Lineage Transmission Research: The Backstory

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Work that led up to the recent release of the Lineage records in the TBRC Library goes back ten years. This project to record Lineages from Tibetan gsan yig literature started with work that was done by Ralf and Jowita Kramer within a project originally devised by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch and carried out under the auspices of the University of Munich between 2004 and 2007.

The Gsan yig of Amnye Zhab

In 2004, at the onset of this project, Jowita Kramer was working exclusively from xerox copies of the cursive manuscript of Jamgon Amnye Zhab’s Collected Works that the University of Hamburg had received through David Jackson’s contacts. Jowita worked on the lineage data of the entire volume “kha” and singled out 746 Lineages with approximately 1,800+ Persons. More detailed information on the nine individual gsan yig that make up the entire Amnye Zhab records can still be found on the website of the University of Munich, where this research was undertaken – List of gsan yig.

These nine gsan yig texts are located in volume 01 and 02 of Amnye Zhab’s Collected Works  (W29307):

Volume 01:

BD = The gsan yig of Bsod nams dbang po (1559-1621) 32 fols.
GB = The gsan yig of Grags pa blo gros (1563-1617) 25 fols.

Volume 02:

MS = The gsan yig of Mus chen Sangs rgyas rgyal mtshan (1542-1618) 70 fols.
ND = The gsan yig of Nam mkha’ dpal bzang (1535-1602) 5 fols.
KB = The gsan yig of Kun dga’ bsod nams lhun grub (1571-1642) 7 fols.
KD = The gsan yig of Lu phu ba ‘Bum chen kun dga’ dpal ‘byor 9 fols.
SG = The gsan yig of Nags dgon Sdom brtson dam pa sbyin pa grags pa 13 fols.
DR = The gsan yig of Dbang phyug rab brtan (1559-1636) 32 fols.
NC = The gsan yig of Ngag dbang chos kyi grags pa (1572-1641) 81 fols.

This publication – W29307 – is not however bibliographically the original manuscripts from which this early work was undertaken, but rather is the type-set edition that the Sa skya rgyal yongs gsung rab slob gnyer khang brought out in Kathmandu in 2000. This edition was initially handled restrictively and not made available for purchase. Though the University of Hamburg was granted access to the xerox copies of the manuscript, Ralf and Jowita Kramer did not have access to this particular edition of the entire Collected Works in print, a useful edition since the script in the manuscripts were barely legible in instances.

Ralf Kramer became involved in 2006 when he took over from his wife, Jowita. The entire database existed in the askSam format back then. That old-fashioned software had little value due to the distribution of the data depending on the so-called askSam Reader at the user’s end.

Ralf got in touch with Gene Smith and asked whether TBRC might be able to help incorporate the data into the TBRC Library. Gene liked the idea. After further discussions with Jeff Wallman and Chris Tomlinson, Ralf set about converting the askSam data into XML format for TBRC. This task was completed in 2007, and two XML files were sent to TBRC; one containing Lineage records and the other Person records.

By that time, Gene had obtained the restricted 2000 edition of Amnye Zhab’s Collected Works from Kathmandu. It was scanned at TBRC and in 2006, Jeff arranged for the scans to be sent to Ralf. This newly scanned edition was used to check some of the unclear passages in the manuscript. Whatever restrictions existed on this work were eventually lifted, and TBRC included it in Core Text Collection 05.

*Note also the more recent publication of the Collected Works  (W1PD159398).

With the XML files, Ralf then checked the 1800+ Person records and singled out those with no obvious equivalents in TBRC. This resulted in a cleanup of over a thousand duplicate Person records, not imported into TBRC.

TBRC Research on Lineages

In early 2012, we in the Research Department made it part of our workflow to organize various multi-generation sets of Person records, making these relationships more explicit. We began with detailing successions of abbots and tulkus with the idea of integrating the existing Lineage data into the overall scheme. Our team of technologists Jeff Wallman and Chris Tomlinson, and researchers Michael Sheehy and Lobsang Shastri, worked to design and code a durable data model to reflect Tibetan gsan yig literature. In many ways, this project is a perfect match of our synthesis of technology and scholarship, custom built to bring Tibetan literary information on social and textual networks to our users in the TBRC digital library.

As we were building this new model, we were simultaneously normalizing the records produced from the Amnye Zhab sources while simultaneously entering new records. We customized a model to capture the information being expressed in the texts and began to extend this include other gsan yig sources. Multiple Holder->Receiver relations from the early Amnye Zhab gsan yig entries were retrofitted to this new model. We went on to create Lineage records for every entry in vol. 01 of Dalai Lama 05’s gsan yig, and are entering Jamgon Kongtrul’s gsan yig. This work will be followed by the entry of other gsan yig.

In each of the existing 1900+ Lineage records to date, there are references to Transmission Type(s), Transmission Object(s), and the corresponding bibliographic location information.

*A special thanks to Ralf and Jowita Kramer for all their efforts on this project.

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