The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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A brief introduction to Princess Wencheng
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- Princess Wencheng (625-680), female imperial clan of Emperor Li Shimin. Han. She was intelligent and beautiful, nurtured by their families at an early age, learning culture, nowledgeable and modest, and belief in Buddhism.
- 641 AD, the Tang Princess Wencheng was accompanied by Daozong lee , the brother of Jiangxia Wales and Ambassadors Ludongzan ,out of Changan to Tibet. Songtsen met them by himself in Bohai(Today’s Maduo County) and have a formal visit. Then back to Lhasa together with Princess Wencheng . Princess Wencheng lived in Tibet for nearly 40 years, has been respected.
- Yonghui the first year (650), after the death of Songtsen,
- Princess Wencheng lived in Tibet all the time. She loved Tibetans and loved by the people.She has to assist the design and construction of the Jokhang Temple and little Jokhang Temple. under the influence of her , the Han people’s milling, textiles, pottery, paper making, brewing and other technology have spread to Tibet; of her poems, agricultural books, scriptures, history books, medical code, calendar and other books, and promoted Tibetan economic and cultural development and strengthening of friendly relations between Chinese and Tibetan people. She brought the gold statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, is still worshiped by the Tibetan people.
- Yonglong the first year (680), the death of Princess Wencheng, Tubo Dynasty, held a grand funeral for her, Tang envoy Hill to visit Tibet to mourn. Tibetans in Lhasa has preserved the statue of her for 1,300 years to nowadays.
- She intelligent beautiful, received the family to gradually influence since childhood, the study culture, knows the book to reach the ritual, and believes Buddhism. Has brought technologies and so on mill, spinning and weaving, earthenware, papermaking, wine-making to the Tibetan national minority: Prose, agricultural book, Buddhist literature, history book, medical standard, calendar.
- Background: Scores of legends about Wencheng have worked their way into the culture of Tibet. Through time, each story has evolved into several versions, with increasing numbers of episodes added each time. While it is difficult to separate fiction from historical reality, reading legends can tell us about what people thought, and might still think, about Wencheng and her influence on Tibetan culture.
- Assign one or all of the following legends about events in the life of Wencheng to different groups or to individual students. In each legend, students are to identify ideas or actions that supports the view that:
- • This was an event that might really have happened.
- Use this evidence to discuss ways in which legends, or stories, might be used as sources to uncover diverse perspectives of past events.
- “On the fifteenth of the first month in 1409, Tasong-kha-pa, a 15th century Buddhist reformer, held a ritual in front of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa to commemorate Sakyamuni (Buddha). During the ritual, the Sakyamuni image brought by Princess Wencheng from Chang’an [then the capital of China) when she came to Tibet, was decorated with a golden canopy and a robe. In front of the statue were flowers made of butter. When the ritual was concluded, Tasong-kha-pa was so exhausted that he fell asleep as soon as he lay down.
- In a dream, he went to a mountain covered with thick forests...While Tasong-kha-pa was gazing at this scene, Princess Wencheng flew gracefully down and stood before him. She was dressed in Tang dynasty clothing, and, though she was beautiful, her expression was sorrowful. Tasong-kha-pa said, ‘Your Highness came to Tibet at the emperor's command and married Songtsan Gampo, the Tibetan King, thus joining the Chinese empire and Tibet. You are highly respected by all the people. Today, I decorated the Buddha image with a gilded canopy, offered it butter flowers, and chanted scriptures in worship. So why are you so sad?’ Princess Wencheng said...’When I saw the butter flowers, I was reminded of my life in Chang-an [Xian] and am tortured by past memories. I won't think of Chang-an if I can see such butter flowers every year.’ Tasong-kha-pa thought for a moment, then said, ‘Rest. I promise that we will hold a ritual every year in Jokhang Temple with many butter flowers.’
- ‘That is very kind of you,’ said Princess Wencheng, and she left. Tasong-kha-pa then awakened from his dream. He summoned skilled craftsmen, divided them into two groups, and had them make butter flowers. The two groups competed with each other, and their butter flowers were very beautiful. On the same day the next year, the Jokhang Temple again held a ritual and the two groups of butter flowers were exhibited. One group depicted Sakyamuni's life, while the other depicted Wencheng's journey to Tibet. Both butter-flower exhibits were splendid. They were shown exactly at the hour when Tasong-kha-pa had earlier dreamed of Princess Wencheng, and taken away the following morning. Afterwards, the Jokhang Temple exhibited flowers every year.”
- Legend 2: Pabangka Castle Standing on a Turtle-Shaped Rock
- “Legend has it that when Tang Dynasty Princess Wencheng first came to Lhasa, she calculated that Lhasa had superior geographical conditions, with a white dragon in the east, a green tiger in the south, a rose finch in the west, and a holy turtle in the north. After hearing her calculations, the Tubo King Songtsan Gambo conducted a survey of the northern suburbs of Lhasa himself, and actually found a giant rock resembling a reclining turtle in the Nyangri Gully. As a result, a castle five-stories high was erected on the giant rock and named Giant Rock Castle, or Pabangka in Tibetan. Legend has it that the castle rose nine stories high, had stone walls cemented together with smelted iron, and was bound tightly to the rock with iron chains.”
- “Near the Potala Palace is a place which used to be marshlands. Employing her knowledge of yin and ynag and the five elements, Princess Wencheng decided that a pool in the marshland was the heart of an evil woman and that a temple must be built there to keep her in place. Unlike the fortress-like Potala, the temple was built on level ground, more like the ancient temple structure from inland China. It rather strangely has 108 sphinx statues, all craved ut of wood. Perhaps the idea of these sphinx statues came from Ancient Egypt, since during the Tang dynasties there was contact with Persia through the Silk Road. The temple also houses a gilded statue of Sakyamuni, brought by Princess Wencheng. This statue first originated in India and was a gift to the Tang emperor. The pool still exists under the temple.”
- “Legend has it that the Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong gave Princess Wencheng a precious mirror named the Sun and the Moon before she set off on her journey from China to marry King Songtsan Gampo of Tibet. The mirror was said to let her see Chang'an, then the capital, and her relatives from wherever she was. When the princess reached part of the Quilian Mountain Range, an important thoroughfare to western China and a crucial link between Han and Tibetan people, she got out of her carriage and looked around. It was cold and barren. She could only see snow capped mountains. Wencheng then felt a surge of homesickness. She recalled the words of the emperor when he gave her the mirror, ‘Whenever you miss your home, you only need to look in this mirror to see us.’ She took out the mirror to see her hometown, but saw only her own tearful face. So she threw the mirror down onto the mountain. She knew she had a duty to the two nations, and, resolving not to miss her country any more, she continued her journey to the west.
- The mirror was broken in two pieces shaped like the moon and sun. From then on, the mountain got its name, Riyue Mountain. To commemorate Princess Wencheng, the local people built two pavilions here named the Sun and the Moon respectively. Colorful modern murals in them depict Princess Wencheng's journey through China to Tibet, and credit the princess with introducing farming, technology, medicine, and Buddhism to Tibet.”
- The term “diplomat brides” came from the practice of sending Chinese princesses to cement alliances with various enemies which threatened China’s borders. Over the course of Tang dynasty, for example, over 20 known princesses were dispatched, ensuring that peace and hopefully trade would result from the union of the two enemy countries.
- This practice was not exclusive to China. In most patriarchal cultures, women married out, leaving their natal homes and becoming part of new families and sometimes new cultures. High status brides, with hefty dowries, carried with them the additional potential of being used as tribute, or as tokens in peace negotiations. In Old English poetry such women sent out in marriages were referred to as “peace weavers.”
- On achieving the status and power of wife of a high official, the “diplomat bride” was well placed to become the “eyes and ears” of her natal court. If allowed to establish her own quarter or administer her own lands, she might become the center of trade exchanges. She not only brought ideas and goods from her region of birth, but might localize her "native" culture through its books, textiles, foods, and religious beliefs.
- Consider using the story of Wencheng
- Around 700, the armies of one of Tibet’s most powerful rulers, Songtsen Gampo, reached the border of Tang Dynasty China. To deflect what would have been a resounding defeat, and in hopes of promoting harmonious relations, the Chinese emperor offered Wencheng, one of the lesser royal princesses, to King Gampo as a bride. A substantial dowry accompanied her, as did promises of trade agreements and safe passage on the major Tang dynasty route between the capital at Xian (called Chang’an) and Llasa.
- Wencheng’s journey and subsequent influence on Tibetan culture have been the stuff of legends ever since. Reasons why include the fact that she:
- Brought Tibet’s most sacred image of Sakyamuni (the Buddha) with her. Buddhism had been practiced in China since at least the first century AD. Today this image resides in the Jokka Khang Temple, which Wencheng had built, in Lhasa. The Jokka Khang is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.
- Introduced a number of technological advances, such bringing Han artisans to pass on their skills in metallurgy, farming, weaving, construction, and the manufacture of paper and ink.
- Because of her promotion of Buddhism, Tibetans eventually deified Wencheng. Statues show her as the goddess of mercy, or as the venerated White Tara goddess. Scores of legends about her have worked their way into the culture. One concerns her influence as a goddess on a 15th century Buddhist reformer called Tasong-kha-pa.
- “On the fifteenth of the first month in 1409, Tasong-kha-pa held a ritual in front of Jokka Khang Temple in Lhasa to commemorate Sakyamuni. During the ritual, the Sakyamuni (Buddha) image brought by Princess Wencheng from Xian [then capital of China) when she came to Tibet was decorated with a golden canopy and a robe. In front of the statue were flowers made of butter. When the ritual was concluded, Tasong-kha-pa was so exhausted that he fell asleep as soon as he lay down.
- In a dream, he went to a mountain covered with thick forests...While Tasong-kha-pa was gazing at this scene, Princess Wencheng flew gracefully down and stood before him. She was dressed in Tang dynasty clothing, and, though she was beautiful, her expression was sorrowful. Tasong-kha-pa said, "Your Highness came to Tibet at the emperor's command and married Songtsen Gampo, the Tibetan King, thus joining the Chinese empire and Tibet. You are highly respected by all the people. Today, I decorated the Buddha image with a gilded canopy, offered it butter flowers, and chanted scriptures in worship. So why are you so sad?" Princess Wencheng said...”When I saw the butter flowers, I was reminded of my life in Chang-an [Xian] and am tortured by past memories. I won't think of Chang-an if I can see such butter flowers every year." Tasong-kha-pa thought for a moment, then said, "Rest. I promise that we will hold a ritual every year in Jokka Khang Temple with many butter flowers."
- ‘That is very kind of you,’ said Princess Wencheng, and she left. Tasong-kha-pa then awakened from his dream. He summoned skilled craftsmen, divided them into two groups, and had them make butter flowers. The two groups competed with each other, and their butter flowers were very beautiful. On the same day the next year, Jokka Khang Temple again held a ritual and the two groups of butter flowers were exhibited. One group depicted Sakyamuni's life, while the other depicted Wencheng's journey to Tibet. Both butter-flower exhibits were splendid. They were shown exactly at the hour when Tasong-kha-pa had earlier dreamed of Princess Wencheng, and taken away the following morning. Afterwards, Jokka Khang Temple exhibited flowers every year.”
- The Chinese have drawn upon Wencheng as one proof of their long association with Tibet, and claim that China brought civilization to the region. Two scholars recently recreated Wencheng’s route from China to Tibet, beautifully illustrated in their book, “The Ancient Tangbo Road, Princess Wen Cheng’s Route to Tibet.”