As of 22 April 2009 this website is 'frozen' in time — see the current IFLA websites
This old website and all of its content will stay on as archive –
Labuleng Monastery is located on the bank of the Daxia river of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous District in the southern Gansu Province of China. Founded in 1709 AD (the 48th year of the reign of Kangxi, of the Qing Dynasty), it is one of the six large lamaseries of the Gelupei (Yellow Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism) and was listed by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China among natio nal monuments selected for special preservation. The Monastery is well known in Buddhist circles throughout the country for its many talents and scholars and for a cluster of magnificent buildings with national, religious and local features. Furthermore, as a huge historical treasure-house of documents and a museum with relics of all kinds, the Monastery possesses tens of thousands of cultural artefacts, such as Buddhist scriptures in the Tibetan language, books and records, materials, and also more than 10,000 statues of Buddha of great variety and diversity, valuable stupas (dome-like mounds), large numbers of murals, scrolls and embroideries with rare animals on them, and so forth. So far, in Chinese Tibetan Buddhism, the Labuleng monastery takes a leading role with its most magn ificent construction, many valuable statues and treasures, rich Buddhist scriptures in the Tibetan language and largest population of lamas.
Tibetan Buddhism has a particular characteristic: the monastery is not only a place for holding Buddhist services such as prayer and refreshment but also a base to study doctrines, spread knowledge and foster Buddhist talents. It combines culture and religion, institution and church. The monks there act both as religious members and disseminators of knowledge. In the past, such statements as ` Religion is education’, `Lamas are students’, `Temples are schools’, and `Buddhist scriptures are teaching materials’ circulated in the vast Tibetan district. The monastery has three absolutely necessary and essential factors: statues of Buddha, lamas and Buddhist scripture. In the monastery, the Buddhist scriptures, books and records and historical materials are very scarce, and these are also the necessary living conditions of lamas and masses. This paper principally introduces the history and present situation of the Sutra-Collecting Hall, and the varieties, values and protective measures used in the collections.
By the middle of the 18th century, Labuleng Monastery had established four colleges: the college of Wen Si, the College of Xu bu, the College of Shi Lun and the College of medicine to study abstruse and extensive doctrines of Xian Zong and Mi Zong. There were also various additional subjects such as astronomy, almanacs, medicine and so forth. Because of its meticulous scholarship, a fervour fo r research grew up. Monks of great attainment were invited to give instruction, or even accepted as members of Labuleng Monastery. In this way, the Monastery came to enjoy a higher and higher reputation. Lamas and people from many parts came here one after the other to study sutra, and many excellent talents sprang up. However, a problem arose: the Monastery was quite short of uncommon refere nce books, for the newly built hall was still being perfected, and it put particular emphasis on obtaining supplies of common scriptures. At that time, most scriptures were collected by individuals, such as the Living Buddha and scholars, while the quantities and classes of these individual collections were quite limited. Jiamuyang II was a clever man and he considered these problems. `The old tradition of collecting scriptures, books and records held by individuals has been unsuitable for completeness and continuity in respect of the dissemination, succession and preservation of Tibetan culture. The blessing depends on the statues of Buddha and stupas, and Wen Si depends on the scriptures. Buddha dharma is indispensable till the end’. As a result, he went to Tibet for a second time and studied Buddhist scriptures and rare Buddha dharma for eight years. During this period, he successfully cultivated his talents in politics and religion. Gaining the trust and respect of Dalai Lama VII and Panchen VI, and favoured by the Tibetan government and the central government of the Qing Dynasty, he built up high prestige. He travelled tirelessly around Tibet to search for masters, collecting classics and selecting unique copies, in order to lay a foundation for the transmission of books from west to east.
In 1773 Jiamuyang II sent Xirejiacuo to Degeer Monastery in Sichuan to print all kinds of ancient cultural books and records. In 1775, the collections of Labuleng Monastery amounted to over 10,000 books. For collecting rare works of Tibetan ancestors and scholars, once again in 1778 he sent Gengehegji Gongquhujiacuo to pay a special visit to Tibet to present letters to the Living Buddhas and Ge xi of all temples, and to request help from the Dalai and Panchen and ask for grants of books and seek classics. Despite all kinds of hardships and difficulties over three years, these two people collected half the total number of Buddhist scriptures, books and records on their booklist in three years. Scholars who had a good knowledge of all works in India and Tibet sang high praise for these collections and admitted, `we have never even heard of the titles of these books!’ Thus, Labuleng Monastery obtained a large number of precious scriptures.
In 1784, regardless of being worn out with age, Jiamuyang II himself went again to Tibet to make a pilgrimage to the sacred place of Buddha dharma. In order to collect ancient books, he offered more than 70,000 liang (a Chinese measure of weight) of silver to the large temples and Living Buddhas in Tibet. The upper-class lamas and masses felt greatly delighted and issued an order to all templ es, `choose any collections of books and records the Great Master (Jiamuyang II) likes!’. In this way, he obtained many rare editions of works in Natang Temple and Hou Zang, was shown the whole individual collections of the Dalai, Panchen and all the Living Buddhas, and visited many famous temples and monasteries. In order to work back to the origins, he searched all over Tibet. Meanwhile, he borrowed the precious originals, employed someone to copy them and engaged Gexi as strict proofreaders. Even the paper used was carefully chosen and purchased from distant places. He did not make his trip west in vain and got more than 3000 kinds of rare books and records and unique copies, and paid as high as 18 Liang of silver for each volume of books. In his life, over 60% of all the collec tions of books and records, i.e. over 100,000 volumes, were collected by him, by spending large sums of money and suffering many hardships. Jiamuyang II exchanged his hardships and vast sums of money to save the spiritual wealth of a nationality that could not be measured in money. This was not just a temporary passion caused by interest, but a good model for others. From this time on, the emin ent lamas and masters through the ages in the Monastery have been consistently replenishing the treasure-house of spiritual wealth. For example, in the first half of the 20th century, Jiamuyang V (Danbeijanzan, 1916-47) broke the convention of religious tradition, and sought `to establish a world-famous Labuleng Buddhist College and to change the Sutra-Collecting Hall into a world-famous Buddhis t library’. Therefore, Labuleng Monastery has made incomparable achievements in its collection of works translated from India and has acquired tremendous numbers of books written by eminent monks of all ages. With its high repuation, it has won the respect, praise and appreciation of Tibetan Buddhist scholars.
The Sutra-Collecting Hall today
In the 10-year Cultural Revolution of China, the Sutra-Collecting Hall was destroyed, and more than 65,000 volumes of scriptures, books and records had to be piled into the Buddha Hall of the College of Shi Lun. Because of the poor arrangements there, these volumes not only hindered the Buddhist services but also made it rather inconvenient to consult materials. Since 1984, the Chinese governme nt has appropriated funds of over one million yuan to build for the Monastery a new Sutra-Collecting Hall with a good combined style of Zang and Han on the site of the old hall. Completed in 1987, with a height of 13.1 metres, the hall covers an area of 2340 square metres. The outside wall was built up with cinerous quartz stones of equal size, which were mixed with woods, red clay and hemps. The inside structure was of steel reinforced concrete with terazzo. Thus, the hall was in perfect harmony with other buildings in Labuleng Monastery. Its structure was quite unique, simple but elegant. In the hall, the 10 reading rooms (with a seating capacity of 50) occupy an area of 500 square metres and offer great convenience for lamas and readers. In order to take full advantage of this collection of the Sutra-Collecting Hall, the Buddhist College of Gansu Province and the Labuleng Research Institute on Tibetan Collections of Gansu Province were set up in December 1985 to foster scholarship and carry out special research on Tibetan Buddhism. Undoubtedly, these numerous and precious Tibetan scriptures, books, historical documents and rare cultural relics constitute the primary m aterials for the study of Tibetan history, religion and culture. They must be scientifically protected, translated and organised, so as effectively to accelerate Tibetan economic and cultural development.
The classification and value of the collections in the Sutra-Collecting Hall
The classical works of Tibetan Buddhism are rich and also very abstruse. Jiamuyang masters through the ages were well-versed in books and learned widely from others. To the best of their abilities, they enriched themselves with doctrines, comprising knowledge of social and natural science accumulated by Tibetan and other nationalities, creating a unique Buddhist philosophy and leaving valuable Buddhist literature for future generations. It is said that the original collections of the Sutra-Collecting Hall included over 228,680 items of scriptures and over 62,000 cutblocks for printing in the Tibetan language. During the Cultural Revolution, because of the destruction of the Sutra-Collecting Hall and the Sutra-printing institute, large parts of these collections were lost. Now, throu gh saving and collecting time after time, there exist only 65,000 books of scriptures (39.6% of the original total) and 18,216 cut blocks (30% of the original total).
In addition to the aforementioned scriptures, books and records, there are also Gan Zhu Er (Gan means instruction and Zhu Er means translation) and Dan Zhu Er (Dan means works). Moreover, the collection included more than 12,000 complete works of Zong kaba and his disciples, 17,833 kinds of common and uncommon cultural books and records, works of many Tibetan predecessors from India, Nepal, Han districts, Mongolia and Tibetan regions, classics on Shi Ming and notes. These many precious works written by numerous Tibetan eminent monks from Tunmisangbuzha have made the Monastery a treasure-house of classics in Tibetan districts. It should also be said that many lamas in Labuleng Monastery have written books. Out of over 30 lamas’ complete works, those of more than 20 persons were listed in the `General List’.
We can see from this that the Buddhist and Tibetan cultural books and records in Labuleng Monastery are the richest, most complete and most concentrated, not only in Mongolian and Tibetan districts but also among all temples of Tibetan Buddhism throughout China. Furthermore, the Sutra-Collecting Hall also possesses some very rare treasures, such as two volumes of scriptures of pattra leaves; on e was written in the Ordo language, that is to say, scriptures of 8,000 odes recited by the Master Adixia (982-1054, originally the ding of engal but later a monk); another was written in Lanzha language, and is the remains of an Indian sage Yuechen (Huaer-dandawazhihua).
There are also other scriptures, such as:
These numerous scriptures, books, records and historical documents are thus collected and preserved by so many Tibetan monks, translators and craftsmen with wisdom and hard work. They are not only germs of Tibetan Buddhist culture but also precious heritage and wealth in the cultural treasure-house of China.
Jiamuyang I Huaxiu Exiangzongzhe produced 15 works such as a list of sects, a list of Buddhist history, etc. Out of these, five volumes are regarded as required courses of study by lamas of all Mongol-Tibetan temples. Especially, A list of Buddhist history (written in 1716) covers a period from 1027 to 1716. It chronologically records many great Buddhist events including the birth and death of the masters, the accomplishment of important works and construction of big temples. It also describes the different records of certain events for reference. With its detailed historical materials, explicit language and sound theories, it became a required course for research on Buddhist history in Tibet. The Labuleng Monastery possesses the wood-block editions of this List.
Jiamuyang I, Jiumeiangwu, translated Gan Zhu Sutra from Sanskrit. His works ran to 12 volumes and include the biography of Jiamuyang I, History of the Taer Monastery in Qinghai, etc.
Jiamuyang III, Danbeizhingmei, was quite erudite. Out of his 11 works, Shui Yu Maxim, Mu Yu Maxim and Admonition of sophisticated elders were praised as poems of maxims and philosophy and enjoyed a high reputation after Sajia Maxim. His Prayer of the rise and flourishing of the Yellow Sect is prayed in the temples of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan and so on.
Ban Zhi Da Gongquejiancan, Amang II, thought highly of history and wrote the history of Han, Mongolia, Tibet and Tubo. Following his lead, his disciple Zhegongbalun III Danbaranji had tirelessly and assiduously travelled all over Ando Tibetan region for 12 years in order to get detailed proofs and information. After much correcting and editing, he accomplished the History of Ando politics and r eligion (3 volumes) in 1865 with 900 pages of wood blocks. Recording in great detail the history of the main monasteries there and famous persons of various Buddhist sects, it filled gaps in Tibetan cultural research materials about northwest China. At the beginning of the book, there are more than 650 items about history and biography, which can help readers to use it for higher level referenc e.
The renowned disciple Tuguan quejinimahutuketu of Jiamuyang II produced 16 works in his life, and he is famous especially for The Origins and doctrines of all religious sects (1801). This book recorded the formation and development of the Yellow Sect and other sects in Tibet. In the 19th century, it was translated into English by an Indian Das. Thus, it was introduced abroad and enjoyed a high reputation not only in China but also elsewhere.
Gendunqupei’s White history (unaccomplished) systematically recorded earlier Tibetan history in chronological order. Using materials in the Tibetan language from Dunhuang, he put forward his own new points of view.
Other works such as the biography of Panchen Huadanyixi, Souvenirs of Jiamuyang, A Brief History of Tibetan Cultural development and so forth are quite valuable to research on Tibetan history and culture.
Labuleng Monastery is both a treasure-house of books and a qualified educational centre. Fostering tens of thousands of Tibetan intellectuals and religious devotees, its 6 Zha Lun (Buddhist colleges) have made great contributions to Tibetan cultural development. They are so influential as to be called Wei Zang Ni Wa.
1. Protective measures for scriptures and ancient books and records in the Tibetan language
All the scriptures in the Labuleng Monastery belonged to Han according to the order of Tibetan letters. A bundle is a Han. Every Han covers several pages and is wrapped up with red, yellow and green silks. With tasteful binding and superior quality, Han appear quite solemn and artistic. Some very precious scriptures are put in between two larger planks, and are then bound together with broad silk ribbons. This should be operated by two persons whenever they are used or stored. One person pulls the silk ribbon, and the other revolves the planks with two hands. Those planks themselves are of elegant workmanship, for some are made of sandalwood mounted with gold decoration in sanskrit and engraved with decorative patterns. All the scriptures are divided into classifications before t hey are listed according to the Tibetan letters and arranged in order onto the shelves. It is prescribed that anyone can borrow and read these books. Every year, during the printing days from 15 March to 15 September, everyone can have scriptures printed for their needs by paying some money.
Moreover, monks in Labuleng Monastery scrupulously abide by the tradition of `Clearing scriptures’ every year. Every autumn, they choose a bright day and then move all the precious collections outside. They open the books and wipe off the dust with soft brushes from one page after another. After that, they return the books to the Hall again. This is called `Opening scriptures and wiping off d usts’. In addition, paintings and pictures are treated in the same way. There is a so-called `Airing day’ which means presenting the books to the sun. Meanwhile moth eggs can be swept away. In this way, after over 200 years of preservation, the handwriting of books in the Monastery is still very legible.
2. Protective measures for books and historical documents
The historical documents of Labuleng Monastery are mainly packed in scrolls. Most of the imperial conferring orders were written on yellow satins, while some were on pieces of paper which were later mounted on silks and preserved in scrolls. After that, these documents are inserted into oblong cells with bolts of silk with a width of 30 or 50 centimetres. In each cell, all the scrolls of docu ments concerning one event are preserved. Then they are wrapped up into a big parcel. Every parcel has its own number and every cell in it also has a code name. Finally, according to their categories, parcels are put into boxes made of cowhide or sheepskin, which are arranged in order of years with numbers. As far as some common documents are concerned, according to time, author and language, those concerning one event are stuck together, rolled into small scrolls, stamped with Conch and sealed with wax. Finally, they are also put into boxes with chronological numbers.
The Zang nationality is an ancient and civilised one. Through thousands of years, in spite of danger and difficulty, the industrious and brave Tibetan people have created their own history and developed their brilliant culture. In brief, they not only composed a glorious page in the history of Chinese civilisation, but also added a dazzling pearl to the cultural treasure-house of the world.
2. Ge Lu Pai, commonly called the Yellow Sect, was founded by Zongkaba (1357-1419). Different from the traditional sects, Zongkaba and his disciples wore a yellow hat, hence the name.
3. Buddhism is one of the three main religions of the world. It was spread into China through the western regions from India in the first century A.D., during the succession from the East Han Dynasty to the West Han Dynasty. It is the earliest of the three big world religions to be introduced to China and now has a history of over 2,000 years. In its long-term development, two sects were forme d, of Han Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. Lamaism is another name for Tibetan Buddhism, for in the Tibetan language, monks are called `Sangjiequnu’, meaning lama. Lama is a specialised name for Tibetan Buddhist monks, meaning `great master’.
4. The Sutra-Collecting Hall is a stack room built up by Jiamuyang II Jiumeiangwu in 1749 for the preservation of scriptures and books. During the reign of Jiamuyang V, he sought to make it a world-famous college and library on Buddhism. The task was unfinished when he died.
5. The Ando Tibetan district comprises parts of the Tibetan regions in Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan.
6. The College of Wen Si is the centre of the whole Monastery. Constructed in 1711 (the 50th year of Kangxi’s reign in the Qing Dynasty) by Jiamuyang I, it is a college on Xian Zong mainly studying the three Zang (scripture, discipline and theory), the three Zue (commandment, dhyana and wisdom), and the four Doctrines (Pisha, Jingbushi, Weishishi and Zhongguanzong). Its name means hearing befor e thinking and thinking before refreshing. With 13 grades, the college has 3 academic degrees.
7. The College of Xu Bu is a college on Mi Zong built up in 1716 by Jiamuyang I. In it, the research on the doctrines of Mi Zong and disciplines of abhiseca is carried out.
8. The College of Shi Lun was constructed in 1763 by Jiamuyang II, following the order of Panchen VI Huadnayixi and following the example of Dingkeerzhacang of Zhashilunbu Monastery in Tibet. As a college of Mi Zong, besides the study of time-calculation, there is also research on astronomy and the almanac. Among its concept of 3 days, except the solar day, the other two including the lunar day and Gong day are rarely mentioned in the world’s almanac books.
9. The college of medicine was constructed by Jiamuyang II in 1784.
2. Gongtang Gongquhudanbeizhongmei, Biography of Jiamuyang II.
3. Danbaraoji, Ando history of politics and religion.
4. Research Committee of History and Culture of Gannan County, Accounts of the History and Culture in Gannan, vols. I, III, VI.
5. Wang Furen, A Brief History of Buddhism in Tibet (1981).
6. Miao Zizhe, Li Geng et al, A Survey of the Labuleng Monastery, Gansu National Publishing House, 1987.
7. Research on Tibet, issue for 1987 and issues I-III of 1988.
8. Reference Materials of Chinese General History, vol. of `Ancient History’.