|Origin Location||Northern India|
|Date Range||1000 - 1099|
|Material||Ground Mineral Pigment on Paper|
|Catalogue #||acc. #1987.001, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Acquisitions Fund|
Prajnaparamita Illuminated Manuscript Page from a larger text with all the pages complete and accounted for (202 leaves). Although previously published, earlier articles lack the full colophon and biographical information shared here.
This illuminated manuscript “The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses” contains the most essential Mahayana Buddhist teaching: ‘Prajnaparamita’ or ‘the perfection of wisdom,” which conveys the doctrines of the “ultimate truth” (paramarthasatya) and emptiness (sunyata). The female embodiment of these teachings is known as Prajnaparamita and can be seen here at the center of the top folio. Beneath her are typical Pala-style paintings of the bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Tara. The Eight Great Events of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life story are illustrated on the ends of each of the four illustrated pages.
This particular manuscript has significant historical information embedded within the Sanskrit and Tibetan colophons, making it a rare and important document. According to the Sanskrit colophon, the text was made at Nalanda—one of the greatest Buddhist monastic centers of Northeastern India—by a scribe named Ananda Bhanaka. The text also appears to have made its way to Nepal, where it was reconsecrated during the reign of King Gopala (early to mid–12th century).
The first line of the Tibetan colophon refers to ownership by Pandita Shakya Shri (who visited Tibet from 1204 to 1213). Pandita Shakya Shri (also known as Śākyaśrībhadra) was a Kashmiri teacher (thus, often called "Kache Panchen", as well) who acted as abbot of Nalanda at its height.
Jampa Pel, to whom this manuscript was gifted by Shakya Shri, became one of his chief disciples during the Kashmiri teacher's time in Tibet. Jampa Pel, thereafter, became known as the famous "Tropu Lotsawsa" (see BDRC P4007).
The Tibetan inscription goes on to name several more esteemed teachers who owned this manuscript, including Buton Rinchen Drub (1290-1364), a well-known polymath who resided at the famous monastery Shalu, where he assembled the first-ever Kangyur or complete cannon of Tibetan teachings.
Next to inherit this manuscript was Chopel Zangpo (also known as gong gsum bde chen pa or Dharmaśrībhadra) who was one of Buton's direct disciples at Shalu and who is also described as a translator in historical documents (see BDRC P3284). Chopel Zangpo became a teacher of Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa (founder of the Gelugpa Tradition).
After Chopel Zangpo, Khedrup Lodro Tenpa (1276–1342) inherited this manuscript. Khedrup was known as the "Pang Lotsawa" (see BDRC P2085). He is known for having made many trips to Nepal to perfect his Sanskrit.
Finally, “the translator, Tong"--who is cited as the current owner in the colophon--was likely one of Pang Lotsawa's contemporaries and students.
[For the Sanskrit colophon translation, see "Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society’s Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection" (New York: Asia Society Galleries; Abbeville Press, 1994), p. 66.]
This manuscript is featured in the Asia Society Museum exhibition, "Buddha, Sage of the Shakya Clan: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection", June 13 - August 27, 2023 curated by Laura Weinstein
Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Drawn by the Buddhist scholar Kunga who lives at glorious Nalanda.
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: dpal na' lan dar gnas pa'i chos sgrags kun dga' zhes bya bas bris pa'o/
[Laura Weinstein, June 2023]
Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: This was the devotional object of the great Pandit Shakya Shri, Then this was the devotional object of Jampa Pel, Then this was the devotional object of teacher Zangring, Then this was the devotional object of Buton "Big Mouth", Then this was the devotional object of the powerful great pandit Chopel Zangpo, Then this was the devotional object of Khedrup Lodro Tenpa, Now this is my devotional object, Tong the translator.
This Indian book was offered as a means to fulfilling the funeral rites of Kunga Gelek Wangchuk, and for the sake of gaining merit for Kunga Peljor Wangchuk and his entourage and is given to the powerful Perfect Chokyi Gyelpo from Jang Phuntshok. May all obtain happiness and enlightenment!
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: pan chen sha skya shri'i thugs dam: de nas byaMs pa dpal gyi thugs dam: de nas blon bzang ring gyi thugs dam: de nas bu ston ka che'i thugs dam di nus la pan chen chos dpal bzang po'i thugs dam: de nas mkhas grubs blos gros bstan pa'i thugs daM: de nas ltong lo tsa ba bdug gi grags ????//
rgya dpe 'di ljang phun tshog rab bstan khi nas/ dpon pa mi dbang chos kyi rgyal po…..bde par bsregs pa kun dga' dge legs dbang phyug pa'i dgongs pa rdzogs thabs dang/ kun dga' dpal 'byor dbang phyug mi nor 'khor bcas bsod naMs bsag byed du …'a bral dang yun [=yon?] tan bde legs 'byung ba ni/ ‘thar thug rnaMs ‘khyen gyi go 'phangs thob par shog/
[Laura Weinstein, June 2023]
Special Features: (Cursive script (Umay))
Painting Type: Illuminated Manuscript Page
Bibliography: Book Acquisition
Collection of Asia Society, New York
Painting Type: Manuscript Pages, Palm Leaf
Nepal: Book Covers & Illumination
Buddhist Deity: Prajnaparamita Manuscripts