Outlining A Tibetan Text

THL Toolbox > Tibetan Texts > Outlining Tibetan Texts

Outlining Tibetan Texts

Contributor(s): David Germano.

Most literature has an internal structure which is readily discernible. The widespread use of “chapters” or an analogous structure is a straightforward example of such internal structure. Such structure is typically represented in “tables of contents”, which a reader uses to quickly discern the scope and structure of a work, as well as quickly navigate to the sections in which they are interested. The utility of such structure is amplified in digital versions of texts, since one can click on a section title and have the program deliver the corresponding text directly. In addition, one can keep the table of contents in view even as one is reading the text, providing for quick and easy navigation at all points.

Our general principle at analyzing the structure of a text is to consider it as having three principal parts – the front (prefatory material), body (the main part of the text), and back (concluding materials, such as colophons). Each of these can then have internal structural divisions – with the chapters of the body being the main such type – which can in turn have further subdivisions. Please see the following document for more details on these structural divisions: external link: Cataloging the Structure of a Tibetan Text.

Classical Tibetan literature is characterized by an extreme version of such internal structures, which are referred to as “topical outlines” (sa bcad). These topical outlines of a text constitute a very complex nested hierarchy of sections and subsections that can extend into ten, twenty, or even more levels. The individual sections can number in the hundreds.

Unfortunately, the structure of front, body, and back, including the division of the body into chapters, at times will not coincide perfectly with a text’s topical outline. In that case, the topical outline will reach across chapters and not include chapters precisely in its own structure. This results in two independent structures of a single text. In those cases, the priority should be the topical outline, with the structure of the front, body, and back included as possible.

THL’s simple Word cataloging template for Tibetan literature facilitates the cataloging of chapters, but cannot accommodate the input of detailed internal outlines given their great complexity. Thus if the text you are cataloging has a detailed internal outline, you should create this in a separate Word document from the cataloging record for the text.

Ultimately, our representations of texts are done with XML Markup. However, since XML is not commonly used by scholars, we are asking work to be done in Microsoft Word following easy guidelines which will allow the end work to be easily migrated into XML with a minimum of manual intervention. To prepare a topical outline of a Tibetan text, first you should use THLOutlineStyles in Word rather than the ordinary THL Word stylesheet. The main difference is that the heading styles in THLOutlineStyles have been formatted for use within outlines rather than for use as headers to actual text such as in an essay or the actual classical literature itself. Thus all the heading styles are in a plain, regular size font with no space above or below. The heading styles are all indented to indicate their hierarchical relationship – the further nested a header is, the further indented from the left. Thus first Using View:Outline”, you can view the document with indentations marking each successive level. You can also use “View: Document map” to generate a left hand side table of contents hyperlinked to different sections of the document.

Heading 1 (h1) should be used for front, body, and back divisions. From there on, each layer of the structure is indicated by the next heading level in – h2, h3, h4 onwards. We currently have twenty five levels, and can add more if people find texts requiring deeper levels.

The headers themselves should be in the following format:

  • chos thams cad stong pa/ [The emptiness of all phenomena] (44.5-56.4)

Thus the Tibetan is given first, the translation into English (if available) is given in brackets with the first letter capitalized, and then the pagination range is given with page and line separated by periods. If you are putting in pagination from multiple editions, separate each page range with a semi-colon a page and preface each page range with a 2-3 letter sigla identifying the edition following by a space:

  • (SG 44.5-56.4; DG 56.4-63.4)

Further Resources

The following resources are available for downloading or viewing:

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library