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“Avadāna of Silver Flowers”

A Discussion on Decolonization and Anti-Colonial Translation Practices for Tibetan Poetry

Gedun Rabsal, Nicole Willock

Journal of Tibetan Literature (2022) 1 (1): 7–46.

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Issue Section Research

Keywords snyan ngag, poetics, anti-colonial, anti-Orientalist, Tseten Zhabdrung, post-Mao era, Tenth Panchen Lama

Abstract

Our translation and analysis of sections of the epic poem, “Avadāna of Silver Flowers” showcases Tibetan-language poetics or “nyen-ngak” (snyan ngag). In this case, this mode of fine writing serves to reestablish the authority of Tibetan lamas as integral to the revival of Tibetan Buddhist culture in the aftermath of decades of state-sanctioned violence against Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China. Within the context of the early 1980s in China, the use of Tibetan belles-lettres flouts the nation-state’s purported civilizing mission which legitimizes its rule by disparaging Tibetan culture as inferior or backward. Evading this denigrating discourse, the poem’s author, the Buddhist monastic scholar, Alak Tséten Zhabdrung, creates a literary mandala radiating from his birthplace that centers on the subject of the poem, the Géluk Buddhist hierarch, the Tenth Panchen Lama, who was also born in Xunhua County, and was a key figure in the survival and continuance of Tibetan culture in the early Deng Xiaoping era. We translate sections of the twenty-page epic poem and discuss our translation choices as an ethical imperative to bring attention to the particularities of Tibetan poetics in terms of style and subject matter. We view this as part of a larger discourse on decolonization and anti-colonial translation practices because this foregrounds Indigenous epistemologies of literary aesthetics. In order to make these heuristic moves, we are indebted to insights from Decolonising the Mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and from a claim in the philosophy of aesthetics that decouples objective values from aesthetic principles, which help us open up discursive space for Tibetan Indigenous aesthetic and epistemic values in English translation. After establishing our theoretical basis, we analyze the intertextual literary figures in “Avadāna of Silver Flowers” by drawing upon Alak Tséten Zhabdrung’s General Commentary on Poetics (snyan ngag spyi don) to develop an appreciation for the specifics of Tibetan poetics and enrich the English language with new types of wordplay.

རྟོགས་བརྗོད་སྙན་རྩོམ་“རྟོགས་བརྗོད་དངུལ་གྱི་མེ་ཏོག་”ཅེས་པ་ལས་ཚིགས་སུ་བཅད་པ་ཁག་ཅིག་གི་འགྱུར་དང་དཔྱད་པ་བྱས་པ་བརྒྱུད་ནས་ང་ཚོས་བོད་ཀྱི་སྙན་ངག་གི་དཔེ་མཚོན་ཞིག་བསྟན་ཡོད། རྒྱ་ནག་མི་དམངས་སྤྱི་མཐུན་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་ཀྱི་དབང་བསྒྱུར་འོག་ལོ་ངོ་བཅུ་ཕྲག་འགའ་ཡི་རིང་ལ་བོད་མི་དམངས་ཀྱིས་གཞུང་གི་དྲག་སྤྱོད་མྱངས་རྗེས་ཀྱི་དུས་སྐབས་སུ། འདི་ལྟ་བུའི་རྩོམ་རྩལ་གྱིས་བོད་ཀྱི་བསྟན་པ་བསྐྱར་དར་བྱེད་པའི་ཁྲོད་བོད་ཀྱི་བླ་མའི་ཤུགས་རྐྱེན་སླར་གསོ་བྱས་ཡོད་པ་མཚོན་ཐུབ། རྒྱ་ནག་གི ༡༩༨༠ གྲངས་ཀྱི་ལོ་འགོའི་གནས་བབས་འོག་ཏུ། སྙན་ངག་རྩོམ་འབྲི་ཡིས་རྒྱལ་སྲིད་དཔལ་ཡོན་སྤེལ་བའི་ལས་འགུལ་ཏེ་བོད་ཀྱི་རིག་གནས་དམན་པ་དང་རྗེས་ལུས་ཡིན་པར་སྨྲས་ནས་དམའ་འབེབ་ཀྱིས་དབང་བསྒྱུར་ལུགས་མཐུན་དུ་བྱེད་སྟངས་དེ་ལ་འཕྱ་སྨོད་དང་ཟུར་ཟ་བྱས་ཡོད། འདི་ལྟ་བུའི་མཐོང་ཆུང་གི་ལྟ་ཚུལ་ལས་གཡོལ་ཆེད། སྙན་རྩོམ་འདིའི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་སྟེ་བོད་ཀྱི་ནང་པའི་མཁས་དབང་ཨ་ལགས་ཚེ་ཏན་ཞབས་དྲུང་མཆོག་གིས་རྩོམ་རིག་གི་དཀྱིལ་འཁོར་ཞིག་གསར་བཞེངས་བྱས་པ་དེ་ཁོང་གི་སྐྱེས་ཡུལ་ནས་མཆེད་པར་བྱས་ཡོད། སྙན་ངག་འདིའི་བརྗོད་བྱ་གཙོ་བོ་ནི་༧པཎ་ཆེན་སྐུ་ཕྲེང་བཅུ་པ་མཆོག་ཡིན་ལ། ཁོང་ནི་དགེ་ལུགས་པའི་བསྟན་པའི་བདག་པོ་ཞིག་ཡིན་པར་མ་ཟད་མདོ་སྨད་ཀྱི་ས་ཆ་འདི་རུ་སྐུ་འཁྲུངས། ད་དུང་ཁོང་ནི་ཏིང་ཞོ་ཕིང་གི་དུས་རབས་ཀྱི་དུས་སྟོད་ལ་བོད་ཀྱི་རིག་གནས་རྒྱུན་འཛིན་དང་གསོན་གནས་ཐད་གལ་འགངས་ཆེ་བའི་མི་སྣ་ཞིག་རེད།  ང་ཚོས་ཤོག་གྲངས་ཉི་ཤུའི་བདག་ཉིད་ཅན་གྱི་སྙན་རྩོམ་འདི་ལས་འགའ་ཤས་ཤིག་བསྒྱུར་ཏེ་ཡིག་བསྒྱུར་བྱེད་སྐབས་ཇི་ལྟར་བདམས་གསེས་བྱས་པའི་སྐོར་ལ་གྲོས་བསྡུར་བྱས་ཤིང་།  དེ་ཡང་རྩོམ་ཉམས་དང་བརྗོད་བྱའི་ཐད་ནས་བོད་ཀྱི་སྙན་ངག་གི་དམིགས་བསལ་རང་བཞིན་ལ་དོ་སྣང་བྱེད་དགོས་པ་ནི་བཟང་སྤྱོད་ཀྱི་དགོས་མཁོ་ཞིག་ཏུ་བཟུང་ཡོད། ང་ཚོས་ལས་གཞི་འདི་ནི་མི་སེར་སྤེལ་བ་ལ་རྒོལ་བའམ་དེ་ལས་གྲོལ་བའི་ཡིག་སྒྱུར་ལག་ལེན་ཁྲོད་ཀྱི་ཆ་ཤས་ཤིག་ཏུ་བསམ་བཞིན་ཡོད་ལ། དེ་ཡང་གདོད་སྐྱེས་མི་རིགས་ཀྱི་ཤེས་ཡོན་དང་རྩོམ་རིག་གི་མཛེས་དཔྱོད་རྨང་གཞིར་བཟུང་ཡོད་པས་ཡིན། གོང་སྨྲས་ལྟར་གོ་བ་ལོན་ཆེད། ང་ཚོས་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་ གུ་གེ་ བ་ ཐོན་ལགས་ཀྱིས་བརྩམས་པའི་“མི་སེར་སྤེལ་ཡུལ་ལ་རྒོལ་བའི་སེམས་”ཞེས་པའི་དཔེ་དེབ་ཀྱི་ཤེས་བྱ་དང་རྣམ་དཔྱོད་ལ་བཀའ་དྲིན་རྗེས་དྲན་བྱེད་བཞིན་ཡོད་ལ། མཛེས་དཔྱོད་མཚན་ཉིད་རིག་པའི་རྩོད་པ་ཞིག་སྟེ་ཕྱི་རོལ་ཡུལ་གྱི་རིན་ཐང་དང་མཛེས་དཔྱོད་ཀྱི་རྣམ་བཞག་གཉིས་ཁ་ཐོར་དུ་འཛིན་ལུགས་ཀྱིས་ངེད་གཉིས་ལ་བོད་ཀྱི་གདོད་སྐྱེས་སམ་གཉུག་མའི་མཛེས་དཔྱོད་དང་ཤེས་བྱ་ཡི་རིན་ཐང་ལྟ་བ་ལ་བོད་རྩོམ་དབྱིན་འགྱུར་ཁྲོད་དུ་རྩོད་གླེང་གི་བར་སྟོང་ཞིག་བསྐྲུན་པར་རོགས་རམ་བྱས། ང་ཚོས་གཞུང་ལུགས་ཀྱི་རྨང་གཞི་བཏིང་རྗེས་ཨ་ལགས་ཚེ་ཏན་ཞབས་དྲུང་ཚང་གི་སྙན་འགྲེལ་“སྙན་ངག་སྤྱི་དོན་”ལ་གཞིགས་ནས་“རྟོགས་བརྗོད་དངུལ་གྱི་མེ་ཏོག་”གི་སྙན་རྩོམ་ནང་གི་རྒྱན་དང་དེའི་དབྱེ་བ་ལ་དབྱེ་ཞིབ་བྱས་ཏེ་བོད་ཀྱི་སྙན་ངག་གི་དམིགས་བསལ་རང་བཞིན་ནམ་ཐུན་མོང་མ་ཡིན་པའི་ཆ་ལ་བརྩི་མཐོང་དང་། དེ་བཞིན་བརྡ་ཆད་གསར་བའི་རྩེད་འཇོ་ལ་བརྟེན་ནས་དབྱིན་ཇིའི་སྐད་ཡིག་ཕུན་སུམ་ཇེ་ཚོགས་སུ་བཏང་ཡོད།

 

Authors

Gedun Rabsal

Nicole Willock

Published 2022-11-15

How to Cite

Rabsal, Gedun, and Nicole Willock. 2022. “‘Avadāna of Silver Flowers’ : A Discussion on Decolonization and Anti-Colonial Translation Practices for Tibetan Poetry”. Journal of Tibetan Literature 1 (1):7–46. https://journaloftibetanliterature.org/index.php/jtl/article/view/47.

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The Journal of Tibetan Literature encourages an exploration of the literary in Tibetan writing from a wide range of methodological and theoretical perspectives.

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