Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hell's Bells: Updated

Whilst searching through the remarkable resource that is the Tibet Album, desperately seeking interior photographs of bSam-yas (the Guru Ngadrama statue project is in full swing), I came across the above photograph of a broken bronze bell, cast in the Chinese manner, and... look carefully... that is a handprint in the bell.

Three of my favorite things: Tibet, bronze Chinese bells, and guys (or gals) who can leave a handprint in bronze Chinese bells.

The photo was taken in 1949 by Hugh Richardson, at Tradung in the Yarlung Valley. The inscription shows that it was cast by King Khri Lde-srong-brtsan's stepmother, as a tribute. You can find other pictures, showing the damaged portion, but what you cannot find is the story of who gave that bell such a mighty whack, and why.

I am sure that at least one of our readers can supply the solution to this mystery -- actually I was thinking of launching another contest -- the No Longer On Holiday and Really, Really Jet Lagged Contest -- but like it says, I am no longer on holiday, and really, really jet lagged.

UPDATED: Read the comments, where our informed readership makes the contextual point that these bells were sponsored by the woman who married Yeshe Tsogyal's husband. Maybe the handprint is a "high five?" Below is a photograph (likewise from Tibet Album) of the bell she gave to bSam-yas, referenced in the comments:


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8 reader comments:

Dan said...

No solution. It's a miracle. These things happen, especially in Tibet. We know they do. Usually in stones, not metal. There is a photo of the bell from just about the same angle (p. 158 in Per Sørensen's book "Thundering Falcon"), but not the least hint of a handprint can be seen there. The woman Jangchub mentioned in the inscription was a queen (wife of Trisongdetsen) who then became a nun (Jangchub Je or Janbchub Drön is her religious name). While she was still a queen, she donated the bell at Samyé and founded one of the queens' temples there. The Chinese master with the Tibetan name Rinchen is the one who cast the bell.

That means that this Nun Jangchub who sponsored the bell had once been a queen (named 'Bro-za Khri Rgyal-mo-btsan) married to the husband of Yeshe Tsogyal... Yeshe Tsogyal also moved on. The rest is history.

TENPA said...

The bSam-yas bell mentioned is pictured here: http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_2001.59.13.40.1.html

Who left the handprint?

Anonymous said...

Did you notice the photos of the Samye stupas - the originals look nothing like the modern replacements. Sad.

TENPA said...

I did take careful notice of the stupas. What is even sadder is to look at pictures of the whole complex -- most of it no longer exists. We can dwell on these things or we can be happy that new stupa construction is now taking place all over the world, whereas in the past, it was largely confined to Tibet.

Hmmm...

I still cannot shake the thought that I have heard the story of the handprint, and just can't remember the details...

Dan said...

I shouldn't gossip, but they say that Emperor Khrisong Detsen had not just a few but actually no fewer than five wives. I believe that's way fewer than the Prophet (pbuh!). And to be clear, we're not talking about serial marriages here — make that simultaneous more or less. Any idea how they managed?

TENPA said...

Well, in the case of five, I would read Thinley Norbu's Magic Dance for inspiration, and then let the poor Emperor rest in peace by claiming it as allegorical. Better that than risk a Janet Gyatso-ish....hmmm... "penetrating" analysis.

I suppose plural marriage in the context of a Vajrayana practitioner's life does makes an interesting study... or cautionary tale, as the case may be... as it would tend to make the terrors of the bardo that much less terrifying.
When one has confronted dueling wives in full throat, the appearance of Yamantaka is positively welcome.

My own thoughts on the matter will be published posthumously.

Anonymous said...

Someone once told me the Chinese character for misery consisted of two wives under one roof. Just to be fair, we should get some input from Tibetan women who had more than one husband.

TENPA said...

It won't work. Every married woman has, at one time or another, accused her husband of being two different people.