Re-Assessing The Supine Demoness: Royal Buddhist Geomancy in the Srong btsan sgam po Mythology

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Abstract

The myth of the Chinese princess Kongjo’s geomantic divination of Tibet prior to the founding of the Central Temple of Lhasa (lhasa tsuklakkhanglha sa gtsug lag khang) – and in particular the striking image of the land of Tibet as a “supine demoness” – has been the object of considerable academic comment. Generally, it has been read as a metaphor either of monastic Buddhism’s misogynist tendencies, or of its superposition over putative religious precursors. In this article, the difficulties that attend these interpretations of the supine demoness image are assessed when examined within the context of the princess’s wider divination, as presented in Tibetan mythic histories such as the Mani KabumMa ni bka’ ’bum, The Clear Mirror of Royal Genealogy, and the Pillar Testament (kachem kakhölmaBka’ chems ka khol ma), and in particular when it is viewed within the context of the LhasaLha sa Valley’s actual topographic structure. In light of these, it is proposed that both the supine demoness image and the other elements of Kongjo’s divination should be understood as it has always been presented by Tibetan sources – as part of an established tradition of Chinese geomancy, a tradition which has itself been reorganized as a medium for Buddhist themes of liberation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberTHL #T3108
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies
Volume3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007

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Divination
Mythology
Buddhist
Tibet
History
Liberation
Founding
Manis
Precursor
Genealogy
Religion
Testaments
Temple
Superposition
Misogynist

Cite this

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title = "Re-Assessing The Supine Demoness: Royal Buddhist Geomancy in the Srong btsan sgam po Mythology",
abstract = "The myth of the Chinese princess Kongjo’s geomantic divination of Tibet prior to the founding of the Central Temple of Lhasa (lhasa tsuklakkhanglha sa gtsug lag khang) – and in particular the striking image of the land of Tibet as a “supine demoness” – has been the object of considerable academic comment. Generally, it has been read as a metaphor either of monastic Buddhism’s misogynist tendencies, or of its superposition over putative religious precursors. In this article, the difficulties that attend these interpretations of the supine demoness image are assessed when examined within the context of the princess’s wider divination, as presented in Tibetan mythic histories such as the Mani KabumMa ni bka’ ’bum, The Clear Mirror of Royal Genealogy, and the Pillar Testament (kachem kakh{\"o}lmaBka’ chems ka khol ma), and in particular when it is viewed within the context of the LhasaLha sa Valley’s actual topographic structure. In light of these, it is proposed that both the supine demoness image and the other elements of Kongjo’s divination should be understood as it has always been presented by Tibetan sources – as part of an established tradition of Chinese geomancy, a tradition which has itself been reorganized as a medium for Buddhist themes of liberation.",
author = "Martin Mills",
year = "2007",
month = "12",
language = "English",
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journal = "Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies",
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N2 - The myth of the Chinese princess Kongjo’s geomantic divination of Tibet prior to the founding of the Central Temple of Lhasa (lhasa tsuklakkhanglha sa gtsug lag khang) – and in particular the striking image of the land of Tibet as a “supine demoness” – has been the object of considerable academic comment. Generally, it has been read as a metaphor either of monastic Buddhism’s misogynist tendencies, or of its superposition over putative religious precursors. In this article, the difficulties that attend these interpretations of the supine demoness image are assessed when examined within the context of the princess’s wider divination, as presented in Tibetan mythic histories such as the Mani KabumMa ni bka’ ’bum, The Clear Mirror of Royal Genealogy, and the Pillar Testament (kachem kakhölmaBka’ chems ka khol ma), and in particular when it is viewed within the context of the LhasaLha sa Valley’s actual topographic structure. In light of these, it is proposed that both the supine demoness image and the other elements of Kongjo’s divination should be understood as it has always been presented by Tibetan sources – as part of an established tradition of Chinese geomancy, a tradition which has itself been reorganized as a medium for Buddhist themes of liberation.

AB - The myth of the Chinese princess Kongjo’s geomantic divination of Tibet prior to the founding of the Central Temple of Lhasa (lhasa tsuklakkhanglha sa gtsug lag khang) – and in particular the striking image of the land of Tibet as a “supine demoness” – has been the object of considerable academic comment. Generally, it has been read as a metaphor either of monastic Buddhism’s misogynist tendencies, or of its superposition over putative religious precursors. In this article, the difficulties that attend these interpretations of the supine demoness image are assessed when examined within the context of the princess’s wider divination, as presented in Tibetan mythic histories such as the Mani KabumMa ni bka’ ’bum, The Clear Mirror of Royal Genealogy, and the Pillar Testament (kachem kakhölmaBka’ chems ka khol ma), and in particular when it is viewed within the context of the LhasaLha sa Valley’s actual topographic structure. In light of these, it is proposed that both the supine demoness image and the other elements of Kongjo’s divination should be understood as it has always been presented by Tibetan sources – as part of an established tradition of Chinese geomancy, a tradition which has itself been reorganized as a medium for Buddhist themes of liberation.

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