriptures were swept away by a wind and landed on the roof of the palace of lHa Tho tho ri.49 A question that poses itself is what could be the source of the myth of scriptures written with lapis ink on gold tablets. The myth of golden scriptures written with lapis ink is mentioned also in an Indian commentary (vṛtti) on the smaller Cakrasaṃvaratantra by one Indrabodhi.50 At the end of the verses containing the legend, the commentator states: “[This is] the meaning (or content) of what has been taught in the Yoginīsaratantra” (…zhes rnal ’byor ma’i snying po’i rgyud las gsungs pa’i don to). According to Tibetan sources, some of “the first books of Buddhist scriptures, the receptacle of the Buddha’s speech” (gsung rten glegs bam gyi thog ma), are the golden books containing the scriptures of the Intermediate Promulgation

Maṇi bka’ ’bum) alludes to the expression. See also sTag lung Ngag dbang rnam rgyal, sTag lung chos ’byung (p. 101.14–15): nam mkha’ nas gser gyi shog bu la baiḍū ryas bris pa’i spang kong <skong> phyag rgya pa | mdo sde za ma tog. See also the following statements from the Maṇi bka’ ’bum (vol. 1 (E), p. 191.4–6): rgyal po mngon par shes pa mnga’ bas lo tstshā ba rnams la bka’ chems btad nas nga yi bshad pa’i chos ’di rnams dpe gnyis su gyis la | gcig chu dar sngon po la gser dngul gyis bris la phra [= khra] ’brug dkor mdzod du | rgyal po’i bla gter du sbos | gcig rgya shog la shog dril du bris la | thugs rje chen po’i lha khang gi rta mgrin gyi zhabs ’og tu sbos | gsang sngags kyi grub pa thob pa’i gang zag cig [= gcig] gis rnyed nas rang gi gdul bya’i chos su ’gyur ro ||. 49 lNga pa chen po, rTen gsum dkar chag (p. 268.15–21); sDe srid, g.Ya’ sel (p. 896.2); Zhwa sgab pa, Srid don rgyal rabs (vol. 1, p. 146.1–4); Tshe tan zhabs drung, Tshe rdo’i dri lan (p. 104.4–5). The Fifth Dalai Lama does not indicate that the position is his, for it is reported by enclosing it with the word zer. 50 Indrabodhi, Cakrasaṃvaratantravṛtti (P, fol. 5b3–6; D, fol. 4b4–6; B, vol. 9, p. 1148.2–9): rgyal po indra bo dhi ’khor bcas la || dbang bskur byin brlabs [rlabs P] gsang chen bla med chos || lkog gyur dag tu rdo rje theg mchog gi || chos kyi ’khor lo bskor bar mdzad pa’o [pa’i P] || phyi dus rim par lung bstan sdud pa [ba P] pos || ri bo mchog rab byang shar lha gnas mchog || lcang lo can gyi pho brang chen por ni || rgyud rnams ma lus sems dpa’ chen po’i tshogs || bye ba phrag ni dgu bcu rtsa drug sogs || ’dus te rje btsun gsang ba’i bdag po la || gsol ba btab tshe ’di skad bdag thos zhes || rab tu gsungs pa gser gyi shog bu la || bai ḍūrya yi zhun mas yi ger bkod ||.


written in lapis lazuli ink by the god Śakra or Indra.51 With “the scriptures of the Intermediate Promulgation” Kong sprul meant none other than the Prajñāpāramitā scriptures. Indeed, the myth is found in the 24th chapter of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā (i.e. Nyi khri), a chapter devoted to the Bodhisattva Sadāprarudita (rTag tu ngu / rTag par rab tu ngu ba). Sadāprarudita, accompanied by five hundred damsels, go to Bodhisattva Dharmodgata (Chos ’phags) to listen to his teachings. In the meantime, Dharmodgata has commissioned a shrine (khang bu brtsegs pa: kūṭāgāra) for the Prajñāpāramitā made of seven kinds of precious stones, decorated with red sandalwood, and bedecked with string nets strung with pearls. In the four corners of the shrine, he had jewels hung so that they functioned as lamps. He also had silver stands for incense hung on all four sides, in which incense was offered to the Prajñāpāramitā. “In the center of the shrine, he installed four thrones made of seven kinds of precious stones upon which he placed four treasure chests made of precious materials. In these, he placed the Prajñāpāramitā [scriptures] written on gold plates with liquid lapis lazuli. The shrine itself was adorned with hanging bunches of silk scarves of various kinds and forms.”52 Sadāprarudita and five hundred damsels witness Śakra and several thousands of other celestial beings making offerings and paying homage to the shrine. Being asked about it, Śakra tells Sadāprarudita about the Prajñāpāramitā. He states, however, that it would be difficult for him to show Sadāprarudita and the damsels the Prajñāpāramitā

51 See, for example, dPa’ bo, mKhas pa’i dga’ ston (p. 43.6–18): gsung rten thog ma ’khor lo bar pa’i tshe || brgya byin gyis ni gser gyi glegs bu la || baiḍūrya sngon bzhus pas sher phyin bris || lha yi gnas su mchod cing bkur bar gsungs ||; Kong sprul, Shes bya mdzod (p. 290.3–8), particularly (p. 290.3–4): gsung rten glegs bam gyi thog ma ni | ’khor lo bar pa brgya byin gyis gser gyi glegs bu la bai ḍūrya’i zhun mas bris pa dang |. 52 Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā (T, vol. Nga, fols. 377b6–378a1; B, vol. 28, p. 816.8–10): brtsegs [rtseg B] khang de’i nang na rin po che sna bdun las byas pa’i khri bzhag ste | de’i steng du rin po che’i sgrom bzhi bzhag go || de’i nang na shes rab kyi pha rol tu [du B] phyin pa gser gyi glegs bam la bai ḍurya mthing ga [ka B] zhun mas bris pa bzhugs so ||. See also the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra cited by J. S. Negi et al. in the Bod legs tshig mdzod (s.v. gser gyi skud pa: vaiḍūryaṃ suvarṇasūtrāṣṭāpadanibaddham: gzhi bai ḍūrya la gser gyi skud pas ming mangs ris su bris pa). Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

[scriptures] written on gold plates with liquid lapis lazuli, for Bodhisattva Dharmodgata had sealed it with seven seals.53 5. Scriptures and Treatises Worthy of Deluxe Editions It is clear that because of the enormous cost, effort, time, and logistics involved in producing deluxe editions, those who commissioned them had to set priorities in the selection of texts. Naturally, the degree of sanctity ascribed to a text in a given period, place, and tradition or school has obviously been the most important criterion. The next important criterion has been the size of the text. The shorter and the more sacred scriptures are, the more likely they are to have undergone deluxe editions. Of all Buddhist scriptures those of the Prajñāpāramitā seem to have the largest number of deluxe editions to their name, and among them the Vajracchedikā (rDo rje gcod pa), Aṣṭasāhasrikā (brGyad stong pa), and Śatasāhasrikā (’Bum) appear to have been the most popular.54 We shall, however, perhaps never come to know the total number of deluxe editions of these scriptures made throughout history within the Tibetan cultural sphere. Apart from single volumes of Prajñāpāramitā scriptures, there are also reports of deluxe golden editions of basic and explanatory Tantric scriptures, including the Guhyasamājatantra, Cakrasaṃvara-tantra, and Kālacakratantra (gsang ’dus dus gsum) in their Tibetan translation.55 We also have

53 Interestingly, it has been reported that according to what is probably a 9thcentury Zoroastrian book, Zoroaster ‘brought the religion’ and engraved the twelve hundred chapters of it on tablets of gold. See Smith 1993: 48–49. 54 Tshe tan zhabs drung, Bya khyung gdan rabs (p. 141.11–13) reports golden and silver editions of the Śatasāhasrikā and Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā. See also, for example, Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (pp. 106.16–107.4), which reports that mNga’ bdag / Khri rgyal ’Bum lde mgon (1253–1280), the ruler of Mang yul gung thang, commissioned an exquisite (lta bas chog mi shes pa) golden edition of the 16-volume Śatasāhasrikā (in Tibetan translation). See also Nor brang, Shel dkar phreng ba (p. 184.10–13). See also Gu ge Tshe ring rgyal po, mNga’ ris skor gsum (pp. 16.22–17.1): da dung khong gis yum chen pu ti rgyas ’bring bsdus gsum mthing shog la gser chus bris pa dang |. Cf. rTsom sgrig lhan tshogs, sDe dge rdzong dgon pa’i lo rgyus (p. 7.22–23): sher phyin rgyas ’bring bsdus gsum gser bris su byas pa sogs gser dngul gyis bris pa’i glegs bam mang po dang |. 55 Klong rdol Ngag dbang blo bzang (1719–1794) wrote a kind of table of contents (kha byang) and verses of aspiration (smon tshig) for these deluxe editions. See the Klong rdol gsung ’bum (vol. 2, pp. 750.19–752.14).


reports of gold manuscripts of the Tibetan translations of the Vajraśikharatantra, Durgatipariśodhanatantra, and a certain corpus of Tantric Scriptures (rGyud ’bum).56 One also encounters references to some deluxe editions of the rNying ma rgyud ’bum such as those commissioned by (a) mNga’ bdag ’Gro mgon dpal, the son of Nyang ral Nyi ma ’od zer, as a memorial (dgongs rdzogs) for his father who died in the year 1192 (’Gro mgon dpal is also said to have commissioned 113 volumes of golden editions of various scriptures (gser chos kho na pusti brgya dang bcu gsum), which included the largest version of the Prajñāpāramitā scripture, “anthology of [short] sūtras” (mdo mang) and of dhāranīs (gzungs ’dus)),57 (b) Ratna gling pa (1403–1479,58 and (c) gTer bdag gling pa (1646–1714).59 Works by indigenous Tibetan scholars have also been deemed sacred enough by some to deserve deluxe editions. Examples include deluxe editions of mKhas grub dGe legs dpal bzang’s exposition of the utpattikrama practice of the Guhyasamājatantra and Tsong kha pa’s explanation of the utpannakrama practice of the same tantra.60 Similarly, a deluxe edition of Tsong kha pa’s Byang chub gzhung lam, a work on bodhisattva precepts, has also been reported.61 Deluxe 56 Chab spel & Nor brang, g.Yu yi phreng ba (vol. 1, p. 542.17–20): de’i sras lha rgyal | rgyal po ’dis gser bzhun gyi khu bas rdo rje rtse mo dang | ngan song sbyong rgyud | rgyud ’bum cha tshang bcas bskrun |; Anonymous, La dwags rgyal rabs (p. 44.3–5). 57 Thub bstan chos dar, rNying rgyud dkar chag (pp. 6.22–7.21); Karma bde legs, rGyud ’bum phyogs sgrig dkar chag (p. 22.9–17). 58 Karma bde legs, rGyud ’bum phyogs sgrig dkar chag (pp. 24.7–25.7). 59 bsTan pa’i sgron me, sMin gling dkar chag (p. 94.7–8): gser bris kyi rnying ma rgyud ’bum cha tshang bcas bzhugs. The deluxe edition of the rNying ma rgyud ’bum is reportedly housed in a temple in sMin grol gling monastery called the bDe chen yang rtse. For some additional information on this edition, see Karma bde legs, rGyud ’bum phyogs sgrig dkar chag (p. 25.14–20). 60 As examples, deluxe manuscript editions (in golden and silver ink on blue-black paper coloured with indigo and soot) of mKhas grub dGe legs dpal bzang’s work on the utpattikrama of the Guhyasamājatantra and Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa’s work on the utpannakrama of the same Tantric tradition kept in the Cambridge University Library (CUL Add. 1666) may be mentioned. For a description and images of two sample pages, see Lunardo & Clemente 2014: 106–107. 61 For a description and sample images of the deluxe edition of Tsong kha pa’s Byang chub gzhung lam, see Lunardo 2014: 137. The title and description of the deluxe edition takes it for granted that it comprises Tsong Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

golden editions of some collected writings (gsung/bka’ ’bum) of Tibetan scholars have not been rare either.62 Occasionally, even biographies of masters of a certain school, such as the bKa’ brgyud gser phreng, have been produced as deluxe editions.63 Among the large collections, the bKa’ ’gyur has probably the highest number of deluxe editions, in the first place, mainly because it is revered by Tibetan Buddhists as the Words of the Buddha but also because of the feasibility of such an undertaking compared to other canonical collections such as the bsTan ’gyur, which is much larger. 6. Some Deluxe Editions of the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur As mentioned above, it is beyond the scope of this contribution to trace, document, and describe all possible accounts or reports of deluxe editions made in the Tibetan cultural sphere. Nonetheless,

kha pa’s commentaries on the Yogācārabhūmi. The sample pages indicate that the work is the Byang chub gzhung lam, and it may be considered related to the Śīlapaṭala of the Bodhisattvabhūmi, a part of the Yogācārabhūmi in the widest sense. 62 The collected writings of the Sa skya patriarchs, for example, are said to have been published as golden edition (Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs, p. 133.16–19; cf. Jackson 1991). See also Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 363.11–13), which states that the National Cultural Palace (Mi rigs rig gnas pho brang) in Beijing still holds the golden manuscript (gser bris can) of the one-volume collected writings (gsung rtsom) of rGya gar Shes rab rgyal mtshan (1436–1494), the ninteenth throne-holder (khri rabs bcu dgu pa) of Sa skya monastery. Similarly, the Nationalities Library (Mi rigs dpe mdzod khang) in Beijing is said to hold the golden edition of the 14-volume collected writings of the Fourth Zhwa mar pa Chos grags ye shes (1453–1524). See Mi nyag mgon po, mKhas dbang rnam thar (p. 217.5–6): gsung ’bum ni mi rigs dpe mdzod khang du mthing shog la gser zhun gyis bris pa’i pod chen bcu bzhi bzhugs so ||. 63 See, for example, the La dwags rgyal rabs (pp. 51.10–52.1). The manuscript edition of the bKa’ brgyud gser phreng is said to have been produced in gold, silver, and copper. It is not clear if three separate sets were made, namely, one in gold, one in silver, and one in copper, or whether only one “hybrid” (ra ma lug) set was made. Also, the commissioner is not quite clear. If I interpret the passage correctly, it was commissioned by the two princes of the La dwags king ’Jam dbyangs rnam rgyal (r.? 1595–1616), that is, Ngag dbang rnam rgyal and bsTan ’dzin rnam rgyal, born to his queen Tshe ring rgyal mo. The La dwags king Seng ge rnam rgyal (r. 1616– 1642), too, seems to have commissioned deluxe editions of some scriptures and biographies (La dwags rgyal rabs, p. 55.11–14).

without trying to be exhaustive, and far from trying to be complete, I shall list in the following examples of some well-known and lessknown deluxe editions of the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur, which may or may not have survived into the present. (i) Some Deluxe Editions of the bKa’ ’gyur At this point, it is impossible to estimate the exact number of deluxe bKa’ ’gyur editions that ever existed. Kaḥ thog si tu Chos kyi rgya mtsho’s recording of several golden bKa’ ’gyur (and bsTan ’gyur) sets in his travelogue has been reported by Orna Almogi.64 Here, a few further examples that could be traced in some random Tibetan sources may be mentioned. (1) Several deluxe editions of the bKa’ ’gyur in gold and silver commissioned by rJe btsun Grags pa rgyal mtshan (1147– 1216) (along with some editions written with copper, vermillion, and black ink).65 (2) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Bla ma Rin chen bzang po (1243–1319), a master of the Yang dgon sgom sde of Tshal pa.66 (3) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by sKu zhang Grags pa rgyal mtshan (13th cent.).67 (4) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by ’Phags pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan (1235–1280).68 64 Almogi 2012. 65 bDud ’joms, rGyal rabs ’phrul me (p. 244.12–14): rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur ro cog gi glegs bam gser | dngul | zangs | mtshal | snag rnams kyis bris pa bcas snga phyi bsdoms glegs bam stong phrag brgal ba bzhengs |. 66 ’Gos lo, Deb sngon (vol. 1, p. 495.13–14): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur bzhengs; Roerich 1976: 410 (noted also in Schaeffer 2009: 206, n. 3). 67 Roerich 1976: 408; Schaeffer 2009: 206, n. 3. sKal bzang & rGyal po, Zhwa lu’i dkar chag (pp. 19.20–21.2): ’dzam bu chu gser gyis bris pa’i bka’ ’gyur dang brgyad stong pa rtsa brgyad rnams bzhengs. It seems that one more golden bKa’ ’gyur was commissioned by him later. See ibid. (p. 21.7–8): rin chen dang po las grub pa’i bka’ ’gyur sogs gsung rab tshan chen po dang |. 68 bDud ’joms, rGyal rabs ’phrul me (p. 251.16–17): rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur ro cog thams cad gser gyis bris pa sogs glegs bam nyis brgya lhag tsam bzhengs; Rag ra, mKhas pa’i mgul rgyan (p. 212.1–2): rgyal ba’i bka’ dpe nyis brgya lhag tsam gser gyis bzhengs. Note that in the latter the term bka’ ’gyur has not been employed. Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

(5) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by rNgog Rin chen bzang po (1243–1319).69 (6) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan (1302–1364).70 (7) The hybrid gold-and-silver edition of the bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Tshal pa si tu Kun dga’ rdo rje (1309– 1364).71 (8) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Chos skyong rgyal mo, the queen of mNga’ bdag / Khri rgyal bSod nams lde (1371–1404).72 (9) Two sets of gold and one hybrid gold-and-silver edition of the bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Phag gru ruler Grags pa rgyal mtshan (1374–1432).73 (10) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Sixth Pha gru sde srid Grags pa ’byung gnas (1414–1446).74

69 See Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 475.4): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur bzhengs |. 70 bDud ’joms, rGyal rabs ’phrul me (p. 288.10): gser gyis [= gyi] bka’ ’gyur ro cog bzhengs; Zhwa sgab pa, Srid don rgyal rabs (vol. 1, p. 333.19); Rag ra, mKhas pa’i mgul rgyan (p. 234.8): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur <bzhengs>. See van der Kuijp 1994: 140–142, where Ta’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan’s commissioning of a bsTan ’gyur set is discussed but without reference to any deluxe edition of either the bKa’ ’gyur or bsTan ’gyur. 71 Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 1380.8–9): de gser dngul ’dres ma’i bka’ ’gyur nyis brgya drug cu bzhengs par tshal pa bka’ ’gyur zhes ’bod. 72 Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (pp. 121.19–122.6); Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (p. 194.19–20): gser chos bka’ ’gyur dang | bstan ’gyur cha tshang bzhengs. The bKa’ ’gyur set commissioned by the queen Chos skyong rgyal mo is explicitly said to be in gold, having been made in commemoration (dgongs rdzogs) of her late husband, but the bsTan ’gyur commissioned by her was perhaps an ordinary set made with the encouragement of the Sa skya scholar Red mda’ ba gZhon nu blo gros (1349–1412). Exceptionally small numbers of golden manuscripts (gser yig) are said to be found in Tabo (Steinkellner 2000: 324), but they may possibly be connected with this set. 73 Rag ra, mKhas pa’i mgul rgyan (p. 235.17–19): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur tshar gnyis | gser dngul ’dres ma gcig | skya spod <pod> tshar gsum dang | de rnams kyang phyi mor pher ba’i bris dag sogs shin tu spus gtsang bzhengs |. 74 bDud ’joms, rGyal rabs ’phrul me (p. 292.12–13): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur bzhengs pa sogs gong ma na rim gyi mdzad srol bzang po ma nyams par bzung; Zhwa sgab pa, Srid don rgyal rabs (vol. 1, p. 345.10–11); ’Gos lo, Deb sngon (vol. 2, p. 1262.5): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur bzhengs; Roerich 1976:


(11) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Sixth Karma pa mThong ba don ldan (1416–1453).75 (12) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Khri rNam rgyal lde (1422–1503).76 (13) The hybrid gold-and-silver bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Chos rje rNam rgyal grags pa dpal bzang (1469–1530), the Thirteenth Throne-holder of sTag lung monastery.77 (14) The hybrid gold-and-silver bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by ’Bri gung Kun dga’ rin chen (1475–1527).78 (15) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Pha gru ruler Ngag dbang bkra shis grags pa rgyal mtshan (1480– 1564).79 (16) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Kun bzang nyi zla grags (1514–1560).80 (17) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Khri Kun bzang nyi zla grags pa bzang po’i lde (1519–1560).81 (18) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by a certain sDe pa ’Ol kha pa/ba (once a governor in the Pha gru hegemony who later became a fully ordained monk).82

1084 (referred to in Schaeffer 2009: 206–207, n. 3, which, however, simply states that a set of golden bKa’ ’gyur was placed in rTse thang monastery in the 1440s). 75 Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 19.11–12): lho rong du bstan ’gyur gos dar thum can bzhengs | dza landha rar gser gyi bka’ ’gyur glegs shing can bcas bzhengs. 76 Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (p. 127.19–21): rdzong dkar lha khang dmar po ru rgyud sde lha tshogs rab ’byams kyi sku brnyan dang bka’ ’gyur gser rkyang gyis sgrub pa <dang> skya bris bcas tshar gnyis |; Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (p. 197.14–15): gser bris bka’ ’gyur cha tshang gcig dang | skya bris tshar gnyis. 77 sTag lung Ngag dbang rnam rgyal, sTag lung chos ’byung (p. 482.8–11). 78 See below, note 117. 79 Rag ra, mKhas pa’i mgul rgyan (p. 239.18–19): ’dis gser gyi bka’ ’gyur dang gos sku sogs bzhengs. 80 Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (pp. 201.21–202.2): gser chos bka’ ’gyur dang | skya bris bstan ’gyur cha tshang bcas bzhengs pa |. 81 Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (p. 136.11–12): rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur ro cog glegs bam gser rkyang gis bsgrubs pa | skya bris kyi bstan ’gyur tshang ma; Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (pp. 201.21–202.2). Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

(19) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Chos rje la sngon pa bsTan ’dzin ’brug sgra (tenure: 1655–1667, d. 1667), the Second sDe srid of Bhutan.83 (20) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Drung chen Ngag dbang tshe ring (tenure: 1701–1704), the Sixth sDe srid of Bhutan.84 (21) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Ngag dbang rgyal mtshan (tenure: 1739–1744), the Twelfth sDe srid of Bhutan.85 (22) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by bsTan ’dzin bsod nams bzang mo, the mother of Kun dga’ bsod nams aka A myes zhabs.86 (23) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by gTer bdag gling pa aka gTer chen ’Gyur med rdo rje (1646–1714).87 (24) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Pho lha ba/nas bSod nams stobs rgyas (1689–1747).88

82 Rag ra, mKhas pa’i mgul rgyan (p. 246.10–11): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur bzhengs. 83 rJe dGe ’dun rin chen, Zhabs drung rnam thar (p. 305.7); Drag shos Phun tshogs dbang ’dus, ’Brug chos srid kyi rabs (p. 111.6): rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur gser las bzhengs pa sogs. 84 rJe dGe ’dun rin chen, Zhabs drung rnam thar (p. 306.1). mKhan po Phun tshogs bkra shis, bZo rigs bcu gsum (p. 168.7–17). The author points out that among the several sets of golden bKa’ ’gyur made in Bhutan, the best is the one commissioned by Ngag dbang tshe ring, the Sixth sDe srid of Bhutan. In addition, he states that only 58 volumes of this set (now kept) in bKra shis chos rdzong in Thimphu, survived a fire disaster. See ibid. (p. 168.7– 10): ’brug lu bka’ ’gyur gser bris ma le sha yod pa’i gral las legs shos rang sngon sde srid drug pa sa’i brgya sbyin ngag dbang tshe ring gi skabs bris pa’i bka’ ’gyur gser bris ma de tsho in mas |. See also Drag shos Phun tshogs dbang ’dus, ’Brug chos srid kyi rabs (p. 134.6–7). 85 rJe dGe ’dun rin chen, Zhabs drung rnam thar (p. 307.11). 86 Pad ma bkra shis provides some detailed information about the bKa’ ’gyur, which is called the bKa’ ’gyur bstan ’gro’i dpal mgon (“Corpus of the [Buddha’s] Word in [Tibetan] Translation, Which Is the Glorious Protector of the Doctrine and Sentient Beings”). For details, see Pad ma bkra shis, gNa’ dpe’i rnam bshad (pp. 59.12–62.9; 119.9–120.16). 87 sTag sgang mkhas mchog, Gur bkra’i chos byung (p. 705.23–24): gser dngul gyi bka’ ’gyur gyis mtshon glegs bam lnga brgya skor dang |. 88 Rag ra, mKhas pa’i mgul rgyan (p. 320.3–4): gser gyi bka’ ’gyur dang rin po che rnam lnga’i bkar [= bka’] ’gyur khyad ’phags; Zhwa sgab pa, Srid

(25) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Grub chen Thang stong rgyal po (1361/65–1486).89 (26) The golden bKa’ ’gyur preserved in dPal yul monastery.90 (27) The golden bKa’ ’gyur of sDe dge.91 (28) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the king of La dwags Seng ge rnam rgyal (c. 1570–1642).92 (29) The golden bKa’ ’gyur that served as the reverential object of the Eighth Karma pa Mi bskyod rdo rje (1507–1554).93 (30) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Fouteenth Throne-holder of ’Bri gung monastery Chos rgyal rin chen (1421–1479).94 (31) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Ninteenth Throne-holder of ’Bri gung monastery Rin chen rnam rgyal chos kyi grags pa rgyal mtshan (1519–1576).95 (32) The hybrid gold-and-silver edition of the bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Twenty-fifth Throne-holder of ’Bri gung monastery Rig ’dzin chos kyi grags pa (1595–1659).96 (33) The golden bKa’ ’gyur of Mustang.97 (34) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by rGyas sras don rgyal rabs (vol. 1, p. 554.5–7): dga’ ldan du rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur rin po che gser bris ma ’dzam gling g.yas bzhag sogs bzhengs par mdzad pa dang |. 89 Cha ris, Dris lan brgya pa (p. 133.3–5): gsung rten la rgyu gser las grub pa’i bka’ ’gyur zhig gis mgo byas bka’ ’gyur bco brgyad | bstan ’gyur bco lnga. It is not clear if the 18 sets of bKa’ ’gyur and 15 sets of bsTan ’gyur that he is said to have commissioned were manuscript editions or merely xylographic prints. 90 Mu po, dPal yul gdan rabs (p. 346.2–3): rgyu rin chen dang po las bris pa’i rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur rin po che dang |. No details could be found on this golden bKa’ ’gyur. 91 Ngag dbang nor bu, bsTan ’gyur gi byung ba (p. 12.6–17); Gur bkra’i chos ’byung (p. 928.21); cf. rTsom sgrig lhan tshogs, sDe dge rdzong dgon pa’i lo rgyus (p. 7.21): gsung rten gser bris bka’ ’gyur tshar gnyis. 92 Anonymous, La dwags rgyal rabs (p. 54.13–14). 93 Rin chen dpal bzang, mTshur phu’i dkar chag (p. 120.18–19): rjes mi skyod zhabs kyis thugs dam du bzhengs pa’i rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur gser bris ma…. 94 ’Bri gung dKon mchog rgya mtsho, ’Bri gung chos ’byung (p. 401.11–14). 95 ’Bri gung dKon mchog rgya mtsho, ’Bri gung chos ’byung (p. 444.19–30). 96 ’Bri gung dKon mchog rgya mtsho, ’Bri gung chos ’byung (p. 490.24–27). 97 For a report on the golden Mustang bKa’ ’gyur, see Mathes 1997. Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

bsTan ’dzin rab rgyas (1638–1696), the Fourth sDe srid of Bhutan.98 (35) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by sDe srid Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (1653–1705).99 (36) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by Chos rgyal Shes rab dbang phyug, the Thirteenth sDe srid of Bhutan.100 (37) The golden bKa’ ’gyur commissioned by the Eighth Dalai Lama ’Jam dpal rgya mtsho (1758–1804).101 (38) The golden bKa’ ’gyur preserved in the bKa’ ’gyur lha khang in the Potala Palace.102 (39) The silver bKa’ ’gyur preserved in the bKa’ ’gyur lha khang in the Potala Palace.103 (40) The golden bKa’ ’gyur preserved in the Rig ’dzin lha khang in the Potala Palace.104 (41) The silver bKa’ ’gyur preserved in the Rig ’dzin lha khang in the Potala Palace.105

98 rJe Ngag dbang lhun grub, bsTan rab rnam thar (pp. 228.1–229.1); Drag shos Phun tshogs dbang ’dus, ’Brug chos srid kyi rabs (p. 107.7): bka’ ’gyur gser bris ma; mKhan po Phun tshogs bkra shis, bZo rigs bcu gsum (p. 165.8– 14). 99 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 79.8–10). The 114-volume golden bKa’ ’gyur is said to have been produced in Shel dkar rdzong and is now kept in the ’Khrungs rabs lha khang in the Potala Palace. 100 Drag shos Phun tshogs dbang ’dus, ’Brug chos srid kyi rabs (p. 167.3): rgyal ba’i bka’ ’gyur gser ma. 101 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 52.5–7). The 116-volume golden bKa’ ’gyur is kept in the dGa’ ldan phun tshogs ’khyil aka Byams khang in the Potala Palace. 102 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 56.7–18). The 114-volume golden bKa’ ’gyur is said there to be based on the rGyal rtse them spang ma edition of the bKa’ ’gyur and to “include the rNying ma rgyud ’bum” (i.e. probably the rNying rgyud section). 103 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (pp. 56.19–57.8). The 114-volume silver bKa’ ’gyur is said to have been produced in bZhad mThon smon gzhis ka, a place in gZhis ka rtse region. 104 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 84.9–13). The 114-volume golden bKa’ ’gyur is said to be based on the rGyal rtse them spang ma edition. 105 U yon lhan khang, Po ta la’i lo rgyus (p. 84.14–16). The 114-volume silver bKa’ ’gyur (based on the rGyal rtse them spang ma edition) is said to


(42) The golden bKa’ ’gyur (partial set) commissioned by the third king of Bhutan ’Jigs med rdo rje dbang phyug (1928– 1972).106 As mentioned above, this is merely a list of some deluxe editions of the bKa’ ’gyur that may or may not be extant today. It may also be mentioned that in tracking these records, I have not followed any systematic method but have made efforts to gather relevant information from as many sources as possible. In cases where deluxe editions of both the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur are reported together, it has been sometimes difficult to determine whether certain information (e.g. regarding the person who commissioned the edition, the ink used, and the like) refers to both sets or only to one of them. (ii) Some Deluxe Editions of the bsTan ’gyur As for the bsTan ’gyur, even simple editions of it are rarer when compared to the bKa’ ’gyur, let alone deluxe editions. One of the obvious reasons is that in terms of accruing merit, its production is not as ‘lucrative’ as that of the bKa’ ’gyur, particularly in proportion to the work and cost involved. In the following, I list twelve deluxe editions of the bsTan ’gyur mentioned in different Tibetan historical sources, which is, needless to say, far from being exhaustive. (1) The golden bsTan ’gyur reportedly commissioned by ’Bum lde mgon nag po kept at Shel dkar and later transferred to Southern La stod.107

have been produced in bZhad mThon smon gzhis ka. Obviously this is one of the sets of the silver bKa’ ’gyur produced in the gZhis ka rtse region. 106 According to Ura 1995: 250, 52 (but according to another datum on the same page, 51) volumes of the golden bKa’ ’gyur were produced in order to supplement the missing 52 volumes of an 18th-century bKa’ ’gyur set (belonging to the Central Monk Body of Bhutan) that was destroyed in a fire. Some 67 calligraphers were engaged for two years (1966–1967) in writing these 52 volumes. See also mKhan po Phun tshogs bkra shis’s bZo rigs bsum gsum (p. 168.7–17), which makes clear that the 58 volumes of the golden bKa’ ’gyur—commissioned by Ngag dbang tshe ring, the Sixth sDe srid of Bhutan—that survived the fire together with the newly produced additional volumes (number not specified by him) commissioned by King ’Jigs med rdo rje dbang phyug make up the golden bKa’ ’gyur set kept today in bKra shis chos rdzong. rJe dGe ’dun rin chen in his lHo ’brug chos ’byung (p. 438.9) makes a brief reference to this golden bKa’ ’gyur. Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

(2) The hybrid gold-and-silver edition of the bsTan ’gyur commissioned by the Third Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje (1284–1339).108 (3) The golden bsTan ’gyur commissioned by Khri bKra shis sde (d. 1365).109 (4) The golden bsTan ’gyur commissioned by bKra shis dpal ’bar.110 (5) The golden bsTan ’gyur commissioned by Chos skyong rgyal mo, the queen of mNga’ bdag / Khri rgyal bSod nams lde 107 See Diemberger, Elliot, Clemente 2014: 47. The information there is based on the biography of the 15th-century princess Chos kyi sgron ma from Lower mNga’ ris. 108 Ngag dbang nor bu, bsTan ’gyur gi byung ba (pp. 4.19–5.2): kar ma pa rang byung rdo rje gser dngul bris pa’i bstan ’gyur | snar thang gyi bstan ’gyur la phyi mo byas nas spyi lo 1334 yas mas la karma pa rang byung rdo rje (spyi lo 1284–1339) sbyin bdag byas nas gser dngul gyi bstan ’gyur pod drug cu yod pa bzhengs | ’di ni gser dngul gyi bris pa’i bstan ’gyur thog ma’o ||; Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 31.15–16): gser dngul zhun mas bstan ’gyur po ti brgya dang drug cu bzhengs. ’Gos lo gZhon nu dpal (Deb sngon, vol. 1, p. 584.12–15; Roerich 1976: 492; Schaeffer 2009: 206, n. 3) does mention Rang byung rdo rjeʼs commissioning a set of the bsTan ’gyur (in addition to the bKa’ ’gyur) in bSam yas, but he does not specify it as a deluxe edition. 109 Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin in his Gung thang gdung rabs (pp. 115.5–117.9) reports that during the reign of Khri bKra shis sde, the ruler of Mang yul gung thang, a gold mine (gser khung) was discovered on the eastern side of Mount Ti se and thus gold was abundant, and that the ruler commissioned a set of golden bsTan ’gyur. The ruler is also said to have commissioned “wooden slabs smeared with gold water” (gser chu byug pa’i glegs shing) to be used as book covers. As soon as this project was successfully completed, the king launched a new project of making a set of the bKa’ ’gyur, presumably also golden. Unfortunately, after the acquisition of the necessary paper from sKyid rong was complete, the king passed away, and the project could not be realised. See also Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (pp. 190.8–191.10); Ko zhul, mKhas grub ming mdzod (p. 169.16–19): bstan ’gyur yang gser gyi yang zhun gyis bzhengs te rab byung drug pa’i chu mo yos lo te spyi lo 1363 lor lo chen byang chub rtse mo sogs kyis zhus dang rab gnas legs par mdzad do ||. 110 As one of the legacies of bKra shis dpal ’bar, who succeeded his father Khri rgyal bSam grub lde (b. 1371), Kaḥ thog Tshe dbang nor bu mentions bKra shis dpal ’bar’s commissioning of a bsTan ’gyur written with pure gold. See Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (p. 139.6): bstan ’gyur gser rkyang las bzhengs pa; Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (p. 203.5–7).


(1371–1404).111 (6) The golden bsTan ’gyur kept in the Potala Palace.112 (7) The golden bsTan ’gyur commissioned by Pho lha ba/nas bSod nams stobs rgyas (1689–1747).113 (8) The silver bsTan ’gyur of sDe dge commissioned by Chos rgyal bsTan pa tshe ring (1678–1739).114

111 Nor brang O rgyan, Shel dkar phreng ba (p. 194.19–20): gser chos bka’ ’gyur dang | bstan ’gyur cha tshang bzhengs. It seems that the bsTan ’gyur, too, was a golden edition. Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (pp. 121.19–122.6). 112 The golden bsTan ’gyur is said to have been given by the Chinese emperor Ch’ien lung Ti (乾隆帝) (1711–1799) to the Seventh Dalai Lama b/sKal bzang rgya mtsho (1708–1757). It is reportedly still kept in the Potala Palace. Ngag dbang nor bu, bsTan ’gyur gi byung ba (p. 10.10–13): pho brang po ta la’i gser bris bstan ’gyur bris ma | spyi lo dus rabs bcu bdun par rgya nag gong ma ching yung ting gis rgyal dbang sku phreng bdun pa skal bzang rgya mtsho la gnang ba’i gser bris bstan ’gyur | da lta po ta lar bzhugs |. The Po ta la’i lo rgyus, compiled by the Bod rang skyong ljongs rig dngos do dam u yon lhan khang, does not seem to mention this golden bsTan ’gyur. On the date of this golden bsTan ’gyur, see Miyake 1995, and for a brief guide to it, see Skilling 1991. A ccomparative table of the golden bsTan ’gyur with the Peking edition of the bsTan ’gyur can be found in Miyake 2000. 113 Ngag dbang nor bu in bsTan ’gyur gi byung ba (pp. 18.5–20.7), an introduction to his gSer bris bstan dkar, provides several details about Pho lha ba’s golden bsTan ’gyur. Ngag dbang nor bu explains the reasons for composing a new catalogue of the bsTan ’gyur gser bris ma. The Rin chen phra tshoms—a traditional catalogue of the bsTan ’gyur gser bris ma by ’Jam dbyangs bde be’i rdo rje (1682–1741)—which is, by the way, in verse, provides only short titles of the texts, and it lacks serial (or identification) numbers of texts and folio or page numbers. Pho lha ba’s bsTan ’gyur gser bris ma was kept in the Palace of Nationalities (Mi rigs pho brang) in Beijing during the period between 1959 and 1988. Ngag dbang nor bu, while preparing his gSer bris bstan dkar, had physical access to the golden manuscript. The 225-volume bsTan ’gyur gser bris ma is currently kept at dGa’ ldan monastery in Lhasa. mDo mkhar ba Tshe ring dbang rgyal (1697–1763) in his Mi dbang rtogs brjod (pp. 820.15–827.9)— which according to the colophon (p. 860.16) was completed in the year 1733 (Chu mo glang)—does describe the making of the golden bKa’ ’gyur but not of the golden bsTan ’gyur. For some additional references and information, see Schaefer 2009: 205, n. 59.

(9) The hybrid gold-and-silver edition of the bsTan ’gyur commissioned by the Nineteenth Throne-holder of ’Bri gung monastery Rin chen rnam rgyal chos kyi grags pa rgyal mtshan (1519–1576).115 (10) The golden bsTan ’gyur commissioned by ’Jigs med rdo rje dbang phyug (1928–1972), the third king of Bhutan.116 (11) The hybrid gold-and-silver edition of the bsTan ’gyur commissioned by ’Bri gung Kun dga’ rin chen (1475– 1527).117 (12) The deluxe edition of the bsTan ’gyur commissioned by the Eighth Dalai Lama ’Jam dpal rgya mtsho (1758–1804).118 7. Why Were Deluxe Editions Made? Behind the individual motives of the production of deluxe editions seem to lie at least three related Buddhist doctrinal assumptions: (a) through the act of writing down and venerating Buddhist scriptures one accrues immense merit, as many Mahāyāna scriptures repeatedly 114 Ngag dbang nor bu, bsTan ’gyur gi byung ba (p. 12.6–17); Gur bkra’i chos ’byung (p. 928.22); cf. rTsom sgrig lhan tshogs, sDe dge rdzong dgon pa’i lo rgyus (p. 7.21–22): dngul bris kyi bstan ’gyur tshar gcig. 115 ’Bri gung dKon mchog rgya mtsho, ’Bri gung chos ’byung (p. 444.19–30). 116 The golden bsTan ’gyur is kept in bKra shis chos rdzong in Thimphu (Bhutan) and was completed in 1968 (Ura 1995: 250). According to this source, the golden bsTan ’gyur consists of 200 volumes. In 2012, I was able to take a brief look at two volumes of the bsTan ’gyur, which is kept in pigeonhole-style traditional book shelves jumbled together with the volumes of the bKa’ ’gyur. No one seems to be aware of the existence or whereabouts of a catalogue. 117 Note that gold-and-silver deluxe editions of both the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur were made. ’Bri gung Kun dga’ rin chen, Log rtog kun sel (p. 520.2–5): bka’ ’gyur sngon po gser dngul gyis brgyan par byas pa po ti brgya dang | sngags ’bum po ti gcig dang brgya rtsa gcig legs par grub cing | glegs shing sku rags na bza’i bye brag tshang ba | bstan ’gyur nyid kyang sngon po gser dngul gyis brgyan par byas te | po ti gril pod chen mo brgya dang bdun | lañtsa po ti gcig dang brgya dang brgyad do || de dag gi’ang glegs shing sku rags na bza’i bye brag rnams legs par grub pa’o || rgyas par dkar chag chen mor blta bar bya’o ||. 118 Dung dkar, dPe rnying par skrun (p. 426.15–19). Dung dkar Blo bzang ’phrin las mentions here the Eighth Dalai Lama’s commissioning of the Rin chen sna bdun gyi bstan ’gyur in the context of assessing the costs of such projects.

profess,119 (b) the degree of merit that one accrues from these deeds depends on the scale of the work and quality of the edition as well as on the type and sanctity of the scriptures, and (c) the merit accumulated by these deeds always redounds to the good of the living and the dead to whom they are dedicated. Some of the concrete and immediate purposes may be mentioned: (a) One of the common motives is accruing merit for the deceased (shi ba’i dge ba), as in the case of Khri srong lde btsan, who commissioned an exclusive edition of the Prajñāpāramitā scriptures for his deceased queen, or as in the case of mNga’ bdag ’Gro mgon dpal, who commissioned a golden edition of the Corpus of Tantric Scriptures in memory (dgongs rdzogs) of his father. As seen above, Chos skyong rgyal mo, the queen of mNga’ bdag bSod nams lde, also commissioned a set of golden bKa’ ’gyur in memory of her late husband.120 (b) Another purpose of creating a deluxe edition of a Buddhist corpus is that it can be used by an important person as a support for his or her “personal practice” (thugs dam). For example, the gold-and-silver bsTan ’gyur commissioned by the Third Karma pa is said to have been meant for such a purpose. Conceivably, what is called rgyal po’i bla dpe—which may be rendered as “king’s life copies” or “copies in the royal custody/archive” and which were copies of important scriptures kept at the royal treasury during the imperial period—were often special editions and had similar functions.121 (c) Occasionally, deluxe editions of certain scriptures were made so that they could be placed as contents into stūpas. Kaḥ thog Tshe dbang nor bu reports that mNga’ bdag / Khri rgyal ’Bum lde mgon (1253–1280), the ruler of Mang yul gung thang in Lower mNga’ ris, commissioned a stūpa—resembling what is called a bKra shis sgo mang (perhaps lit. “Multiple Doors of Auspiciousness”) at Rin chen sgang in Sa skya— for which purpose he employed eight Nepalese craftsmen, and mentions several items that were placed in the stūpa. One of these is said to have been “a book of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā written with gold ink on blue paper, a support of Ārya Nāgārjuna’s 119 See, for example, Zhu chen, sDe dge bstan dkar (pp. 864.4–875.9). 120 See Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (pp. 121.19–122.6); Chab spel & Nor brang, g.Yu yi phreng ba (vol. 1, p. 514.16–18). 121 Jäschke 1881 does not mention rgyal po’i bla dpe but it does mention similar terms such as rgyal po’i bla g.yu and also bla shing (“a tree of fate”) and bla dar (“a little flag on the top of the house, on which benedictions are written”) (p. 383). Cf. Jäschke 1881: s.v. bla (II.3) “an object with which a person’s life is ominously connected.” Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials

personal practice having [re-]emerged (in Tibet) during the reign of Chos rgyal Khri srong lde btsan.”122 (d) Deluxe editions have also been commissioned as a token of gratitude, for example, to one’s parents (yab yum gyi bka’ drin bsab pa’i ched du).123 (e) It is also possible that some deluxe editions were commissioned as a token of repentance for one’s past unwholesome deeds. (f) Deluxe editions of Buddhist scriptures may also be made for installation in important complexes as representations of the Buddha’s Speech (gsung rten) or as permanent objects of veneration, such as the golden deluxe editions of bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur commissioned by the third king of Bhutan, which were installed in the bKra shis chos rdzong in Thimphu. In short, the entire project of creating deluxe editions of Buddhist scriptures or scriptural corpora can be seen as an enormous and expensive merit-accruing undertaking. These editions are meant as personal or public objects of worship rather than as objects of daily use and could be dedicated to the living or the dead. 8. Who Commissioned Deluxe Editions? Because of the immense costs and status involved in projects devoted to making deluxe editions, only individuals or institutions of immense influence and affluence could afford to successfully launch and complete such projects. Thus those who commissioned such projects were commonly kings, queens, ministers, and often feudal lords with economic resources and political influence. In fact, it was often a governmental undertaking. As this is clearly demonstrated by the above lists of deluxe editions of the bKa’ gyur and bsTan ’gyur, in which often the commissioners are mentioned, there is no need to provide additional examples.

9. Writing Materials Used for Deluxe Editions It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the personal, professional, technical, material, social, economic, and logistical

122 Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin, Gung thang gdung rabs (p. 106.8–11): de bzhin ’phags pa klu sgrub kyi thugs dam gyi rten mthing shog la dzam bu gser gyis bris pa’i sher phyin brgyad stong pa’i glegs bam chos rgyal khri srong lde btsan gyi skabs su byung ba dang |. 123 According to Kaḥ thog rig ’dzin’s Gung thang gdung rabs (pp. 106.16– 107.4), mNga’ bdag / Khri rgyal ’Bum lde mgon commissioned the golden edition of a 16-volume Śatasāhasrikā (in Tibetan translation) in order to repay a debt of kindness owed to his parents.

aspects of producing deluxe editions of scriptures and treatises in the Tibetan cultural domain. Nonetheless, three brief remarks may be made in this connection. First, the most likely sources for finding such information would be the traditional catalogues (dkar chag) and colophons of the deluxe editions themselves, biographies of persons involved in the projects, and the like. As an example, I may mention here ’Jam dbyangs bde be’i rdo rje’s (1682–1741) catalogue of the golden bsTan ’gyur—commissioned by Pho lha ba/nas bSod nams stobs rgyas (1689–1747)—which provides some information about the production.124 Second, because ink made of precious materials such as gold and silver is one of the fundamental characteristics of a deluxe edition, it would be desirable—as a starting point for further investigation—to gather as many primary and secondary sources as possible that contain information on the processes of making gold and silver ink.125 The types, forms, and methods of using gold in Tibetan painting have already been discussed on several occasions,126 and conceivably, most of the pigments, such as of gold or lapis lazuli,127 used for painting are also applicable for writing. Moreover, recently material analysis of the inks and pigments used in Tibet for the production of deluxe editions has been undertaken on several occasions.128 Third, deluxe editions written with precious ink are commonly written on black or dark blue paper (mthing shog).

124 ’Jam dbyangs bde be’i rdo rje, Rin chen phra tshoms (fols. 184a2–199a); Ngag dbang nor bu, bsTan ’gyur gi byung ba (pp. 18.5–20.7). mDo mkhar zhabs drung Tshe ring dbang rgyal in his Mi dbang rtogs brjod (pp. 820.15– 827.9) also provides information on the making of a golden bKa’ ’gyur. 125 The bZo rig gi lag len ratna pa tra (ascribed to various authors such as Padmasambhava and Nāgārjuna) contains a number of practical art and craft manuals that include a few passages on making golden and silver ink. See the bZo rig lag len (pp. 549.12–550.2). 126 Jackson & Jackson 1976: 281–285. See also Jäschke 1881, which identifies dul ma as “a kind of water-colour made of pulverised gold and silver, for painting and writing.” 127 Jackson & Jackson 1976: 276–277. See also brTson ’grus rab rgyas & rDo rje rin chen, Ri mo’i rnam gzhag (pp. 417.13–418.22); Mi pham, bZo gnas nyer kho (pp. 430.1–431.7); Ngag dbang bstan nyi chos ’byung, bZo rig pa tra (pp. 477.5–478.6), where methods of preparing gser ’dul, dngul ’dul, zangs ’dul, rag ’dul, and mtshal ’dul are described. 128 See, for example, Almogi, Kindzorra, Hahn, Rabin 2015, which describes the material analysis (including inks and paper) undertaken with the rNying ma rgyud ’bum set stored at the National Archives in Kathmandu.

Information on how to make dark blue paper, however, seems to be rare in Tibetan sources. Thus far I have been able to trace only five brief works in Tibetan. The first one is an article devoted exclusively to the topic of making mthing shog by bKra shis don grub, a modern Tibetan author who describes five steps.129 He adds that a special kind of pen called the brda rdo’i smyu gu is required for drawing lines on mthing shog. The second Tibetan source is the bZo rig lag len, compiled by an anonymous author and containing extracts of diverse sources ascribed to figures such as Padmasambhava. This work includes two passages that are relevant here, namely, a passage dealing with “how to make dark blue paper” (mthing shog bya thabs) and another on “how to make golden and silver manuscripts” (gser dngul gyi yi ge bya thabs).130 The third Tibetan source is a small passage from Brang ti dPal ldan rgyal mtshan’s gSer bre dngul bre, a medicinal work that contains various prescriptions and remedies. A small passage is devoted to “procedures for obtaining (lit. “the origination of”) dark blue paper and a manuscript [written on] dark blue [paper]” (mthing shog mthing yig ’byung thabs), and also “procedures for obtaining a manuscript [written with] turquoisebased [ink]” (g.yu yig ’byung thabs).131 The fourth is a small passage with the title mThing shog bzo ba’i lag shes included in a two-volume book on Tibetan handicraft.132 The fifth is a contribution by rGyal mo ’brug pa of the China Tibetology Research Center, who discusses not only the history of paper-making in Tibet but also the art of making paper of various colours including dark-blue and black paper.133 As a secondary source on the making of dark blue paper, a recent article by James Canary could be mentioned.134 129 bKra shis don grub, mThing shog bzo rim. 130 Anonymous, bZo rig lag len (pp. 549.12–550.17). 131 Brang ti dPal ldan rgyal mtshan, gSer bre dngul bre (p. 43.1–9). 132 dKon mchog bstan ’dzin et al., Lag shes kun ’dus (vol. 1, pp. 245.11– 246.5). It also includes sample images of deep blue paper. 133 rGyal mo ’brug pa in his Shog bzo’i lag rtsal discusses at some length the pratice of paper-making in Tibet. See particularly the Shog bzo’i lag rtsal (pp. 173.15–182.9), where he provides some details of making “red paper” (shog dmar), “yellow paper” (shog ser), “blue paper” (shog sngon or mthing shog), “green paper” (shog ljang), “black paper” (shog nag), and so forth. 134 Canary 2014. In addition to recording various kinds of paper or writing material known to Tibetans—such as “Chinese paper” (rgya shog), “Tibetan paper” (bod shog), “silk sheets” (dar shog), “cotton sheets” (ras shog), “bast paper” (shing shog), and “parchment” (pags shog)—Jäschke 1881 (s.v. shog

10. Epilogue A study of Tibetan deluxe editions of Buddhist scriptures and treatises has highlighted a fascinating aspect of both the tangible and intangible culture of regions impregnated with Tibetan Buddhism, and revealed in the process Tibetansʼ passion for and expression of aesthetic appeal and craftsmanship; pomposity and exclusivity; social-economic power and prestige; and piety and religiosity. While Tibetan deluxe editions of Buddhist scriptures and treatises are not indispensable for studying the content of the texts that they contain, their breath-taking beauty alone—that is, their aesthetic value, as epitomised by the golden manuscripts of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s gSang ba rgya can—should be reason enough to further their appreciation and preservation through proper study.

bu) also mentions “dark-blue paper” (mthing shog) and “black paper” (nag shog) “for writing on in gold and silver.” Dorji Wangchuk: Sacred Words, Precious Materials


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