Chapter 7 An Epistolary Buddhist Network between Lhasa and Beijing in the 1740s

In: Beyond the Silk and Book Roads
蘭 烏
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The written word holds a central place in Tibetan Buddhism. Extant texts in various mediums attest to a vibrant intellectual community of Tibetan Buddhists that existed for centuries throughout the Himalayas and Inner Asia. Most texts were written by monastic figures and mass-produced in monastic print houses. Research based on these sources has obscured lesser-known traces of knowledge transmission. This chapter investigates the production and reception of a non-monastic manuscript titled History of Buddhism in China (Tibetan: rgya nag chos ‘byung) and seeks to locate knowledge production and transmission beyond monastic settings or metropoles. A Mongolian statesman in Beijing authored the manuscript, which was printed in an eastern Tibetan monastic print house. The text finally arrived in the Kathmandu valley in present-day Nepal in the 1740s. Disagreeing with a handful of points in the manuscript, a Tibetan Buddhist prelate drafted a letter to seek clarification. The text and its subsequent travels across the Himalayas bring to light a cross-regional and multi-cultural intellectual network contingent upon a flourishing Buddhist literary community long in the making. The Buddhists’ epistolary exchange came to shape the contour of the network and articulate their religious identity.

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Beyond the Silk and Book Roads

Rethinking Networks of Exchange and Material Culture

Series:  Studies on East Asian Religions, Volume: 11