I. The Tibetan Language and the History of Tibetan Lexicography
A well-known Tibetan proverb declares that 'Every district has its own dialect, every lama has his own doctrine."') To this sentiment, Edward Amundsen, pioneer Tibetan linguist and member of the British Bible Society, added gloomily that even if the student persevered until he had mastered four or five of these dialects, he would still be wider-stood by only a few thousand natives. In view of the total number of Tibetan speakers (usually estimated to be about 3,000,000), the task of mastering the Tibetan spoken language, including all of its dialects, would appear to be humanly impossible. In addition to the multiplicity of dialects to be found in the colloquial language, called PAcd-skai2) in Tibetan, the student is confronted with the discouraging task of learning a whole new set of terms in order to converse in the Rie-skad3), the polite respectful speech of the educated classes. If he wishes to become completely literate, he must learn not only the immensely rich vocabulary of the Chos-skad4), the archaic written language peculiar to Tibetan Buddhist literature, but thousands of new terms as well. Since the Red Chinese conquest of Tibet, a flood of new political, administrative, industrial, and technical terms has appeared in Tibetan language newspapers and periodicals published by the Communist Party. It would be well, therefore, for the compiler of a dictionary of the Tibetan language to define at the very outset the aim and scope of his research, for it is quite impractical in a single publication to attempt to cover the entire span of the Tibetan language, both written and spoken, ancient and modern, vulgar and Bonorific.
The primary purpose of the present dictionary is to provide full and accurate definitions of the vocabulary used in current publications in the Tibetan language, especially those appearing in Communist China. This does not mean, however, that either the colloquial language or the special vocabulary of the Tibetan classics will be ignored. In fact, a deliberate effort was made throughout our research to include all common colloquial terms which have been generally accepted by experienced Tibetan linguists. In addition, a great deal of Buddhistic, mythological and astrological terminology has been included, for such vocabulary is deeply rooted in Tibetan culture. On the other hand, thousands of terms listed in the older dictionaries and glossaries have been omitted as being too obscure or impractical for our purposes. The working procedure throughout has been (1) to compare the definitions of each Tibetan word under study in the various lexicographical sources available, (2)to select or to reject the word or phrase on the basis of an evaluation of all information at hand, and, in the light of our primary objective, (3) to give the full range of each term selected, with examples of usage in context whenever a further clarification appeared necessary, and (4) to conduct a continuing search in current publications for new terms, idioms, loan words, examples of special usage, etc. For the most part, colloquial expressions, both vulgar and polite, have been taken from the speech of central Tibet, which is generally understood throughout all of the provinces. Terms peculiar to eastern Tibet have been listed with the abbreviation E.T.; those which appear to be used only in the western part of the country have been labelled W.T.
Tibetan literature goes back to the seventh century A.D. According to tradition, King Srong-bstan Sgam-po5), the thirty-second in the succession of the Indian Royal Family established in Tibet, had two wives, both pious Buddhists. To comply with their wishes, the king sent one of his ministers, Thonmi Sambhota6), with sixteen companions to study at a monastery in Magadha, India. When Thonmi returned to Tibet in 647 A.D., he brought with him an alphabet for the Tibetan language which was based on the Devanagari letters used by the Indians in writing Sanskrit. Using his new alphabet, Thonmi wrote eight text-books on the subject of writing and grammar for the king. With the help of these texts, the common people were gradually converted to Buddhism. One result of this conversion to the gentle philosophy of Buddha was a decline in the warlike proclivities of the old Tibetan tribesmen-much to the relief of their neighbours. Translations of the Buddhist classics from Sanskrit into Tibetan went on steadily for centuries, ending in the latter part of the seventeenth century. In the words of Csoma de Koros, these translations covered the "manners, customs, opinions, knowledge, ignorance, superstition, hopes and fears of a great part of Asia, and especially of India, in former ages." In accordance with a definite set of rules, thousands of Sanskrit texts were translated accurately, faithfully, and liter-ally. The translators, who usually worked in groups, were anxious to find word-for-word equivalents for the Sanskrit, and so the spirit of the Tibetan language sometimes suffered. Modern Tibetans find it difficult to understand most of these texts. The translated material includes 108 volumes of the Kanjur7), which is made up of sutras, the instructions and precepts of the Buddhas.
Another massive set of translations, called the Tanjur8), contains 225 volumes. These are the so-called sastras, or commentaries, which contain, collectively, the "Doctrine of the Buddhas." By the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the last of the Tatar kings had been killed off and the Chinese were able gradually to consolidate their control over Tibet. During this period the sovereignty of Tibet proper passed into the hands of the Gelug-pa9), or Yellow Sect.
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