An Early Tibetan Gesar sang Text

  • Solomon George FitzHerbert
  • Charles Ramble
Keywords: The Epic of King Gesar, Tibetan rituals


This article introduces and presents an annotated English translation of what appears to be an early, and perhaps our earliest, Tibetan Gesar bsang (purifying smoke offering) ritual text. The translation is preceded by a discussion of the association between Gesar as a “worldly deity,” and the autochthonous Tibetan rite of smoke purification, and a tentative suggestion concerning Gesar’s role in the “Buddhicisation” of the bsang rite in Eastern Tibetan popular ritual culture. The article then gives a brief exposition of the layers discernible in the text’s presentation of Gesar: as the hero of a predominantly secular orientated chivalric-shamanic folkloric tradition, and his apotheosisation as a Buddha. The article then explores the difficulties in dating and attributing the text. The attribution to Karma Pakshi is ultimately rejected, in favour of a tentative attribution to the mid-late 17th century (and to Yongs-dge mi-’gyur rdo-je in particular) which would make sense in light of what can be discerned about the evolution of the Buddhist cult of Gesar in eastern Tibet around that time.


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Author Biographies

Solomon George FitzHerbert

GEORGE FITZHERBERT received his Doctorate in Tibetan Studies in 2008 from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University, where he also spent three years teaching as a Departmental Lecturer. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher with the ERC-funded project “The Tibetan Army of the Dalai Lamas” at the Sorbonne, Paris.

Charles Ramble

CHARLES RAMBLE is directeur d’études at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), Paris, and a member of Centre de Recherche sur les Civilisations de L’Asie Orientale (CRCAO). His numerous publications include The Navel of the Demoness: Tibetan Buddhism and Civil Religion  in Highland Nepal and Tibetan Sources for a Social History of Mustang: Vol. I, The Archive of Te.

How to Cite
FitzHerbert, S. G., & Ramble, C. (2016). An Early Tibetan Gesar sang Text. Archiv orientální, 84(3), 467-526.
Research Article