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Dege sutra-printing house history

In the Tibetan regions of China has been eulogized generation after generationan an epic The Story of king Ling Gesar, singing in praise of the great credit of King Gesar of a small kingdom of the ancient Tibetan nationality called 'Ling' or 'Lin'. According to the textual research by Tibetological experts and the records of Dege County Annals, King Ling Gesar, born in the present Qiong-ba-ji-su-ya-ge-kang-duo of Asu Township of Dege (previous Denko) County, was the ancestor of the Lincong Family of Denko and the Lincong Family's later generations built the Gesar Temple in memory of him. Now in Dege County there are scores of places whose names are connected with King Gesar's activities. Folk artists are singing and telling the heroic epic while traveling everywhere and various stories and legends about King Ling Gesar are spreading widely in the Dege region in all forms such as block-printing edition, manual-copy edition, drama and Thangka. No doubt, this world-longest heroic epic is a valuable treasure of the Tibetan culture, which has laid the foundation of the Dege culture as one of the three great cultural centres in the Tibetan regions.

With the wide spread of Tibetan Buddhism and the vigorous support by the Dege headmen, the white Bon of the intrinsic primitive Black Religion (called by the Han nationality 'Black Religion' which is divided into 3 sects, the Black Bon, the White Bon and the Flowery Bon) gradually integrated with Buddhism on the one hand, thus becoming a new school of Tibetan Buddhism which established the Dengqing Temple-the highest seat of learning of the White Bon in Dege in late 8th and early 9th century as the only temple in Tibetan regions able to award to White Bon monks the degree of 'Zhongrang-jue' (Equal to the degree of 'Geshe'). On the other hand, other sects of Tibetan Buddhism such as the Nyingmapas(Red Religion), the Sakyapas (Flowery Religion), the Kagyupas (White Religion) and the Gelugpa (Yellow Religion) their laws one after another after the 9th century. Up to the 'time of the Chinese Republic, the total number of temples or monasteries of the various sects of Tibetan Buddhism (including the Juemu Temple) in the 5 counties (Dege, Baiyu, Tongpu, Denko and Shiqu) under the jurisdiction of Dege headman amounted to 200 with more than 30,000 monks and nuns and the various sects were Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, Bonpo and Gelug in order of influence.' The KatuoTemple, Baiyu Temple and Zhuqing Temple of the Nyingmapas, the Gengqing Temple of the Sakyapas, the Babang Temple of the Kagyupas and Gengsha Temple of the Gelugpas were all famous temples under the jurisdiction of the Dege headman. Especially, the Gengqing Temple was not only a holy place of the Sakyapas in the Kham region but also the central clan temple for the system of unification of government and religion carried out by the Dege headman. In the first half of the 18th century, the Dege headman built the Dege Sutra-Printing House in Gengqing Temple which played an important role for the prosperity of the Dege culture. According to relative documentary records, 'from early Qing Dynasty to the time of Republic, Gengqing Temple pooled a great number of Chinese and foreign scholars who pushed forward the development of Tibetan painting, music, Tibetan drama, sculpture, wood-carving, architecture, printing and medicine etc. of Gengqing Temple .' Gengqing Temple made great contributions to the business, management and protection of the Dege Sutra-Printing House. 
Dege Sutra-Printing House is numerous in collection. Its plentiful scriptural editions not only constitute a 'treasury of Tibetan culture' which has made Dege one of the three big cultural centers in the Tibetan regions of China but also prove a matchless rare pearl in the cultural treasury of the world in terms of collection.

According to the records of the Kanjur General Catalog and the Tanjur General Catalog of Dege edition, after his succession as the 12th headman and 6th dharma-raja (King of law) of Dege, Chokyi Tenpa Tsering, through many investigations, affirmed that there was auspicious omen at Niganpurong on Lunzhu Peak by the side of the Gengqing Oupu River and decided to build a Sutra-printing house there. In early 1729, 13 Acaryas (teachers of behavior, spiritual guide.) headed by NamkaPasong firstly held long-bathing and prostrating ceremonies successively and then the construction was started. The next year saw the completion of a small building for the proof-reading and storage of Kanjur and a grand light-opening ceremony was held. Afterwards, Chokyi Tenpa Tsering built a law-protecting palace by the completed building, which was the embryonic form of the Dege Sutra-Printing House.

After the death of Chokyi Tenpa Tsering, his eldest son Silang Gonpo succeeded his position as the 13th headman and one year later his second son Phentso Tenpa became the 14th headman and 7th dharma-raja, who directed the carving and completion of the edition of Tanjur. After that it was decided to build a grand scripture-printing hall based on the unanimous proposal of the subordinate officials and lamas within the jurisdiction. In early the 9th year of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1744), the construction began at the original site and in three years and four months the main construction was completed. And in another two year was completed the decoration work such as the mural paintings, sculptures and coloured paintings in the Sutra-printing hall. In early February of the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong (1750) an opening ceremony was held in the grand hall of the Sutra-printing house which was nominated as Multi-Auspicious Gate of the Great Dharma Stack-Room of Dege Sutra-Printing House of Tibetan Cultural Treasures under the suggestion of Paten Cheshiong the Acarya.

In the 17th year of Emperor Qianlong (1752), Phentso Tenpa died and Lozhu Gyangtso became the 15th headman and 8th King of Law, who continued to complete the follow-up work of the Dege Sutra-Printing House in about the 21st year of Emperor Qianlong (1756). The construction of Dege Sutra-Printing House lasted 27 years from the 12th to 15th headman of Dege. Later it experienced expansions by Dege headmen of various generations and many repairs after 1979, thus having the present scope.

Block-cutting and printing of Tibetan classics have been the most important work of Dege Sutra-Printing House, which was started even before the establishment of the House. In the period of Songji Tenpa the 10th headman and 4th dharma-raja of Dege and sponsored by him were block-printed The Eight Thousand Eulogies of Prajna-Paramita Sutra (including illustrations of the 12 changes of Sakyamuni), Grammar of the Tibetan Language (Dege edition), The Sakya Epigrams (Dege edition) and some ritual and law-related books, totaling more than 1500 printing-blocks. The cutting of scriptural blocks was dated about the 42nd year of Emperor Kangxi (1703).

In the first 10 years when Chokyi Tenpa Tsering the 12th headman of Dege created Dege Sutra-Printing House the printing blocks cut amounted to 100000, of which the most well-known were those of Kangyur, Selected works of the Five Sakya Ancestors and so on. The 14th Dege headman Phentso Tenpa also directed the completion of the block-printing of Tengyur, The Mani Selected works, The Genealogy of Tibetan Kings, On the Great Treasury of the Buddhist History, The Five Leftover Religions, The Life Story of Master Padmasambhava, Biographies of Marpa and Milarepa, Notes of the Four Medical Classics: Blue Glaze, The Glaze and Calendar Classics: Rust-Removal and so on. From the 15th to 21th Dege headman the cutting of a number of printing-blocks about Tibetan medicine and collected works of eminent monks was organized successively. From 1980s to early 1999, 43559 printing-blocks were recut or newly cut in Dege Sutra-Printing House, making its printing blocks a total of 270000, which is somewhat rarely seen in the world.


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