Imperial Preceptor Chos rgyal ’Phags pa Bla ma as a Tantric Adept in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty

’Phags pa bla ma Blo gros rgyal mtshan (1235-1280), the first Imperial Preceptor of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), was often considered to be a skillful politician who made great contributions not only to the establishment of Mongol Yuan relations with Tibet, but also to the founding of the Great Yuan dynasty by Kubilai Khan. He was also praised as a great culture hero who created the so-called ’Phags pa script” that was once used as “the state script” of the Mongols.

Nonetheless, it is certainly mistaken to assume that ’Phags pa was merely a skillful politician or an excellent Buddhist philosopher. In fact, ’Phags pa Bla ma was an accomplished Tantric adept and played an essential role in the dissemination of Tibetan tantric Buddhism among the Mongols, Tanguts, Uygurs and Chinese during the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the ensuing Chinese Ming dynasty. Recently, the project's researcher has identified numerous texts of purely tantric nature that were written by ’Phags pa Bla ma and translated into Chinese during the Mongol Yuan and Chinese Ming dynasties.

Moreover, the Tangut translation of ’Phags pa’s work dPal Kyai rdo rje’i mngon rtogs yid bzhin nor bu written in the 1250s was discovered only recently. The discovery of all these texts attributed to him shows that both ’Phags pa and his works were evidently essential to the spreading of Tibetan tantric Buddhism during both the Mongol Yuan and Chinese Ming dynasties. Studying these precious texts will help us reconstruct the history of Tibetan tantric Buddhism in Central Asia and China Proper during those periods.


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Foto von Prof. Dr. Weirong Shen

Prof. Dr. Weirong Shen