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187

Vajracchedika, a Tibetan translation of the Diamond Sutra, acquired at Kyi Monastery in the earl...

In Islamic and Indian Art Online

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Vajracchedika, a Tibetan translation of the Diamond Sutra, acquired at Kyi Monastery in the earl...
Auctioneer has chosen not to publish the price of this lot
London, United Kingdom

Vajracchedika, a Tibetan translation of the Diamond Sutra, acquired at Kyi Monastery in the early 1920s Tibet, 19th Century or earlier Tibetan manuscript on indigo paper, 111 leaves, not bound, four lines to the page written in Lhantsa script in gold, ruled inner margins, loose within covers, possibly incomplete, wood covers, upper cover with central panel containing stylised script, index card with notes on the text and its background 80 x 160 mm. Footnotes: Provenance Hugh Whistler (1889-1943), ornithologist: acquired by him in Kyi monastery in Spiti province, on the border of India and Tibet, circa 1920. Ralfe Whistler, his son, and thence by descent. Literature H. Whistler, In the High Himalayas: Sport and travel in the Rhotang and Baralacha, with some notes on the natural history of that area, London 1924, p. 159. Hugh Whistler served in the Indian Police between 1909 and 1926 and was mostly in the Punjab and the foothills of the Himalayas, but also in the high Himalayas, in Lahul and Spiti (Himachal Pradesh). He wrote one of the earliest field guides, Popular Handbook of Indian Birds (1928), which went into four editions. A number of subspecies of birds are named after him. In the High Himalayas deals with his travels in Rhotang, Lahul, Spiti and the Kulu Valley, discussing the landscape, people, religion and bird-life of those regions. Chapter 12, 'The Religion of Spiti' (i.e. Buddhism), features his visit to the monastery of Kyi (founded in the 11th Century) with his guide, Thakur Abhai Chand. 'No situation could be more picturesque or romantic. Before us lay a mighty circle of peaks in the far distance, clad in eternal snow, the vast panorama melting almost imperceptibly into the wide dome of the cloudless sky; it had been a fitting boundary to the flatness of a mediaeval world' (p. 156). He was introduced to the abbot and other monks. 'The interview that followed was constrained and difficult. All conversations through an interpreter are necessarily stilted, and in addition the lamas were very secretive and on their guard, convinced that there was some hidden purpose in my coming. So the conversation resolved itself more and more into a series of questions from my side, framed in a desperate endeavour to keep the ball rolling. At last I could think of no more to say, and asked the Thakur whether he could broach a subject on which I had already spoken to him. I was very anxious to obtain a book from the monasterial library, and had suggested that if I made a donation to the common purse a hint might be dropped to the abbot that the presentation of a book might well return the compliment. 'But apparently there was no need of so much tact: the Thakur suggested bluntly to the abbot that I wanted to buy a book. No offence was taken, but for the first time the proceedings showed a little animation, and there seemed to be general approval of the idea of converting into silver a work which could easily be replaced by the mere expenditure of a monk's time in making a fresh copy. 'A young lama started to search the racks of books that stood to the right of the altar behind a kind of screen, and several were produced for my inspection. All of course were of the Tibetan type, bundles of loose leaves stamped or handwritten in the Bhotia script on both sides, and held between wooden boards. Eventually I purchased for four rupees a small squat book, greasy with age and handling. The covers were thick and carved, of black wood, and the pages were of stiff paper, stained a dark blue, inscribed in golden letters. It was just what I wanted, and in as casual a manner as possible I asked the abbot whether it was very old. But the import of my question was misunderstood and the abbot must have feared dissatisfaction with the bargain, for he hastily assured me that it was practically new'. A more modern index card (sold with the lot) provides the family's notes on the manuscript, most of it derived from the description and comments of Craig Jamieson, Cambridge University Library. Jamieson notes that when he inspected it the manuscript was 'in sequence, the first and last pages are there, although the last few pages may be missing, or may be a variant version'. The Diamond Sutra (Arya Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra), one of the most prominent and influential texts of Mahayana Buddhism, relates a dialogue between Buddha and the Elder Subhuti concerning the nature of perception and path to enlightenment. For further information on this lot please visit Bonhams.com For further information about this lot please visit the lot listing

Vajracchedika, a Tibetan translation of the Diamond Sutra, acquired at Kyi Monastery in the early 1920s Tibet, 19th Century or earlier Tibetan manuscript on indigo paper, 111 leaves, not bound, four lines to the page written in Lhantsa script in gold, ruled inner margins, loose within covers, possibly incomplete, wood covers, upper cover with central panel containing stylised script, index card with notes on the text and its background 80 x 160 mm. Footnotes: Provenance Hugh Whistler (1889-1943), ornithologist: acquired by him in Kyi monastery in Spiti province, on the border of India and Tibet, circa 1920. Ralfe Whistler, his son, and thence by descent. Literature H. Whistler, In the High Himalayas: Sport and travel in the Rhotang and Baralacha, with some notes on the natural history of that area, London 1924, p. 159. Hugh Whistler served in the Indian Police between 1909 and 1926 and was mostly in the Punjab and the foothills of the Himalayas, but also in the high Himalayas, in Lahul and Spiti (Himachal Pradesh). He wrote one of the earliest field guides, Popular Handbook of Indian Birds (1928), which went into four editions. A number of subspecies of birds are named after him. In the High Himalayas deals with his travels in Rhotang, Lahul, Spiti and the Kulu Valley, discussing the landscape, people, religion and bird-life of those regions. Chapter 12, 'The Religion of Spiti' (i.e. Buddhism), features his visit to the monastery of Kyi (founded in the 11th Century) with his guide, Thakur Abhai Chand. 'No situation could be more picturesque or romantic. Before us lay a mighty circle of peaks in the far distance, clad in eternal snow, the vast panorama melting almost imperceptibly into the wide dome of the cloudless sky; it had been a fitting boundary to the flatness of a mediaeval world' (p. 156). He was introduced to the abbot and other monks. 'The interview that followed was constrained and difficult. All conversations through an interpreter are necessarily stilted, and in addition the lamas were very secretive and on their guard, convinced that there was some hidden purpose in my coming. So the conversation resolved itself more and more into a series of questions from my side, framed in a desperate endeavour to keep the ball rolling. At last I could think of no more to say, and asked the Thakur whether he could broach a subject on which I had already spoken to him. I was very anxious to obtain a book from the monasterial library, and had suggested that if I made a donation to the common purse a hint might be dropped to the abbot that the presentation of a book might well return the compliment. 'But apparently there was no need of so much tact: the Thakur suggested bluntly to the abbot that I wanted to buy a book. No offence was taken, but for the first time the proceedings showed a little animation, and there seemed to be general approval of the idea of converting into silver a work which could easily be replaced by the mere expenditure of a monk's time in making a fresh copy. 'A young lama started to search the racks of books that stood to the right of the altar behind a kind of screen, and several were produced for my inspection. All of course were of the Tibetan type, bundles of loose leaves stamped or handwritten in the Bhotia script on both sides, and held between wooden boards. Eventually I purchased for four rupees a small squat book, greasy with age and handling. The covers were thick and carved, of black wood, and the pages were of stiff paper, stained a dark blue, inscribed in golden letters. It was just what I wanted, and in as casual a manner as possible I asked the abbot whether it was very old. But the import of my question was misunderstood and the abbot must have feared dissatisfaction with the bargain, for he hastily assured me that it was practically new'. A more modern index card (sold with the lot) provides the family's notes on the manuscript, most of it derived from the description and comments of Craig Jamieson, Cambridge University Library. Jamieson notes that when he inspected it the manuscript was 'in sequence, the first and last pages are there, although the last few pages may be missing, or may be a variant version'. The Diamond Sutra (Arya Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra), one of the most prominent and influential texts of Mahayana Buddhism, relates a dialogue between Buddha and the Elder Subhuti concerning the nature of perception and path to enlightenment. For further information on this lot please visit Bonhams.com For further information about this lot please visit the lot listing

Islamic and Indian Art Online

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