Czech Republic

The Tibetan Library of the Oriental Institute in Prague

The Tibetan Book Fund of the Oriental Institute Library started in 1958 with the acquisition of the complete set of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, the Kanjur and the Tanjur in the East Tibetan town of Derge . At that time the Czech Tibetologist Dr. J. Kolmas was studying with Prof Yü Tao-ch'üan at the Central Institute of Nationalities in Beijing. Through his enthusiasm and ability to negotiate with local authorities Dr. Kolmaž was fortunate to be able to purchase a complete set of the Derge edition of the Kanjur and the Tanjur for the funds of the Oriental Institute of the then Czechoslovak (now Czech) Academy of Sciences.

The first collection, the Kanjur, contains a total of 103 volumes including one index volume (dkar-chag). All the texts of the Kanjur are printed in red. The Kanjur (lit. "Translation of the Buddha-Word") comprises translations of the basic Buddhist texts, containing the teaching and sermons of the Lord Buddha, as well as texts on the discipline (Vinaya), and so forth.
The second collection, the Tanjur, contains 213 volumes including the separate index-volume. The whole of the Tanjur is printed in black except for the first volume which is printed in red. The Tanjur collection consists of the texts relating to "inner meaning" of Buddhism. The most extensive part (78 volumes) is represented by Tantric texts, while other volumes are dedicated to the Prajnápáramitá, Madnhyamaka, Abhidharma and Sútra literature. Other works concern logic, medicine, játaka stories, and various miscellanies. The original blocks of the Derge Kanjur and Tanjur were completed in the first half of the 18th century. The printing of the Prague exemplar took place during the summer of 1958. The Prague copies of the Kanjur and the Tanjur are provided with two card catalogues: one basic, filed as subject catalogue within the sections traditionally observed in the canon, the other auxiliary, giving Tibetan and Sanskrit titles in alphabetical order.

Title leaves
Another collection of our Tibetica, perhaps unique in Europe, is represented by the title leaves (cover prints) of numerous xylopgraphed works turned out by the two monastic printing houses in Derge, viz. Dgon-chen and Dpal-spungs. This collection consisting of 5,615 separate title-leaves was purchased in Derge with the assistance of Prof. Yü Tao-ch'üan in 1958 during the time Dr. Kolmas spent in China . The cost of acquiring the complete texts of these works was then prohibitive. Nevertheless, the collection represents a useful bibliographical guide to the study of Tibetan literature. The collections offer a glimpse into a number of works representative of Tibetan Lamaist literature, such as teachings and practices of the Rning-ma-pa tradition, the teaching of the Path and the Fruit, and so on. It also contains the Collected Works (gsung-'bum) of several prominent Lamaist authors, such as "Five Great Masters" of the Sa-skya-pa school, Tsongkhapa, Mi-pham-rgya- mtsho, Kong-sprul Blo-gros-mtha'-yas, and others. Dr. Kolmas prepared this collection for publication by photo-mechanical reproduction. An index of titles to this collection is being prepared. Apart from these two large parts of our Tibetica, the Oriental Institute Library also houses the collection of Tibetan manuscripts and blockprints obtained from Tibet, China, India, Nepal, Mongolia, and Buryatia.
The pioneer of Czech Tibetology Dr. J. Kolmas completed and elaborated the Tibetan fund by dint of his unstinting efforts and enthusiasm. In 1969 he prepared a Catalogue of Tibetan Manuscripts and Blockprints in the Library of the Oriental Institute Prague (65 items altogether, of which 41 are manuscripts and 24 are xylographs) The majority of these texts were donated to the library by the Náprstek Museum of Ethnology, Prague, in 1960-1961. The museum, in its turn, received most of its Tibetica as gift presented by Prof. B. Rinchen of Ulan-Bator in 1958. Several Tibetan texts are part of the private collection of Dr. Kolmas. This collection of Tibetan MSS. and xylographs is relatively small but rich in content. The majority of texts represent the canonical literature, Tantric and ritual works, philosophical treatises, literary texts (e.g. novel about Prince Vishvantara, story of Nangsa Öbum, fairy tales of Vetala, love songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama etc.). Special attention should be drawn to biographies of prominent Indian and Tibetan teachers including Padmasambhava, Tilopa, Náropa, Marpa, Milarepa and others.
The new Tibetan xylographs obtained during the last couple of decades, of which there are more than one hundred, are still awaiting description.

Chinese collection
The fourth division of Tibetan texts (the so-called Chinese collection) represents the Tibetan books printed in movable types and bound in the European way, as well as a small number of cyclostyled editions. This is the private collection of Dr. Kolmas stored temporarily at the library. This collection consists of books published in China between 1952 and 1959, 191 titles in total which represent unique linguistic material for the study of modern spoken and written Tibetan. 52 items are textbook and conversational manuals of four, main, Tibetan dialects, different kinds of dictionaries, grammars, etc. 22 units represent re-editions of various literary texts, some of which are furnished with a Chinese translation. A small number of them comprise examples of classical Tibetan literature (e.g. aphorisms of Sakya-pandita, the Chronicles of Tibet by the 5th Dalai Lama, and so on).
However, the majority of the publications (112 items) are Tibetan translations of Chinese originals, including political literature, official party and government documents, speeches by leading statesmen. A special group of Tibetan and Tibetan-Chinese daily newspapers of the 1950s is appended to the collection.

Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic
Pod vodárenskou vzí 4
182 08 Praha 8
Czech Republic

Homepage  IIAS Newsletter  IIASN-7  Central Asia