April 02, 2015

What is really a རྡོ་པར་?

I have not been trying to make an April fool nor have I been trying to test anyone but been looking for some insight. If we look at the ’Bras spungs dkar chag, we would see that some of the texts recorded there are said to be in rdo par. The first possibility is as Dan has suggested it simply means “stone[block] print” (analogous to shing par “xylographic print”). But the question is whether this is indeed the case. I personally do not know and have never seen one. When Tibetan authors speak of rdo par, do they really mean stone-block print? Is such a practice/tradition known? The second possibility is the rdo par is simply a neo-Tibetanism for lithographic print? But I don’t know if this is the case. I also have no idea about Tibetan knowledge and practice of lithography. The third possibility is to consider the so-called rdo ’bum. The word rdo ’bum is quite ambiguous. One  might assume that it is the larger Prajñāpāramitā scriptures carved on stones, but if we look at the expression ma ṇi rdo ’bum, it is apparently understood as a huge collection of stones upon which the syllabic mantra oṃ ma ṇi padme hūṃ. This may be the primarily meaning of rdo ’bum. But if we read http://ti.kbcmw.com/Html/KangBa/LiShi/14/12/Content_201412239177.html, we learn that indeed many texts from the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur (and even the entire bsTan ’gyur?) have been carved on stones. But I would assume that texts carved out in this way are never done in a mirror-image form and hence never be printed on a paper. So our initial question regarding what a rdo par may be still remains unanswered at least for me.


  1. Looks like you're trying to test us, give us an unanswerable riddle. Let's see, it would be way too easy to say it means a "stone[block] print,' so we will forget about that. It probably means a woodblock print that was made in a monastery that begins with Rdo? Maybe the residence of the Rdo-ba Grub-chen? Is that it? Is there any prize money involved? Well, this is fun, anyway.

  2. I thought about it some more (very little more, but still). I think it's just a mistaken way of talking about some *other* modern print technology aside from the now word for the scarcely any longer existing mimeograph, snum-par, that means oily grease print (actually, lithography makes use of the grease, too). What I mean to say is, OK, rdo-par correctly means lithography, but it isn't used by the catalog makers correctly. These are modern techniques of reproducing art and text. The Wikipedia says lithography began in 1796, and mimeographs in 1886. I think they mean any kind of modern machine printing, and perhaps 'khrul-par was too long a word to fit in the box. What more can I come up with to say? I guess I'll just go back to worrying about the earthquake survivers in Nepal now.

  3. Oh wait! I do know one tiny thing about the history of Tibetan lithography. Khyung-sprul 'Jigs-med-nam-mkha'i-rdo-rje, an acquaintance of Giuseppe Tucci, made trips to India to get Bon books printed through some kind of method that Gene Smith (at least) described as 'lithography.' You can see photographic reprints of some of these Bon texts in the books Gene published decades ago. They were all done in circa 1950.

  4. I've just been looking at Agnieska Helman-Wazny's new book “The Archaeology of Tibetan Books,” and there at p. 118, she illustrates a bit of a Tibetan book printed in india in the 1960's using lithography. Unfortunately she doesn't identify what the book is. From the sample you can tell that it is using logical debate style language. The letters, while OK, really do not look very nice, I have to say.