The Disputes between Tea and Chang demonstrates the literary talent of Bon-drong-pa, a renowned scholar of the 18th century. He skillfully sets a complete example of the court proceedings of his time. This is a beautiful introduction to the legendary arguments between two fairies on the subject of Tea and Chang. Read and discover how the king verdict as the fairies attempt to outwit each other. Their infamous disputes have created a tale of timeless value.
The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is pleased to present The Disputes between Tea and Chang. The interpretation of historical facts are skillfully woven into this lovely fairy tale. This is an example of Tibetan gnomic literature, and its styles of narration with its interesting written and oral anecdotes.
The library of Tibetan Works and Archives continues to devote its efforts to the preservation, and promotion of many diverse aspects of the Tibetan culture. Had it not been for the valiant efforts of Dr. Alexander Fedotov and Acharya Sangye T. Naga, we would not have been able to present this work to the reader.
When speaking about Tibetan literature it is inevitable that one uses such concepts as cultural and literary tradition, traditional culture, and traditional literature. But what does the term traditional literature mean? Why it is called traditional? What is the difference between traditional and non-traditional literature? These questions seem to be of great importance when investigating the literary process in Tibet. So, first of all, it is worth noting that traditional literature, although canonical in nature and based on a correct overall structural pattern as well as correct usage of each separate component, is a very complicated phenomenon character thanked by its own individual rules.
The invariant of such literature manifesting, in one or another way in a given national tradition, can be compared to a two-dimensional model which is both synchronous (structure of a traditional literature) and diachronical (form
of its transmission) aspects.
As to its synchronous aspect, Tibetan traditional literature is an organic and integral unit characterized by hierarchical features. The mainstay round of Tibetan literature is concentrated in the Buddhist Canon—the Kangyur (bka’‘gyur) and Tengyur (bstan-’gyur)—where all texts used in Tibetan society, or strictly speaking, in Lamaist society are found. This canon determines the concept of the world in Tibetan culture and literature, the place of every person in it, the aims of human activity, the basic principles of ethics and aesthetics, and so on.
Other works belonging to one or another genre are linked to the Canon, as if forming several circles that Concentrate around a central focal point (i.e. the Canon). The Buddhist value of these works, depends on their position in the literary system; therefore, literature ‘lowest in value’ are situated farthest from the Canon. The base of Tibetan traditional literature is formed by the Canon and those works which belong to the so called functional genres that have a clearly expressed connection with the Canon (historiographical, ritual, and so on).Those genres determined as proper fiction or non-fictional (belles-lettres, lyrics and so on) stay much nearer to the periphery of the system.
The model of Tibetan traditional literature is closely connected with the so called areal literary units of medieval Asia; the main feature being the unity of ideological concepts (religious-philosophical, ethnical and aesthetic), as well as a stability and systematic character of internal relations. Examples of this type of literature include: Hindu literature in India; Hindu-Buddhist literature in South-East Asia; and Buddhist literature in Shri lanka, Tibet and Mongolia.
From a diachronical point of view, the main feature is the basic principle contained within the term traditional; that is, the special system of transmission of a cultural heritage from one generation to another. As a literary system this transmission, which one can even call training or teaching, is usually connected with a religious text. The methods which guarantee the correct mastering of such a text and its further reproduction are fundamental to the process of cultural or literary transmission. Each disciple masters the content of the religious text, as well as its spirit or sense. The transmission from teacher to disciple is usually a sacred ceremony or religious ritual.
Literature based on a religious text is mainly formed around a centre; that is, the teacher who formed the tradition and whose individual features are incarnated in every succeeding teacher from the same lineage. There are many ‘teaching traditions’ in Tibet, which as a rule coincide with one of the definite systems of the various Buddhist sects or lineages. In traditional Tibetan literature one sees a system that guarantees the transmission of a definite extent of Information, as well as the personality of the teacher, from one generation to another.
The importance of dividing literary systems into functional and non-functional genres is that modern scholars have been brought up in the conditions of the so called non-traditional literature, or broadly speaking, in the condition of a non-traditional culture characterized by strongly expressed opposition between functional and non-functional genre-forms. From the point of the view of traditional Tibetan literature all texts are treated as more or less functional. They all have a ‘teaching or instructive function’ and form different hierarchical successions depending on the reader’s level of initiation.
The different genres of traditional literature are found on all levels of the Tibetan literary system. Those genres closer to the Buddhist Canon expressing more traditional features, are as a rule narrative, and are strongly influenced by the Indian Buddhist literary tradition. Within Tibetan literature indigenous genres appeared, usually based on local folk-lore, that are not included in the Buddhist Canon. They preserve many folk-lore features and are popular among the common people. One such brilliant work is The Dispute Between Tea And Chang (ja-chang Iha-mo’i rtsod-gleng bstan-bcos), also known as Shastra About Tea and Chang (ja-chang lha-mo’i bstan-bcos).
Very little is known concerning this Shastra, but it has been mentioned in some short articles. A manuscript of this text is preserved in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Acc. No.21315). This small manuscript measuring 20.5x8.5cm consists of four books bound together with a thick thread. These books contain the following: the first—17 folios; the second—18 folios; the third—18 folios; and the fourth—16 folios, each folio containing six lines. A thick parchment-like paper was used for this manuscript and the pagination appears only on one side of each folio in Tibetan figures. There is no colophon attached to the manuscript with the exception of a short comment on the manuscript’s content. The main text is hand-written in readable khyug-yig, but the comment is in a more difficult to read khyug-yig. The official title of the manuscript is Ja-chang gi bstan-bcos rganmo’iglu-dbyangs bzhugs-so. The manuscript is bound in fabric and seems to have been someone’s private copy in the past.
There is another copy of this text in the LTWA that was printed in Kalimpong (2nd edition); edited and published by G. Tharchin at the Tibet Mirror Press. This small book, bound European style and containing fifty-one paper pages, is printed in U-chen (dbu-can). Since this second edition apparently was published before World War II, it would be interesting to know when and where the first one was published. It is possible that the Kalimpong edition was based on a manuscript similiar to the one mentioned above, because the texts of the two Shastras are the same.
In 1986, in the People’s Republic of China, Ja-chang Ihamo’i bstan-bcos was published in the magazine Bod-kyi rtsomrig sgyu-rtsal (1986, No.1 & 2). This version of the shastra is similar to the manuscript, but there are important omissions and differences. In the Chinese magazine some purely philosophical stresses and Buddhist conceptions are missing. We compared those parts that are different (for instance, the final songs of the two fairies), but the manuscript version was the basis for our translation.
The Chinese publication is followed by a short note, titled rTsom-sgrig pa’i-sbrags-mchas (p.27-28), that contains the name of the shastra’s author—Bon Drongpa (bon-grong-pa). His nickname, Great Scholar (mkhas-d bang), attests to his talent as a writer. He is said to have lived in the l7th-l8th century. This agrees with the colophon of another shastra ascribed to Bon Drongpa—De-pho dkar-po’i bstan-bcos (also known as De-pho dkar-po’i rtogs-brjod or Khyim-bya rnams ‘dos dsa byung-bar zhib-bcad khra ‘thung), that is found in Tibetan Didactic Tales on Animal and Bird Themes (published by Damchoe Sangpo, Dalhousie, H.P., India, 1978,79) in which the date of composition is said to be 1726-1727.
Ma young man, Bon Drongpa was a servant to the regent Sangye Gyatso (sangs-rgyas rgya-mtsho). In his old age, he stayed at home devoting himself to writing shastras and teaching students. Although many shastras have been credited to him (for example, those mentioned in an article published in the magazine Jo-mo glang-ma), not all can be verified as his creations. The investigation of this writer’s literary heritage, As well as his biography, will hopefully be the subject of our future research.
The shastra Ja-chang lha-mo’i bstan-bcos has within it several striking features. There are only three heroes: King Je Rangrig Gyalpo (rje-rang-rig rgyal-po) and two fairies—the Tea-fairy (shes-rab sgrol-ma) and the Chang-fairy (bde-ldan bdud-rtsi). The king decides to hold a banquet, but comes to doubt the necessity of offering chang as a beverage and considers substituting chang with tea. The chang-fairy does not agree with this decision and pleads her case. While stressing her own merits and virtues, she criticizes the tea- fairy, blaming her for many different criminal deeds. The tea-fairy reacts angrily to this; forming the basis of an amazing literary intrigue.
All the narration is based first on the mutual incriminations of the two fairies, and then on the king’s thoughts and his handling of the fairies’ arrogant behaviour. The pleas of the fairies are full of incorrect legendary and historical allusions, therefore, in the foot-notes interpretations of the mentioned historical events are given. The two fairies are brilliant speakers using verse while proving both their own merits or the demerits of their rival. These poetical incorporations illustrate the great literary talent of Bon Drongpa who freely uses both styles of narration—prose and poetical.
The question now arises: is this a Buddhist text or not? By referring to the characteristics of traditional Tibetan literature, one can answer positively. Although this shastra is written in a very common manner, similar to popular fairy- tales, it bears strict Buddhist features. Some parts resemble a difficult to grasp Buddhist sutra (especially the king’s thoughts at the end of the work), and the entire content of this shastra is directed towards extolling the Buddhist pure way of life. This shastra is easier to read and understand than philosophical works; therefore, it should be placed near the periphery of the above mentioned model of traditional Tibetan literature. It is an organic part of a tradition which must not be divided into different degrees of importance. Highly developed and rich in genres and styles, Tibetan literature contains many brilliant works we are just beginning to uncover.
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