Additional Bibliography - Theoretical Week 2

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Annotated Bibliography for the Blue Annals from the Tibetan Renaissance Seminar

This page was created on Jan 27, 2007 by Alison Melnick. Please feel free to add sources or expound on those already listed. (ajm)


According to George Roerich, the deb ther sngon po was written by Gö Lotsawa Zhonupel (’gos lo tsa ba gzhon nu dpal) (1392-1481) between 1476 and 1478 C.E. Gö Lotsawa was renowned as a scholar during his lifetime and served as the abbot of Karma Monastery. The deb ther sngon po is an extremely important text that has been used as a historical reference by historians of Tibet from its creation in the fifteenth century until the present. Although the author was primarily associated with the Kagyu sect, he studied with teachers from other Tibetan Buddhist traditions. His ecumenical approach is apparent in his inclusion of non-Kagyu lineage histories and biographies in the text. Although the Kagyu tradition is by far the most represented in the text, it is clear that Gö Lotsawa was attempting a comprehensive Tibetan history.

The ’deb ther sngon po is an especially useful reference because it provides information about Tibetan history prior to the fifteenth century at the same time that it offers information about fifteenth-century Tibetan historiography. The author included as many dates as possible and, while these do not necessarily match other early Tibetan timelines, they open the door for present scholars to develop comprehensive or “critical” timelines up to this point. The author also provides what he must have at the time considered to be the most pertinent biographical information about Tibetan religious figures. Although he never focuses too much on one particular individual, his brief statements about many different people both provide valuable references modern students of Tibetan history and tell us what was (and was not) considered important historical information among fifteenth century historiographers. The details of who he includes from each sect and the information that he includes about each person are important tools for the exploration of this second point. Gö Lotsawa records the life stories of important practitioners, transmissions of teachings, miraculous happenings, and information about when monasteries were founded.

The use of the text is widespread among modern Tibetan historians. The following bibliography is meant to provide some references for study of the author and the time in which he wrote the text, as well as more general historical information regarding Tibet. It also includes information about the creation of the English version, the Blue Annals, translated by George Roerich and Gendun Chomphel (dge ’dun chos ’phel). The Blue Annals and the deb ther sngon po are also extremely useful references for students of Tibetan history because they provide references to other works not yet translated out of their original Tibetan. The bibliography is divided into thematic sections, although most sections are not comprehensive. A bibliography that included information about every person and place mentioned in the text would effectively be a bibliography of most of Tibetan history up to the fifteenth century. As a whole this is a rather daunting task, however it is begun here with the hope that people will add to it as they come across pertinent information.

The Creation of the deb ther sngon po

English Language Sources

Mathes, K.-D. ed. ’Gos Lo tsā ba Gzhon nu dpal’s Commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā Nepal Research Centre Publications (Their publication no. 24). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2003.

  • “’Gos Lo tsā ba Gzhon nu dpal’s Extensive Commentary on and Study of the Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā.” Religion and Secular Culture in Tibet: Tibetan Studies II vol. 2 of PIATS 2000: Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000, ed. Henk Blezer, Brill’s Tibetan Studies Library 2, 79-95. Leiden: Brill, 2002. According to the author, this is a preliminary study of 'gos lo tsa ba's commentary. The author includes information about the life of 'gos lo tsa ba based on the hagiography written by the 4th Shamarpa and other related works.

van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. “On the Composition and Printings of the Deb gter sngon po by ’Gos lo tsā ba gzhon nu dpal.” JIATS No. 2, August 2006 (pp. 1-46). According to van der Kuijp's abstract, the purpose of his article is to discuss the context of the time and place in which the deb gter sngon po was written (fifteenth century Tibet) and the intellectual climate of the period. It is significant that the author suggests that the text, rather than being solely written by 'Gos lo tsa ba, was compiled by his disciples in conversation with 'Gos lo tsa ba himself. He also addresses the chronologies and placement of colophons in the text. For the entire article see external link:

  • “The Names of ’Gos Lo tsā ba Gzhon nu dpal (1392-1481),” The publication information for this work is unclear. In van der Kuijp's bibliography for JIATS No. 2, he says "Published in the E. Gene Smith Festschriftt, ed. R. Prats, on a CD."

Non-English Language Sources

'gos lo tsA ba gzhon nu dpal (also known as gzhon nu dpal, yid bzang rtse ba, mgos lo tsA ba gzhon nu dpal). Blue Annals. Calcutta Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 1948-1953. See external link: or external link:

  • byang chub lam sgron gyi rnam bshad
  • dbu ma bden gnyis kyi rnam bshad
  • dbu ma man ngag gi rnam bshad
  • deb ther sngon poNew Delhi International Academy of Indian Culture 1974 (tbrc has this)
  • dge pa rdo rje zhes bya ba'i rgyud kyi rgyal po brtag pa gnyis Delhi, Delhi Karmapai Chodhey Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang 1976-1979 (tbrc has this)
  • dpal bde mchog sdom pa 'byung ba zhes bya ba'i rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po Delhi, Delhi Karmapae Chodhey Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1976-1979 (tbrc has this)

  • dus 'khor rgyud 'grel chen po
  • mkhas pa chen po dpal nags kyi rin chen gyi rnam par thar pa Thimphu, National Library of Bhutan 1985 (tbrc has this)

  • phar phyin mngon rtogs rgyan gyi 'grel bshad
  • rgyud bla ma'i 'grel bshad chen mo
  • rgyud bla ma'i 'grel bshad de kho na nyid rab gsal
  • rig pa'i rgyal mo so sor 'brang ma chen mo (tbrc has this)
  • rtsis kyi bstan bcos 'khrul sel
  • stong chen mo rab tu 'joms pa zhes bya ba'i mdo (tbrc has this)

TBRC Holdings of Tibetan Works About 'gos lo tsA ba gzhon nu dpal

  • 'gos lo gzhon nu dpal gyi rnam thar pe cin mi rigs dpe skrun khang 2004

  • 'gos lo tsA ba'i rnam thar TBRC has two works with this name
  • rgyud gsum gsang ba dang paN chen shAkya mchog ldan gyi bde mchog rnam bshad gnyis kyi mthar thug gi bras bu gzhi dus gnas lugs lam dus kyi rnal 'byor Lhasa 2004

For full information on this author and his works, see external link:;jsessionid=615C74629CB1078875A37BC73C1F2967?RID=P318&selected=works-by&wylie=n#submenu

ko zhul grags pa 'byung gnas and rgyal ba blo bzang mkhas grub gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod 1992 A short rnam thar of 'gos lo tsa ba. 348af (see information regarding TBRC above)

las chen kun dga' rgyal mtshan bka' gdams chos 'byung Vol. 2, 1-10 A short rnam thar of 'gos lo tsa ba, written by one of his disciples. (see information regarding TBRC above)

si tu pan chen chos kyi byung gnas and 'be lo tshe dbang kun khyab sgrub brgyud karma kam tshang brgyud pa rin po che'i rnam par thar pa rab 'byams nor bu zla ba chu sel gyi phreng ba Vol.1, 636 f. A short rnam thar of 'gos lo tsa ba, written by one of his disciples.

zhwa dmar chos kyi grags pa Dpal bla ma dam pa mkhan chen thams cad mkhyen pa don gyi slad du mtshan nas smos te gzhon nu dpal gyi rnam par thar pa yon tan rin po che mchog tu rgyas pa'i ljon pa An extensive hagiography of 'gos lo tsa ba written by the 4th Shamarpa, who was his disciple. (see information regarding TBRC above)

The Content of the deb ther sngon po

History of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism

This is by no means an exhaustive bibliography of the subject of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism during the time of the creation of the dep ther ngon po, or the time periods discussed in the book itself.

Amipa, Sherap Gyaltsen. A Waterdrop from the Glorious Sea. A Concise Account of the Advent of Buddhism in General and the Teachings of the Sakyapa Tradition in Particular. Rikon: Tibetan Institute. 1976.

Aoki, Bunkyo. Study on Early Tibetan Chronicles. Tokyo: Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai. 1955.

Aris, Michael. Bhutan. The Early History of a Himalayan Kingdom. Warminster: Aris and Phillips. 1979.

Aziz, Barbara. Tibetan Frontier Families: Reflections of Three Generations from D'ing-ri. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press. 1978. Aziz makes a study of the Tibetan society in the D'ing-ri Valley through case histories gleaned from interviews by former inhabitants of the Tibet-Nepal border area.

Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan Renaissance, Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture New York, Columbia University Press, 2005. This book provides an excellent detailed account of the Tibetan renaissance period. Davidson includes information on the period prior to the renaissance, Indo-Tibetan intellectual exchange and the mutual influence of the two cultures, descriptions of the different players in the intellectual field, and a century-by-century account of important people and events of the period.

  • Davidson, Ronald. “An Introduction to the Standards of Scriptural Authenticity in Indian Buddhism.” In Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha. Robert E. Buswell, ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990. pp. 291-325.
  • “Reflections on the Maheśvara subjugation myth: Indic materials, Sa-skya-pa apologetics, and the birth of Heruka.” In History of Tibet. Alex McKay, ed. New York: RoutledgeCurzon. 2003.

Germano, David “Architecture and Absence in the Secret Tantric History of rDzogs Chen.” In Journal of International Association of Buddhist Studies 17.2: 203-335. 1994.

  • “Food, Clothes, Dreams, and Karmic Propensities.” In Religions of Tibet in Practice. Ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 293-312. 1997.

Goldstein, Melvyn "The Circulation of Estates in Tibet: Reincarnation, Land and Politics." In Journal of Asian Studies Vol 32 (May, 1973), 445-455. According to the JSTOR abstract "The article examines the interplay between reincarnation as a mode of political succession and land availability and shows how these have led to a circulation of estates which in turn stimulated the type of intense political competition traditionally found in Tibet. It also shows how, from a diachronic point of view, the seeming stability and conservativism at any given point in time is misleading and how there was in fact a gradual shifting of the balance of power in Tibet which would ultimately have altered the very nature of the system."

Gyatso, Janet "The Logic of Legitimation in the Tibetan Treasure Tradition". History of Religions, Vol. 33, No. 2. (Nov., 1993), pp. 97-134. In this article Gyatso addresses the rise of the gter ma (Treasure) tradition in Tibet, its Indian roots, aprocrypha and the process of self-legitimation.

Hoffman, Helmut "Early and Medieval Tibet". The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia ed. Denis Sinor, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. (pp. 371-399)

Kapstein, Matthew. “The Shangs-pa bKa’-brgyud: An Unknown Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.” In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Second Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi, eds. Warminster: Aris and Phillips, pp. 138-144. 1980.

  • "The Purificatory Gem and Its Cleansing: A Late Tibetan Polemical Discussion of Apocryphal Texts." History of Religions, Vol. 28, No. 3. (Feb., 1989), pp. 217-244. This article discusses Buddhist apocryphal texts, their sources, and how they are treated in the Buddhist world. He specifically addresses an 18th century text called gsung rab rnam dag chu'i dri ma sel byed no bu ke ta ka.
  • The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000.

Petech, Luciano."The 'Brig-guº-pa sect in Western Tibta and Ladakh" (pp. 355-368) and "Sang-ko, a Tibetan statesman in Yüan China" (pp. 395-412). Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. 1988 The first paper is on Western Tibet's history, and the third paper concerns an item during the Mongol-Sa skya rule in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries.

  • "Ya-ts'e, Gu-ge, Pu-raº: a new study" (pp. 369-394). Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. This concerns Western Tibet's early history
  • "The Disintegration of the Tibetan Kingdom". Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Fagernes 1992 (pp. 649-659) Edited by Per Kvaerne. Oslo: The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture.

Martin, Dan “Illusion Web: Locating the Guhyagarbha Tantra in Buddhist Intellectual History.” In Silver on Lapis: Tibetan Literary Culture and History. Christopher Beckwith, ed. Bloomington: The Tibet Society, pp. 175-220. 1987.

Snellgrove, David. Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors Shambhala, 2003. According to "This volume provides a comprehensive survey of Indian Buddhism and its subsequent establishment in Tibet. It concentrates on the tantric period of Buddhist theory and practice, from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries, when the Tibetans were actively engaged in absorbing all they could find of Buddhist culture and religion into their own country. Snellgrove emphasizes the significant role played by the Central Asian kingdoms along the ancient Silk Route in the gradual process of Tibetan conversion. He draws convincingly upon documents of the time to illustrate the cultural changes that swept Tibet as a result of its rule over an extensive empire from the seventh to the ninth centuries—a period of history largely forgotten by the Tibetans themselves when they later embarked upon the wholesale importation of Buddhism directly from Northern India. Throughout, the author quotes extensively from numerous original sources, many of which have never before been translated into English. The illustrations include iconographic art as well as photographs of historical interest."

Tucci, GiuseppeTibetan Painted Scrolls Roma: Libreeria Dello Stato, 1949. An overview of Tibetan religious and historical literature focusing on the renaissance period. (94-170)

  • "Rin-chen-bzaṅ-po and the Renaissance of Buddhism in Tibet Around the Millenium Indo-Tibetica II (pp. 1-74) New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.

van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. “Fourteenth Century Tibetan Cultural History III: The Oeuvre of Bla ma dam pa Bsod nams rgyal mtshan (1312-1375), Part One.” Berliner Indologische Studien 7 (1993): 139-41.

  • “On the Fifteenth Century Lho rong chos ’byung by Rta tshag Tshe dbang rgyal and Its Importance for Tibetan Political and Religious History.” In Aspects of Tibetan History edited by R. Vitali and T. Tsering. Special issue, Lungta 14 (2000): 57-76.
  • “Two Mongol Xylographs (hor par ma) of the Tibetan Text of Sa skya Paṇḍita’s Work on Buddhist Logic and Epistemology,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 16, 1993. (pp. 279-98)

Watson, Craig Earl. “The Second Propagation of Buddhism from Eastern Tibet according to the ‘Short Biography of Dgongs-pa Rab-gsal’ by the Third Thukvan Blo-bzang Chos-kyi Nyi-ma (1737-1802).”Central Asiatic Journal Vol. 22, no. 3-4 (1978): 263-285.

  • “The Introduction of the Second Propagation of Buddhism in Tibet According to R. A. Stien’s Edition of the Sba-bzhed.” Tibet Journal Vol. 5, no. 4, Winter 1980. (pp. 20-27)

Temples and Monasteries

Klimburg-Salter, Deborah E. “Reformation and Renaissance: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Monasteries in the Eleventh Century.” Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicta eds. Edenda Curaverunt, et al. Vol.2, (pp. 683-702) Rome: ISMEO, 1987.

Vitali, Roberto Early Temples of Central Tibet. London: Serindia Publications, 1990. (see especially pp. 37-40, 49-61, 89-104, 105-112) Provides information on the role of clans and importance of temples.

  • Record of Tho.ling: A Literary and Visual Reconstruction of the “Mother” Monastery in Dharamsala: High Asia, 1999.

Lineages and People in the deb ther sngon po

Aufschnaiter, Peter. “Lands and Places of Milarepa.” In East and West Vol 26,1976. (175-189)

Bacot, Jacques. Le Poète Tibétain Milarepa. Paris. 1925.

Ehrhard, F.-K ed. A Buddhist Correspondence: The Letters of Lo chen Bsod nams rgya mtsho Lumbini International Research Institute, Facsimile Edition Series 3. Lumbini, 2002. Information on the translator khrims khang lo tsa ba bsod nams rgya mtsho, a follower of gos lo tsa ba gzhon nu dpal, whose biography is found in the deb ther sngon po. For a detailed description of the book, see external link:

Germano, David, and Gyatso, Janet. “Longchenpa and the Possession of the Ḍākinīs.” In Tantra in Practice. Ed. David Gordon White. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 239-265. 2000.

Las-chen Kun-dga’-rgyal-mtshan (a.k.a Las chen kun dga’ rgyal mtshan) Bka’ gdams kyi rnam par thar pa Bka’ gdams chos ’byuṅ Gsal ba’i sgron me: A Detailed Account of the Spread of the Kadampa Sect in Tibet ("Bka’ gdams kyi rnam par thar pa bka’ gdams chos ’byung gsal ba’i sgron ma) Vols. 1 and 2. New Delhi: B. Jamyang Norbu, 1972.

Lo Bue, Erberto “A Case of Mistaken Identity: Ma-gcig Labs-sgron and Ma-gcig Zha- ma.” In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Sixth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies Fagernes 1992. 1. Per Kvaerne, ed. Oslo: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, pp. 481-490. 1994.

Martin, Dan “The Teachers of Mi-la-ras-pa.” In The Journal of the Tibet Society Vol 2. 1982.

May, Jacques "Unearthing Bon Treasures: A Study of Tibetan Sources on the Earlier Years in the Life of Gshen-Chen Klu-Dga'" Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 116, No. 4. (Oct. - Dec., 1996), pp. 619-644. This article discusses the early years in the life of a famous 11th century Bon treasure revealer. The abstract for the article on JSTOR reads "Gshen-chen Klu-dga' was an important gter-ston (treasure revealer) active in Tibet at the beginning of the eleventh century. The present work supplies translations and discussions of older narrative sources for the earlier part of his life and, in conclusion, a general assessment of his significance for the Bon tradition."

The Creation of the Blue Annals

English Language Sources

Mengele, I Dge ’dun chos ’phel: A Biography of the 20th-Century Tibetan Scholar Dharmasala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1999. This book provides a brief account of the life of dge 'dun chos 'phel. The author discusses the Roerich family and the writing of the Blue Annals.

Non-English Language Sources

Dge ’dun chos ’phel gyi gsung rtsom ed. Hor khang bsod nams dpal ’bar, et al. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, 1990. 2:395-99.

Rdo rje rgyal “’Dzam gling rig pa’i dpa’ bo rdo brag dge ’dun chos ’phel gyi byung ba brjod pa bden gtam rna ba’i bcud len.” Dge ’dun chos ’phel Lanzhou: Kan su’u mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1997. (pp 1-152)

Stoddard, Heather Le mendiant de l’Amdo Paris: Société d’Ethnologie, 1981. An excellent work on the life of dge dun chos phel. According to van der Kuijp, "An English version of a much revised text of Stoddard’s book will be published by Columbia University Press." (JIATS 2) The author provides a very detailed account of dge dun chos phel's life, including a large amount of information about G.Roerich and the writing of the Blue Annals.

Translations and Versions of the Blue Annals

’Gos Lo-tsā-ba Gzhon-nu-dpal The Blue Annals (Deb gter sngon po). New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1976.

  • Deb ther sngon po. 2 vols. Edited by Dung dkar blo bzang ’phrin las. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1984.

Guo Heqing, trans. Qingshi. Lhasa: Xizang renmin chubanshe, 1985. A Chinese translation of the deb gter sngon po. According to van der Kuijp, the editor " apparently completed his work without relying on Roerich’s earlier rendition and under very trying circumstances. Published only in 1985, when Guo was already well advanced in age, it understandably suffers from a variety of problems and is not always reliable." (see JIATS article, Vol.2)

Roerich, G trans. The Blue Annals New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.