Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

Textual and visual odds and ends from India, Tibet, and around.

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Location: Kolozsvár/Cluj, Budapest, Oxford, ibi ubi

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bsdus yig 1

I have recently added to "Nyer mkho" (to your left) two links which take you to the scanned editions of the Journal Asiatique and the BEFEO available so far. I have not had the chance to browse through all of them, but one article which I found very useful is Jacques Bacot's L'écriture cursive tibétaine, the first article in JA XIX. 1912 Jan-Feb. If you are working with dbu med manuscripts this will be invaluably helpful as it can be taken for granted that sooner or later you will bump into a strange contraction (bsdus yig). Bacot lists and solves 710 of these (including about 200 of Csoma's). A short introductory note explains some of the (not so constant) underlying principles of how contractions are made and some instances where readings can be misinterpreted at first glance. Many more could be added, such as the witty 4n for bzhin (4=bzhi), etc.

Note that many errors in blockprints come about with the copyist or carver misreading the dbu med script in front of him. I came across one such amusing example in Shar rdza Bkra shis rgyal mtshan's Legs bshad rin po che'i gter mdzod (the Chinese edition). When listing the northern countries among the Hor, he mentions "spu gur" (="fur-tent"), which might have seemed plausible for some readers recalling nomadic tents. He surely meant yu gur, that is the Uygurs, but sp- and y- are very similar and "fur-tents" rhymed nicely with the context. I wonder how many "fur-tents" did Csoma skip when scanning Tibetan texts for the Uygurs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The emerging D[D]P[R]MTMX

The curiously abbreviated Digital Documentation and Preservation of Rare Mongolian and Tibetan Manuscripts and Xylographs page is the product of an emerging joint project involving the Research Group for Altaic Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Mongolia. What you can see on the page so far are digital photographs of some goodies if you read Mongolian as well, but if you read only Tibetan (like I do) make sure to to click on "Láma életrajzok" after entering for a series of interesting hagiographical writings. Please note that Safari is not on friendly terms with this site (i.e. nothing will be diplayed. I used Opera, Firefox seems to tolerate it as well). Also note that the photographs are quite large, so you will need to be patient even with a very fast connection (the table underneath takes up a zillion pixels). It is hoped that the project will continue to reveal the dormant treasures of Mongolian collections and it will encourage other libraries to digitize and share their manuscripts and other rarities on the web. It is also hoped that the DPMTMX will soon migrate to an own domain as the pop-up windows are a bit annoying.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ting shag brdung tshul

For all you rol mo'i bstan bcos fans out there (not too many, I wager), you should know that there are proper ways to sound those little cymbals. The verso says this was taught by Blo bzang Chos kyi Rgyal mtshan (you mean the 1570-1662, 4th/1st paṇchen Blo bzang Chos kyi Rgyal mtshan?).

[Ms. from Mongolia, currently in my private collection]

Khache Phalu tells it

In the name of multiculturality, the Beneficient, the Merciful. (In case you did not realize this was a bad joke, do not read this blog.) This interesting little blockprint was picked up in Shigatse (Gzhis ka rtse) late spring of 2006. The Kha Che Pha Lu as far as I know, has not received much attention apart from a translation in Dharamsala and some shorter articles. Reputedly written by a Tibetan Muslim, it contains aphorisms on worldly (and otherworldly) wisdom. Sadly, the colophon is not very informative but it certainly has not got a copyright tag so why not post it? In the meantime Kriszta Szabó has amiably shared her as yet unpublished paper examining the text and provided me with the following references:
  • Kha che Pha lu'i 'jig rten las 'bras rtsi lugs kyi bslab bya, Sherig Parkhang, Delhi, 2000.
  • Khache Phalu's Advice on Art of Living, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, 1986.
  • Tashi Tsering, "The advice of the Tibetan Muslim 'Phalu'. A preliminary discussion of a popular Buddhist/Islamic literary treatise." In Tibetan Review (February 1988) pp. 10-15; (March 1988) pp. 18-21.