L. Belka

«ICONS WORTHWHILE TO SEE»: PRAGUE FRAGMENT OF THE XYLOGRAPH «FIVE HUNDRED GODS OF NARTHANG» (A FIRST REPORT)[1]

   An illustrated xylograph originally known to the Western scholars as Five Hundred Gods of Narthang (correct name is Icons Worthwhile to See) was for the first time printed in the beginning of the 19th century. The history of the Western discovery of the xylograph is best captured by Martin Willson and Martin Brauen2. The first person to deal with the xylograph was Eugen Pander3, who got acquainted with it in Beijing, where he worked as a professor at the university and in 1890 he published some of the depictions in his book on three hundred deities. He used this xylograph to replace with it certain depictions from a completely different pantheon. By this action he baffled some researchers, such as Walter Eugene Clark, who got acquainted with photocopies either from the original Pander's or another sample and included it to his survey of Tibetan Buddhist iconography as «Раntheon C», i.e. as the third out of four4. Also Albert Grünwedel most probably worked with the Berlin sample and published its parts in his book5. Another western researcher studying Icons Worthwhile to See was the missionary of Moravian Brethren order in Ladakh, Friedrich A. Peter, who published the report on this xylograph that he had obtained from a local lama6.

Another complete edition of illustrations comes from 1963-1964; however, it does not provide a mechanical reproduction of the original xy-

322

lograph. For an unknown reason, Lokesh Chandra (whose father Raghu Vira allegedly bought the xylograph in Ulaanbaatar in 1956) had all the 507 pictures redrawn. As Martin Willson and Martin Brauen point out, the evidence value of these pictures is minimal due to this unfortunate step and the edition is almost unusable for research work. The same authors mention another unfortunate event confusing the entire expert public. Eugen Pander was mistaken to think that the original xylographic blocks were cut and the xylograph was printed out of them in the famous Tibetan monastery printing house in Narthang. Walter Eugene Clark maintained this idea as well and in his book he named this pantheon «Five Hundred Gods of Narthang». However, this title is incorrect not only because of the origin of the xylographic blocks and the print, but also the number is misleading. These are not 500 gods, but 507 pictures, some of which depict more than one figure. Another matter is that they are not gods, but male and female deities. The Tibetan title of the xylograph reflects the reality better: 500 pictures (sku hrnyan lnga brgya). As the authors add, it would be suitable to return to the original title, i.e. «Icons Worthwhile to See» (bris sku mtong ba don ldan). The first complete edition of mechanical reproductions of the xylograph was brought by the Japanese researchers Musashi Tachikawa, Mori Masahide and Yamaguchi Shinobu7 at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. Another complete edition also based on the original xylograph, forms a sui

 generis unique specimen. It is a recent publication of the Swiss copy, which is manually colored on the original xylograph. By care of Martin Willson and Martin Brauen not only colored reproductions of these paintings were

 published, but both authors processed this material with great thoroughness, including various comparisons of the xylograph Icons Worthwhile to See already published, be it partially or completely.

The illustrated xylograph «Icons Worthwhile to See» («Five Hundred Gods of Narthang») has been preserved in just a few copies and they are found in museums: Indian Institute of the University of Hamburg; Library Of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, India8; Völkerkundemuseum der Univerzität Zurich; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich; Museum of the History of Religions, St. Petersburg; Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg; Buryat Scientific Center, Ulan-Ude)9.

323

National Museum — Naprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures in Prague bought altogether six folios of this collection from an unknown seller in a Prague secondhand book store on 3 September 1987, but the correct identification of the print was carried out only in 2006 by the author of this contribution L. Belka. This fragment, which for the purpose of simplicity will be called the «Prague fragment» here, is in a perfect condition, sheets are undamaged and in the original state. Their height is 10,5 cm and width is 29,9 cm. Due to the circumstances of the purchase, which was realized through the «Klenoty company», Národní 22, Prague 1, and the purchase receipt does not contain the name of the seller, it is not possible to find out the original owner and thus to determine circumstances of the arrival of the Prague fragment to the Czech lands. An overview of the six folios is as follows:

First folio (Collection No. A 17 446): Xylograph No. II10; it contains depiction of three following figures11 — Ho-shang (No. 34, Tib. hwa shang); Dhritarashtra (No. 35, Yulkhorsung /Tib. yul 'khor bsrung/) a Virudhaka (No. 36, Phagkyepo /Tib. phags skyes po/).

Second folio (Collection No. A 17 445): Xylograph No. 12; it contains depiction of three following figures — Virupaksha (No. 37, Migmizang /Tib. mig mi bzang/, also called Chanmizang /Tib. spyan mi bzang/); Vaishravana (No. 38, Namthosa /Tib. rnam thos sras/) a Buddha Shakyamuni as one of the four Ka-dam deities (No. 39, Tib. bka' gdams lha bzhi'i nang gi shakya thub pa).

Third folio (Collection No. A 17 447): Xylograph No. 17; it contains depiction of three following figures — Guhyasamaja-manjuvajra (No. 52, Sangdu Jamdor /Tib. gsang 'dus jam rdor/); Innate (Sahaja) Guhyasamaja (No. 53, Sangdu Lhankje /Tib. gsang 'dus lhan skyes/) and Mahamaya (No. 54, Mahamaya /Tib. ma ha maya/).

Fourth folio (Collection No. A 17 450): Xylograph No. 25; it contains depiction of three following figures — Vajravarahi in the Chel Tradition (No. 76, Chellu Dorje Phagmo /Tib. dpyal lugs rdo rdje phag mo/); Naro's Dakini (No. 77, Narokhacho /Tib. na ro mkha' spyod/) and Maitri's Dakini (No. 78, Maitrikhacho /Tib. na ro mkha' spyod/).

Fifth folio (Collection No. A 17 449): Xylograph No. 27; it contains depiction of three following figures — Vajra-varnani (No. 82, Dorje Rab-

nagma /Tib. rdo rje rab sngags ma/); Vairochani (No. 83, Narnnangma /Tib. rnam snang ma/) and Varahi with Raised Leg (No. 84, Phagmo Namzhama /Tib. phag mo gnam zhabs ma/).

Sixth folio (Collection No. A 17 448): Xylograph No. 28; it contains depiction of three following figures — Tortoise-legged (Kurmapadi) Varahi (No. 85, Phagmo Kurmapadi /Tib. phag mo kurma pa di/); Vajravarahi in the Tradition of the Brahmana Shridhara (No. 86, /Tib. bram ze dpal 'dzin lugs kyi rdo rje phag mo/) and Nam's Daltini (No. 87, Narokhacho /Tib. na ro mkha' spyod/).

The first and second folios (No. 11 and 12, see Ilustration No. 1-4) represent a whole, as the pictures contain five very popular figures of the Tibetan Buddhism. These are: a Chinese monk, who is called Hwashang by Tibetans (this name is derived from the Chinese expression che-shang, which is a general designation of a Buddhist monk in Chinese; picture No. 35, folio 11, 11a; see Illustration No. 1.) and four kings, guardians of cardinal points. Hwashang is usually depicted in two similar iconographic wholes and this either together with Buddha Shakyamuni and sixteen arahats and Dharmatala12 or in the above-mentioned whole without the Buddha.

According to various interpretations it was Hwashang who was sent to India by the Chinese emperor Thang dsui dsung (Thang Jui Tsung, year 710-713)13 to bring the sixteen arahats to China. Eventually, he completed his task, which is symbolized by the depiction where he is surrounded by frolicking children14.

First folio of the Prague Fragment, recto of the xylograph No. 1115; it contains depiction of the three following figures16 — Ho-shang/Hwashang

325

(No. 34, Tib. hwa shang); Dhritarashtra (No. 35, Tib. yul 'khor bsrung/) and Virudhaka (No. 36, Tib. ‘phags skyes po/), published with the permission of the National Museum — Naprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures in Prague, Czech Republic (Collection No. A 17 446). Ho-shang's subsistent mantra on the verso of the folio is:

sangs rgyas gnas brtan 'khor dang bcas // spyan drangs dbyar gyi sbyin bdag zhus// gsung gyi bdud rtsi myang ba yis// bden thong hwa shang la phyag tshal// dus kyi mthar yang bstan pa mchog// phyogs bcur rgyas pa'i sbyin bdag mdzod//17

First folio of the Prague Fragment, verso of the xylograph No. 11; it contains mantras of the Ho-shang/Hwashang (No. 34, Tib. hwa shang); Dhritarashtra (No. 35, Tib. yul 'khor bsrung/) and Virudhaka (No. 36, Tib. 'phags skyes po/). Published with the permission of the National Museum— Naprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures in Prague, Czech Republic (Collection No. A 17 446). Transcription of the mantras is in the text.

Besides Hwashang, supplementary figures in the iconographic collection of sixteen arahats are four guardians of cardinal points, who by coincidence are also found in the Prague fragment. In case of large depictions, such as painted thangkas18 or large xylographic depictions, Hwashang is usually depicted with Dhritarashtra in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture and Virudhaka in the bottom right-hand corner. The remaining two guardians of cardinal points are depicted in another picture, where they represent companions of the Buddhist layman Dharmatala. This is Virupaksha in the bottom left-hand corner and Vaishravana in the bottom right-hand corner.

The most powerful from the four celestial kings, guardian kings (skit. Lokapala, Tib. rgyal chen bzhi) is Vaishravana. Three others (Dhritarashtra, Virudhaka and Virupaksha) are vassals of the fourth Vaishravana. «They hold various attributes in their hands and assume dynamic postures, with a wrathful appearance. They are venerated either in the person of their chief,

326

Vaishravana, or collectively, but are not really worshipped except when Vaishravana is considered as a separate deity»19.

The first one, Dhritarashtra (Tib. Yulkhorsung /Tib. yul 'khor bsrung/, fig. No. 35, folio 11, 11b) is the guardian of the eastern cardinal point. His name means «Не who maintains the kingdom (of the Law)» or «the maintainer of the state»20. His attribute is a musical instrument, lute or mandolin21 which symbolizes his relationship to heaven musicians, «scent eaters», eaters of sweet sounds (Sa. gandharva, Tib. diza /dri za/), he being their ruler. He is the only guardian whose ears are not seen and this is because he has poison in them, which harms the creators of sound. If his ear-lobes are covered with sides of his helmet and he plays his instrument at the same time, the creators of sound are safe, no danger threatens them22. Dhritarashtra's subsistent mantra on the verso of the folio is:

rgyal po chenpo dpal ldan pa// margad mdog mtshungs pi wang dzin// dri za'i tshogs la dbang bsgyur ba'i// yul 'khor bsung la phyag 'tshal lo// bla ma'i sku tshe brtan pa dang// bstan pa rgyas pa'i 'phrin las mdzod//23

The second of the four guardians of cardinal points is Virudhaka (Tib. Phagkyepo /tib. 'phags skyes po/, Fig. No. 36, folio 11, 11c) who is the guardian of the southern cardinal point. His name means «Не who enlarges the kingdom», or «the powerful one»24. Similarly to the preceding figure of Dhritarashtra, who has poison in his ears, Virudhaka has poison on his hands. If he has a saber in his hand, he cannot touch people and is harmless. He plays a significant role in the protection of people from Yama, the judge of the dead, ruler of the southern world25. Gösta Liebert26 states that his

327

attribute is ajina, (the skin from the head of an elephant); however, it is apparent from the picture that this guardian stands on tiger skin27. Virudhaka's subsistent mantra on the verso of the folio is:

dpal bo chen po stobs po che// sku mdog sngon po ral 'gri dzin// grul bum tshogs la dbang bsgyur ba'i// 'phags skyes po la phyag 'tshal lo// bla ma'i sku tshe brtan pa dang// bstan pa rgyas pa'i 'phrin las mdzod//28

The third guardian is Virupaksha (Tib. Migmizang /mig mi bzang/, Fig. No. 37, folio 12, 12a, sometimes also called Chanmizang /Tib. spyan mi bzang/; see Illustration No. 3.), who is the guardian of the western cardinal point. His name means «Не who observes everything that happens in the kingdoms, or «Не who sees all».29 His poison is found in his eyes. That is why he looks at the miniature of a stúpa, which he holds in his right hand, and thus he cannot injure anyone with his poisonous look. In his left hand, he clutches a sling, which reminds us of his past, when he was a mythical bird garuda and fought nagas, water demons30.

Second folio of the Prague Fragment, recto of the xylograph No. 12; it contains depiction of the three following figures — Virupaksha (No. 37, Tib. mig mi bzang); Vaishravana (No. 38, Tib. rnam thos sras) and Buddha Shakyamuni as one of the four Ka-dam deities (No. 39, Tib. bka' gdams lha bzhi’i nang gi shakya thub pa). Published with the permission of the National Museum — Naprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures in Prague, Czech Republic (Collection No. A 17 445).

Virupaksha's subsistent mantra on the verso of the folio is (see Ill. 4.):

mnga' bdag chen po stobs po che// kha mdog dmar po sbrul zhags 'dzin// klu dbang tshogs la dbang bsgyur ba'i// spyan mi bzang la phyag 'tshal lo// bla ma'i sku tshe brtan pa dang// bstan pa rgyas pa'i 'phrin las mdzod//31

328

The last, fourth guardian is Vaishravana (Tib. Namthosa /tib. rnam thos sras/, Fig. No. 38, folio 12, 12b; see Illustration No. 3.), the guardian of the northern cardinal point. His name means «Не who is knowing», «Не who hears everything in the kingdom»32. His breath is poisonous and he holds his mouth shut, not to harm people. From the four, he is the most popular one. He also represents the deity of richness and abundance, which is symbolized by a small ichneumon spouting jewels in his left hand, and he hold a victorious standard in his right hand.

Vaishravana's subsistent mantra on the verso of the folio is:

ded dpon chen po gser mdog chan// rgyal mtshan dang ni ne'u le 'dzin// gnod sbyin tshogs la dbang bsgyur ba'i// mam thos sras la phyag tshal lo// bla ma'i sku tshe brtan pa dang// bstan pa rgyas pa'i 'phrin las mdzod//33

Second folio of the Prague Fragment, verso of the xylograph No. 12; it contains mantras of the Virupaksha (No. 37, Tib. mig mi bzang); Vaishra-vana (No. 38, Tib. rnam thos sras) and Buddha Shakyamuni as one of the four Ka-dam deities (No. 39, Tib.: bka' gdams lha bzhi'i nang gi shakya thub pa). Published with the permission of the National Museum — Naprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures in Prague, Czech Republic (Collection No. A 17 445).

So far, it has not been possible to physically compare individual folios of Prague fragment with other specimens of the xylograph, and therefore we cannot draw an unambiguous conclusion as to whether these really are prints from the original xylographic blocks. Comparison has been made with book reproductions of Tachikawa's edition of an incomplete Hamburg copy. Due to the fact that Tachikawa replaced the missing folios with other

 pictures from Dharamsala (of which it is not known from what xylographic blocks they were printed, either) when publishing his work and he made mistakes during the reproduction of verso pages, i.e. reproductions of mantras, his work cannot serve as authoritative guidance for the determination whether the Prague fragment was printed from the original xylographic blocks or not. However, it may be useful because in case of the comparison of the first and second Prague folios with the above-mentioned Tachikawa publication the reproduction of the original Hamburg xylograph and not

329

that from Dharamsala is compared. Moreover, for the determination whether the pictures are identical, printed from one xylographic block, it is more suitable to compare verso and not recto, as potential differences are more apparent in the text, and not in the picture (for potential copyists it is more important that the congruence or agreement — between an original and a copy — is in the picture; we may assume that they were less precise with the text). By the juxtaposition of the first and second folio of the Prague fragment with the reproduction in Tachikawa's publication we can ascertain such an agreement that we can speak of identical copies and we may make a preliminary conclusion that they were printed from one and the same xylographic block. Only after the comparison of the paper used (a task to be completed) we may judge whether the Prague fragment and Hamburg xylograph come from the same or at least close period of time. The other preserved samples (Dharamsala, St Petersburg, Ulan-Ude, Ulaanbaatar etc.) should be treated in the same way.

Bibliography:

Ikonografia Vadzhrayany (An Iconography of Vajrayana, in Russian). Ed. by T.-B. Badmazhapov. Moscow: Dizain — Informatsia — Kartografiia, 2003.

Bunce Frederick W., An Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Deities, Demigods, Godlings, Saints and Demons With Special Focus on Iconographic Attributes. Volume 1, 2, New Delhi: D. K. Printworld 1994.

Clark W. E. Two Lamaistic Pantheons. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1937.

Frédéric L. Buddhism. Flamrnarion Iconographic Guide. Paris — New York: Flammarion, 1995.

Grünwedel A. Mythologie des Buddhismus in Tibet und der Mongolei. (Führer durch die lamaistische Sammlung des Fürsten E. Uchtomskij). Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1900.

Kolmas J. Buddhistická svatá písma. Šestnáct arhatů (Buddhist Sacred Scriptures. Sixteen Arhats, in Czech). Prague: Prah, 1995.

Liebert G Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian Religions: Hinduism — Buddhism — Jainism. Leiden: Brill, 1976.

Lohia S. Lalitavajra's Manual of Buddhist Iconography. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1994.

Ogneva E. D. Zhivopis Tibeta: Russkaya chastnaya kollektsia (Tibetan Pairing: A Russian Private Collection, in Russian). Moscow: Maksi Tsentr, 2005.

Das Pantheon des Tschangtscha Hutuktu. Ed. by E. Pander, A. Grünwedel. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1890 (Veröffentlichungen aud sem königlichen Museum fur Völkerkunde). For an English translation see Lohia S. Lalitavajra's Manual of Buddhist Iconography. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1994.

330

Peter F.A. The "Rin-Hbyung". Introduction to an unpublished Tibetan Iconographical Work // Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. 1943, 3rd Series, Letters, vol. 9. P. 1-27, plates 1-8.

Rerikh Y. (Roerich G.). Tibetskaya zhivopis. (Tibetan Pairing, in Russian). Sankt-Peterburg: Agni, 2000.

Rhie M. M, Thurman R. A. F. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet (Expanded Edition). London: Thames and Hudson 1996.

Roerich G. Tibetan Paintings. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1925.

Tachikawa M., Masahide M., Shinobu Y. Five Hundred Buddhist Deities. Delhi: Adroit Publishers 2000 (Asian Iconography Series. Vol. I); Originally published as: Tachikawa M, Masahide M., Shinobu Y. Five Hundred Buddhist Deities. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 1995 (Senri Ethnological Reports 2).

Tucci G. Tibetan Painted Scrolls III. Description and Explanation of the Tankas. Rome: Liberia dello Stato, 1949.

Willson M., Brauen M. Deities of Tibetan Buddhism: The Zurich Paintings of the Icons Worthwhile to See. Boston: Wisdom Publication, 2000.

1 This work was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, Project No. 401/05/2744 (2005-2007): Image and Text in Buddhism: Tibetan and Mongolian Iconography.

2 Willson M., Brauen M. Deities of Tibetan Buddhism: The Zürich Paintings of the «Icons Worthwhile to See». Boston: Wisdom Publication, 2000. P. xvii-xviii.

3 Das Pantheon des Tschangtscha Hutuktu. Ed. by E. Pander, A. Grünwedel. Berlin: W. Spemann, 1890 (Veröffentlichungen aud sem königlichen Museum für Völkerkunde). For an English translation see Lohia S. Lalitavajra's Manual of Buddhist Iconography. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1994.

4 Clark W. E. Two Lamaistic Pantheons. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,

1937.

5 Grünwedel A. Mythologie des Buddhismus in Tibet und der Mongolei. (Führer durch die lamaistische Sammlung des Fürsten E. Uchtomskij). Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1900.

6 Peter F. A. The "Rin-Hbyung". Introduction to an unpublished Tibetan Iconographical Work // Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. 1943, 3rd Series, Letters, vol. 9. P. 1-27, plates 1-8.

7 Tachikawa M., Masahide M., Shinobu К Five Hundred Buddhist Deities. Delhi: Adroit Publishers 2000 (Asian Iconography Series. Vol. I); Originally published as: Tachikawa M., Masahide M.. Shinobu Y. Five Hundred Buddhist Deities. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 1995 (Senri Ethnological Reports 2).

8 Ibid. P. 3.

9 Sec Willson M, Brauen M. Deities of Tibetan Buddhism. P. 23.

10 Numbering of the folios is according to rules introduced by E. W. Clark (see «Pantheon C» in: Clark W. E. Two Lamaistic Pantheons).

11 Numbering of the pictures in the folios is according to rules used by M. Willson and M. Brauen (Op. cit. P. 27).

12 See e.g. Ogneva E. D. Zhivopis Tibeta: Russkaya chastnaya kollektsia (Tibetan Painting. A Russian Private Collection, in Russian). Moscow: Maksi Tsentr, 2005. P. 50-51. Fig. 29-30; see also Roerich G. Tibetan Paintings. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1925. P. 27-33. Fig 1; see also Rerikh Y. (Roerich G). Tibetskaya zhivopis. (Tibetan Painting, in Russian). Sankt-Peterburg: Agni, 2000. P. 39-44. Fig. 1. Thangka of this type is also in the Tibetan and Mongolian Collection of the National Museum - Naprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures in Prague, Czech Republic, Collection No. 14 278.

13 Tucci G. Tibetan Painted Scrolls III. Description and Explanation of the Tankas. Rome: Liberia dello Stato, 1949. S. 558; see also Rhie M.M., Thurman R. A. F. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet (Expanded Edition). London: Thames and Hudson 1996. P. 110-111. Fig. 14.

14 Kolmaš J. Buddhisticka svata pisma. Šestnáct arhatů (Buddhist Sacred Scriptures. Sixteen Arhats, in Czech). Prague: Prah, 1995. P. 88-89. Fig. Thangka VII.

15 Numbering of the folios is according to rules introduced by E. W. Clark (see «Pantheon C» in: Clark W. E. Two Lamaistic Pantheons).

16 Numbering of the pictures in the folios is according to rules used by M. Willson and M. Brauen (see Willson M., Brauen M. Deities of Tibetan Buddhism P. 27).

17 Ibid. P. 212.

18 Colored reproduction of this type of thangka see e.g. Ikonografia Vadzhrayany (An Iconography of Vajrayana, in Russian]. Ed. by T.-B. Badmazhapov. Moscow: Dizain - Informatsia - Kartografia, 2003. P. 325. Fig. 294.

19Frédéric L. Buddhism. Flammarion Iconographic Guide. Paris-New York: Flammarioin 1995. P. 242.

20 Ibid. P. 246.

21 Both instruments are mentioned by Frederick Bunce, who also states ten various descriptions and varieties of this figure (see Bunce F. W. An Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Deities, Demigods, Godlings, Saints and Demons With Special Focus on Iconographic Attributes. Volume 1-2. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 1994. P. 218).

22 Kolmaš J. Buddhistická svatá písma. P. 90. Fig. Thangka VII.

23 See Willson M., Brauen M. Op. cit. P. 212.

24 Frédéric L. Buddhism. P. 246.

25 Kolmaš J. Op. cit. P. 90. Fig. Thangka VII.

26 Liebert G. Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian Religions: Hinduism - Buddhism -Jainism. Leiden: Brill, 1976. P. 341.

27 This is not apparent from a black and white xylograph, but is clearly visible in the colored depiction (see Willson M., Brauen M. Op. cit P. 43).

28 Ibid. P. 213.

29 Frédéric L. Op. cit. P. 247. 30KolmasJ. Op. cit. P. 88. Fig. Thangka VI. 31 See Willson M., Brauen M. Op. cit P. 213.

32 Frédéric L. Op. cit. P. 242.

33 See Willson M., Brauen M. Op. cit P. 213.