Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander
Cameron David Warner, Aarhus University
JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5722, pp. 451-466
Section 4 of 7 (pp. 457-458)

“From Rasa to Lhasa” by Heather Stoddard

Heather Stoddard explores a number of subjects under three heterogeneous topic headings: “The Geomantic Stones of the Jokhang,” “The First Monlam Chenmo,” and “The Early Wall Paintings.” It is beyond the scope of this review to engage with the entirety of Stoddard’s chapter. Therefore, I will highlight just a few points, which might prove to be interesting sites for future research.

In the course of writing about Wencheng’s geomantic stones, Stoddard defends her preferred choice of early post-imperial Tibetan Buddhist historical texts, the Essence of Honey Which is the Nectar of a Flower: An Ecclesiastical History. Stoddard is of the opinion that the Vase-shaped Pillar Testament could be an elaboration upon NyangrelNyang ral. This is a fascinating suggestion that deserves a lengthy treatment of all extant redactions of these works, especially the Vase-shaped Pillar Testament redactions which do not contain the Atiśa frame story.

Stoddard also attempts to develop a theory that the Rasa Trülnang TsuklakkhangRa sa ’phrul snang gtsug lag khang represents a new form of valley-floor construction (165) previously unknown in Tibet. Presumably, Wencheng Gongzhu brought this new construction technique. Though Stoddard’s theory is in line with present Wencheng historiography in the P.R.C.,12 it fails to take into account that TrandrukKhra ’brug apparently predates the Rasa Trülnang TsuklakkhangRa sa ’phrul snang gtsug lag khang13 and is also built on the floor of a valley.

Stoddard’s next topic heading, “The First Monlam Chenmo,” is not so much focused on the Great Prayer Festival itself, but on the two centuries of Tibetan history preceding the Great Prayer Festival. Stoddard reviews Tibetan political relations during the Yuan dynasty as well as the invitations given to Tibetan hierarchs during the early Ming dynasty. Stoddard interprets TsongkhapaTsong kha pa’s refusal to travel to Beijing as part of a proto-nationalist spirit in Central Tibet under the Pakmo DrupaPhag mo gru pa (1353-1434). This reviewer would have preferred to see more explicit evidence that his creation of the Great Prayer Festival, arguably the sina qua non of LhasaLha sa ritual life, was part of a proto-nationalist project.

Stoddard ends her contribution to Jokhang with a short section on the early wall paintings of the Chapel of the Countenance/Face. This subsection was particularly frustrating for this reviewer, because Stoddard writes at length about her own experience examining the murals, but says little about the murals themselves. Since [page 458] Stoddard found the inscriptions on the murals difficult to read, why not publish a transcription of them? Or are they completely illegible? And most importantly, Stoddard refrains from developing her own theory regarding the origin of the Chapel of the Countenance/Face. In her opinion was Roberto Vitali14 correct?


[12] See my “A Miscarriage of History: Wencheng Gongzhu and Sino-Tibetan Historiography,” Inner Asia 14, no. 2 (forthcoming).
[13] Sørensen, Rulers on the Celestial Plain, 4, 175.
[14] Vitali, Early Temples, 69-83.

Note Citation for Page

Cameron David Warner, “Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5722 (accessed ).

Note Citation for Whole Review

Cameron David Warner, “Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 451-466, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5722 (accessed ).

Bibliography Citation

Warner, Cameron David. “Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 451-466. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5722 (accessed ).