February 07, 2012



1. ldum ra “garden”
2. btson ra “prison”
3. khrims ra (a) “prison,” (b) “(legal) court,” (c) “place of execution” (Jäschke 1881: s.v. ra ba)
4. phyugs ra “pen for cattle”
5. bshan ra “slaughter place” or  “place of execution”
6. kun ra (for kun dga’ ra ba) (Jäschke 1881: s.v. ra ba)
7. lcang ra “garden with willow-trees” (Jäschke 1881: s.v. ra ba)
8. rta ra “stable or pen for horses” (Jäschke 1881: s.v. ra ba)

What about?

1. bstod ra
2. smad ra
3. bya ra
4. se ra
5. a ra = sma ra
6. sma ra “beard”
7. phyu ra “cheese”

ra + x:

1. ra sprod pa (autonomous verb)  “to point out”
2. ra ’phrod pa (heteronomous verb) “to realise (something)” or “to conform” (?)
3. ra mda’ (i.e. dpung rogs = zla bo)
4. ra ’degs pa (Jäschke 1881: s.v. ra mda’)
5. ra ’dren pa (Jäschke 1881: s.v. ra mda’)
6. ra sdong “weeking willow” (Jäschke 1881: s.v.)
4. ra bzi ba “to become drunk”


  1. G'devening D!

    The eight examples of -ra as second syllable all share a sense of a walled in (or fenced in) space of one kind or another. So they all seem similar to gangs-ra being a reduction of gangs-kyi ra-ba. So I wonder why this example isn't there. It's the first one that comes to my mind.

    But my main question is, what holds the four examples of ra- as first syllable together? What common meaning, if any, do you see there? I was trying to think of something that might possibly belong to the same group, but the only thing I come up with is ra-bgo-ba (=ra-mgo-ba), in meaning of a leader, or ringleader. What is that ra- supposed to mean? I was thinking it might be a reduction of rab. Perhaps a tendency to drop the final 'b' under certain conditions? Could that possibly work?

    Yours, D

  2. Actually, I see from Brandon Dotson's article (pp. 13-14), that the spelling rab-mgo does occur, which might help to support the idea that ra-bgo represents a reduced form of rab-bgo (or rab-mgo, whichever).

    Brandon Dotson, "Divination and Law in the Tibetan Empire: The Role of Dice in the Legislation of Loans, Interest, Marital Law and Troop Conscription," contained in: Matthew T. Kapstein & Brandon Dotson, eds., Contributions to the Cultural History of Early Tibet, Brill (Leiden 2007), pp. 3-77.

  3. Dear Dan,

    Thank you for your comments. Is gangs ra lexically attested? I have a feeling it sounds somewhat artificial. As for the component ra in ra mda’ and so on, I have no idea yet. I have some difficulty with the idea that it could be a reduction of rab. But who knows? Particularly considering ra ’degs (also ra mdegs in the brDa dkrol), I wonder if ra had once a meaning of ”adjacency,” “side,” or ”periphery.” The Tshangs-lha word for “proximity” near is ra. Could it be that ra ’degs literally means “support [provided from] the side” or “adjacent support,” i.e. assistance?



  4. Hmm. I'm mostly familiar with gangs-ra in place names, like Yol-mo Gangs-ra. But the Jim Valby glossary does have an entry:

    •gangs ra - snowy area [JV]

    That seems to be about all there is that could be called "lexical" that I can find right away.

    I'm not actually very sure if it means a 'wall of glaciers' and not a place covered in snow. And does it mean a range of glacial mountains (a chain of glacier-topped mountains) or a real encirclement by glaciers?

    I tried to come up with pre-15th-century examples of the exact form gangs-ra, but failed so far. Of course Gangs-kyi Ra-ba-can as an epithet for Tibet does seem to be quite old (even if a Google search for the whole phrase doesn't result in one single 'hit'!).

  5. Sorry, but I should have added something. What *does* turn up results after Googling is "Gangs-ri Ra-ba" and variant "Gangs-ri'i Ra-ba."

  6. The land of 'Ol-mo-lung-ring is always said to be surrounded by a nearly impassible mountain chain called Dbal-so Ra-ba, or "Wall of Sharp Teeth." Proof if any more be needed that it ought to be in the Pamirs.

    :) D