Treasure (Tibetan: gter ma) lineages are distinctive forms of visionary Buddhist practice found throughout the classical Tibetan literary world. Treasures are revealed by tertön (gter ston), Buddhist masters with karmic connections to the Tibetan past who have been preordained to recover treasures at the right time and place. There has been rich scholarship on the processes of treasure discovery and communities that have been inspired by treasure literature, but the publication and distribution histories of treasure texts have been comparatively understudied. Drawing on the work of historian Nile Green related to the mass production of Islamic texts produced in Mumbai that circulated through the modern Indian Ocean world, I will examine how the political and economic changes of the twentieth century impacted and transformed the promulgation of visionary literature in classical Tibetan language, and the circumstances that allowed for ‘printing enchantment’, and the power of the book, to remain intact.
Kaishien gaden was a widely read and influential pair of Japanese books based on the famous Chinese painting manual, Jieziyuan huazhuan. They are among the earliest examples of Japanese color printing. Close examination of many almost identical copies of Series A (1748) and Series B (1753) offers insight into the publishing practices of four different sets of publishers. Even with exemplars printed by the same publisher, there was much variation in the use of seals and color palettes, leading to many different states of each book. Assuming that each print run would be identical in not only the pages printed from the blocks, but also in the use of seals and colors, it can be estimated that there were roughly fifty to eighty print runs of each of these books over their 65–70 year initial history.
Early twentieth-century Korean publishing was undergirded by a twofold urgency: the construction of a new inscriptional culture premised on the telos of text production using the Korean writing system and the imperatives of the production of knowledge about Korea’s past against colonial censorship and the colonial episteme. This paper traces early twentieth-century reception of yadam texts from Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910). The paper first examines how the ‘Syosyŏl’ (쇼셜 小說) section of the Korean-language weekly Kyŏnghyang sinmun (Capital and Provinces Weekly, 1906.10.19–1910.12.30) integrated eighteen Chosŏn yadam texts in 1909 and next analyzes the rhetorical framing and orthographic materiality of several collections of tales from precolonial Korea in the 1910s and 1920s. These two reception moments formed a process of transcontextualization that authenticated tales of precolonial Korea as heritage tales, priming Korean co-nationals to romance Korea’s precolonial past as an idyllic haven and a wellspring of national pride.
The Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain is a popular Buddhist narrative in prosimetric form that was transmitted to Vietnam from China and reprinted in Hanoi with imperial sanction in 1772. The historical background of the Hanoi reprint demonstrates that this text had much higher status in Vietnam than in China. In Vietnam it was regarded as an authoritative Buddhist scripture. The case of the reprint of the Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain reveals the role of Buddhist monasteries as centers of woodblock printing in Vietnam, which still remains understudied in current research. The growth of printing of Buddhist works, which enjoyed the support of the court and officials in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, testifies to the popularity of Buddhism among the ruling elite during the Later Lê dynasty, when Confucianism was proclaimed the official ideology of the state.
In 1673 the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, 1617–1682) composed The Wish-Fulfilling King (Yid bzhin dbang rgyal), a ritual manual for the worship of the seven buddhas of healing. In the first hundred years after its composition, the Fifth Dalai Lama’s ritual text was published in the original Tibetan in no less than five different woodblock editions. It had also been translated into Mongolian and Chinese and published in several woodblock editions in those languages. Most of these woodblock editions were produced by imperially sponsored Tibetan Buddhist temples in Beijing. The ritual described in the text was performed in monasteries and temples across central Tibet, Mongolia, and in Beijing. This article examines the history of this text, its transmission, and what those tells us about the culture of Tibetan Buddhist books in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly as they relate to the Mayāyāna ‘cult of the book.’