Souvenir 009: Buddhist Monastery Books, paper, ink, wood, silk, ribbons – Bhaktapur/Kathmandu, Nepal 1999/2019 and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 2019
Buddhist texts are those religious texts which are part of the Buddhist tradition. The first Buddhist texts were initially passed on orally by Buddhist monastics, but were later written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages (such as Pali, Gāndhārī and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit) and collected into various Buddhist canons. These were then translated into other languages such as Buddhist Chinese (fójiào hànyǔ 佛教漢語) and Classical Tibetan as Buddhism spread outside of India.
Buddhist texts can be categorized in a number of ways. The Western terms “scripture” and “canonical” are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to “scriptures and other canonical texts”, while another says that scriptures can be categorized into canonical, commentarial, and pseudo-canonical. Buddhist traditions have generally divided these texts with their own categories and divisions, such as that between buddhavacana “word of the Buddha,” many of which are known as “sutras,” and other texts, such as shastras (treatises) or Abhidharma.
These religious texts were written in different methods, languages and writing systems. Memorizing, reciting and copying the texts was seen as spiritually valuable. Even after the development and adoption of printing by Buddhist institutions, Buddhists continued to copy them by hand as a spiritual practice.
In an effort to preserve these scriptures, Asian Buddhist institutions were at the forefront of the adoption of Chinese technologies related to bookmaking, including paper, and block printing which were often deployed on a large scale. Because of this, the first surviving example of a printed text is a Buddhist charm, the first full printed book is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra (c. 868) and the first hand colored print is an illustration of Guanyin dated to 947.
The Wandelgek visited several buddhist monasteries in Tibet in 1999 and in Mongolia in 2019.
In the Drepung monastery in the direct vicinity of Lhasa, was a beautiful library where shelves were loaded with heavy books…
Most of these books were too heavy to buy and then bring along on a backpack journey. All Tibetan Buddhist books areconsiting of long rectangular pages, with printed texts and sometimes with illustrations, wrapped in mostly yellow or red silk cloth, to protect the pages agaist light and moisture. These packages are stored between wooden shelves. The larger the pile of paper leaves, the heavier these shelves are. These shelves keep the pages flat and make it possible to store books in piles on book shelves.
In the spectacular monastery of Ganden, The Wandelgek visited a pressroom, where books were manually printed with the aid of large stamps.
In this cupboard, letter stamps were stored…
Beneath you see the printed leaves and the wooden shelves between which the leaves are contained. In the foreground, you see a red cushion for the printer and a blue shelf table on top of which a black inkpot can be seen. In front of those is another table on top of which black text print stamps are waiting to be used to print the paper …
Finally here’s a picture where you can see the printers in action. On the foreground are a lot of text print stamps, some used for bookprinting, others to print prayer flags or the long scrolls of paper that go into the prayer wheels.
In the bottom right corner is the silk cloth, used to wrap the paper and sometimes also the wooden shelves in…
The Wandelgek brought two of these books from his many travels and he received another one as a gift.
The 1st one was a book that he found on a market in Baktaphur in Nepal, way back in 1999:
This what the front and back side of such a book look like:
Next I’ll show you the inside of the front and back side of the wooden shelves and the painted Buddhas and Boddhisatvas:
Next I’ll show you the art on it’s pages:
And here’s the book again on a black background…
The 2nd book was quite similar but smaller then the first book. He received this as a gift from his brother who recently travels a lot to Nepal.
My brother and sister-in-law have visited Nepal many times and established the DIPA Foundation to help young disabled local children with achieving the basics of a happy life, now and in future. Education in a clean and save environment helps them towards such a life. (See and read more by clicking the link above).
From one of his many travels to Nepal, where he slowly but goal focussed, worked on the realisation of his ideals, he brought me a gift. A smaller version of a Buddhist book. The book came from Kathmandu’s Thamel quarter:
And here’s the art on its pages:
Finally a side view of the book:
The third book was a book that The Wandelgek found in the monastery shop of the Ganden Monastery in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia in 2019 (named after the Tibetan Ganden monastery mentioned before). It is more similar to the books he had seen in Tibetan and Mongolian Monastery libraries and cupboards meaning that the two shelves were less ornamented and the book was weapped in yellow and red silk cloth. This is how books are kept in the monasteries. The cloth protects the paper against sunlight.
The book contained black, gold letter printed pages with mostly text and a two small Buddha pictures…
There were two pages with a printed golden Buddha figure…
The book came wrapped in yellow silk cloth and beneathi how such a book is wrapped:
Step 1: The sides of the black paper are protected by two pieces of red paper. The wooden shelves are going beneathe and on top of the paper. An oranfe ribbon is strapped around the center of the package.
Step 2: The above package is put on top of the silk wrapping (these are produced in Buddhist countries) and wrapped in it as shown below:
And here’s the final result: “It’s a wrap!” 😉