The Kangyur Written with 9 Precious Stones

The Kangyur Written with 9 Precious Stones

(Read the article on one page)

Buddhism was founded over two and a half millennia ago in India by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (Sanskrit for ‘awakened one’). Like the practitioners of Hinduism, Buddhists believe in the concept of reincarnation, and the only way to escape this perpetual cycle of rebirth is through the attainment of Enlightenment. Having attained the state of Enlightenment whilst meditating under a Bodhi tree, the Buddha went on to spend the next 45 years of his life teaching many others the way to achieve Enlightenment. These teachings of the Buddha were eventually compiled by his followers. One such compilation is the Tibetan Kangyur.

Prior to the coming of Buddhism, Tibetans practised a form of Shamanism called Bon. From the 6 th to 8 th centuries A.D., Buddhism slowly penetrated this mountainous region. The teachings of the Buddha were translated into Tibetan, but its final compilation was only achieved in the 14 th century. This resulted in the creation of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon , which consisted of the Kangyur, the “translated words (of the Buddha)”, and the Tengyur, the “translated treatises”. Together, these works form one of the three principal canonical collections of Buddhist literature in the world, the other two being the Chinese Canon and the Pali Canon .

As copies were made of the original Kangyur, this text was disseminated throughout Tibet. This common text evolved into two slightly different branches – the ‘eastern’ branch, known as the Tshalpa, and the ‘western’ branch, known as the Thempangma. In the 1650s, a collection of the Thempangma Kangyur was brought to Mongolia from Tibet by the Mongolian monk, Zanabazar. Subsequently, copies of this Kangyur would be made, and as of today, over 10 different Kangyurs are being kept by the National Library of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.

One of these copies is the Kangyur written with 9 precious stones, which is the only copy in the world. The ink used in the writing of this Kangyur is literally made from precious stones. 9 types of ‘precious stones’, namely gold, silver, coral, pearl, mother of pearl, turquoise, lapis lazuli, copper and steel, were first made into powder and placed into cups designated for each ‘stone’. Some fresh water from a mountain spring or rain water would then be mixed with special sweet adhesives, goat’s milk, and added to the cups to produce the ink. Then, using a painting brush made of sable fur, the ink would be used to write on processed black paper. In addition to the text, paintings were also added to the Kangyur. These images were painted according to the artistic tradition of Zanabazar, and is said to “immediately give peace of mind and admiration to anybody who looks at it.”

The Kangyur, written with 9 precious stones

The Kangyur, written with 9 precious stones. Photo source .

The images itself are said to correspond to the wall paintings of the Erdenezuu Monastery in Karakorum, Mongolia, in terms of its colour, harmonisation, and description. For instance, ink produced from copper is said to go well with paper of golden colour, while ink produced from silver is said to go well with emerald green paper. In short, this demonstrates the profound knowledge that the Mongolians had about the harmonisation of colours, and perhaps the wealth required to produce such expensive inks as well. As of 2013, the Kangyur written with 9 precious stones was entered into UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.   

What I found most interesting about the Kangyur is the fact that religion has a great influence on the actions of humanity. Although it is undeniable that many have killed and been killed in the name of religion, one should not overlook the fact that religion has also pushed humanity’s artistic capabilities to its limits. While the Kangyur written with 9 precious stones might not bludgeon its beholders immediately with awe like the soaring Gothic cathedrals of Europe, this artistic expression of the divine is really quite impressive when one considers the amount of precious material needed to produce the ink, and the amount of time taken to write the text and paint the images. In short, this is a testament to the artistic capabilities of humanity and the motivational force of religion.

Featured image: 111 volumes of the Kangyur written with 9 precious stones, the National Library of Mongolia Photo source: UNESCO.org

By Ḏḥwty

References

84000, 2011. Facts and figures about Kangyur and Tengyur. [Online]
Available at: http://84000.co/facts-and-figures-about-kangyur-and-tengyur/
[Accessed 8 April 2014].

BBC, 2014. Buddhism. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/
[Accessed 8 April 2014].

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

A modern Pagan Wiccan altar set up.
Magic is one of the aspects that can be found in many of the groups that are part of the movement known collectively as Modern Paganism. According to practitioners of magic within the movements of Modern Paganism, magic is something real, and not merely a figment of one’s imagination. Nevertheless, there is no ‘one size fits all’ definition of what magic is. Several different views of magic are available, and it is up to a practitioner to decide which of these best suits him / her.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Human Origins

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article