April 23, 2012


According to some, gser skyems (“golden drink”) is alcohol with gold in it. But Dung-dkar rejects this interpretation stating that gser is simply an honorific (zhe sa) and gser skyems means zhal skyems. As examples of the use of gser as honorifics, he mentions gser zhal (for rgyal po’i zhal) and gser yig (for bka’ yig). See the Dung dkar tshig mdzod (s.v. gser skyems). In English or German, too, one uses “golden” in a metaphorical sense as in “golden age” or “golden mean.” According to the Li shi’i gur khang, these are said to be loanwords from the Mongolian. But check! At any rate gser skyems and other words are discussed in Laufer 1916: 444–445.

See the gSer skyems kyi rabs in http://www.tibetarchaeology.com/april-2011/.


  1. What about the idea that precious substances are actually grated into the drink using a file, in a ritual way at least? Sometimes museums have exhibited bars made of various metals that were supposed to be used for this purpose. There is some description in the catalog *Tibet. Klöster öffnen ihre Schatzkammern*, Kulturstiftung Ruhr Essen (Villa Hügel 2006) at pp. 494-495:

    "Dann raspelt er mit dem Reibegerät [gser dar] und der Feile einige Späne der "Fünf kosbaren Materialien" wie Gold, Silver, Kupfer usw. in das Gefäß."

  2. Dear Dan,

    The Kretschmers(p. 614, n. 76), beside providing a literal translation of gser skems as "golderner Trunk" also translated it as "koeniglicher Trunk," by referring to Dung-dkar. But could it be that some people took gser skyems literally and hence started putting gold and other precious minerals into specials drinks?



  3. Dear D,

    That's a fascinating idea that people might have created some aspect of the rite on the basis of an inaccurate understanding of the texts... I know Sakya Pandita makes this kind of argument in order to explain the existence of certain Tibetan popular religions practices...

    I did have one example in an account of a *Tibetan* ritual done by the Tibet-resident south Indian Phadampa (recorded in a manuscript dating to around 1240 or so):

    der gser skyems su rin po che brdar gsol ka [~gsol kha] drag po byas te /

    My rough translation – That said, he did the wrathful petition, filing the precious substances into the Golden Drink offering.

    So it would seem that the filing was quite an old practice, really! (can give exact page ref. if placed under pressure).


  4. PS. Have you noticed this title Gser skyems kyi rabs?
    There's a reproduction and translation by John Bellezza in the monthly blog entry for http://www.tibetarchaeology.com/ dated April 2011. It gives an ancestry for both beer and gold and their combination. I imagine many of our compatriots would value this combination over women and wine, don't you think?

  5. Dear Dan,

    No, I haven't. But I must take a look at it. :)