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Early Himalayan manuscript: a complete Sutra written in gold on blue-stained paper

[The perfection of wisdom in eight thousand lines].
Tibet, 13th century CE. 20 x 65 cm. Manuscript written in gold ink on both sides of 314 sheets of heavy, multi-layered paper stained blue over the surface, varnished on the writing space, surrounded by a frame, each page containing 8 lines of approximately 80 characters in Tibetan uchen (dbu-can) script. Front cover from another manuscript, in black ink; under a flap are 2 lines of very large script with the words "in the language of India". The first leaves of the manuscript contain 4, 5, 6 and 7 lines of script. Text is complete. Stored in a large custom-made red cloth case (71 x 24 x 15.5 cm) with a gold-tooled red morocco title label. 314 ll.
€ 125,000
A canonical Buddhist sutra and the central text of the Mahayana Prajnaparamita school. The present text is a Tibetan translation from the original Sanskrit, which was also translated into Chinese, Korean and Japanese. The "Perfection of wisdom" sutra exists in a range of shorter and longer recensions, but one in 8000 lines is regarded as having been the source, since according to Buddhist belief, its lost precursor, in Buddhist Prakrit, the vernacular language actually spoken by the Buddha, transmitted the actual spoken words of the Buddha. This Sanskrit text was then expanded into versions in 10,000, 18,000, 25,000, and 100,000 lines or verses, for the advanced adepts who could appreciate detailed commentary, and on the other hand abbreviated to versions in 2,500, 700, 500, 300, 150 and 25 lines for those of lesser understanding. Modern scholarship suggests the text was elaborated by a series of additions to a small original core, not identical to any of the later "short" versions, over the period from 50 to 700 CE.
The first known Tibetan translation was made around 850 CE and the second in 1020 CE. By the latter year the text had achieved its canonical form. Further comparison with the Sanskrit original and with additional Sanskrit manuscripts led to revisions of the Tibetan translation in 1030, 1075 and 1500. The Tibetan translation achieves a high level of understanding and accuracy and has been useful to modern scholars occupied in establishing and analysing the Sanskrit text. Edward Conze has edited, translated and commented on the whole range of Tibetan versions of the sutra on the "Perfection of wisdom".
While the present manuscript has no colophon, it was almost certainly donated or sponsored by a lay person who hoped to win merit by financing the copying of the text. It is a superb example of Tibetan uchen (dbu-can) calligraphy produced during the 13th and 14th centuries. The text shows a few archaic orthographic characteristics, such as the presence of the da-drag (the letter "da" as a secondary suffix for some syllables), which suggest an early date, probably 13th or 14th century.
Although the manuscript is not illustrated, it displays some of the best uchen calligraphy produced in Tibet. The gold letters are pleasingly spaced and very exactly executed on the lustrous blue ground, which represents "the clear empty space, the void from which all things arise".
Some damage to the outer corners of the upper and lower 10-20 leaves. With very early marginal patches over tears from frequent turning of the pages. Provenance: McCarthy Collection, Hong Kong, 2010-18. Previously in a UK private collection, which acquired it in 1999.
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