Fragment of the Testament of Ba at the British Library, with six lines of Tibetan script (Or.8210/S.9498A).

The Testament of Ba or the Chronicle of Ba[1][2](Tibetan དབའ་བཞེད or སྦ་བཞེད; Wylie transliteration: dba' bzhed or sba bzhed) is a chronicle written in Classical Tibetan of the establishment of Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet, the foundation of the Samye Monastery, and includes notable events and people in Tibet's history and was written during the Tibetan Empire period. From the reigns of kings Songsten Gampo, Trisong Detsen (r. 755–797/804), and to the years beyond Rapalchen's reign, a version of the chronicle, or testament, was recorded by Ba Salnang (Tibetan དབའ་གསལ་སྣང or སྦ་གསལ་སྣང; Wylie transliteration: dba' gsal snang or sba gsal snang) of the Ba Family, and by other scribes and members of the kings' courts. In 2008, early versions of the text were said to have been discovered in London, where two manuscript fragments possibly dating to the 9th or 10th centuries are held by the British Library.

Versions of the text

The Testament of Ba was transmitted in manuscript form over many centuries, and so there are many different recensions of the text, but not one single, canonical printed version.[3] Two early versions of the text have been identified by scholars:

The Testament of Ba is also widely quoted in later Tibetan historiographical works, for example the Scholar's Feast (mkhas pa'i dga' ston). The author of the Scholar's Feast calls the Testament the Rba bzhed (with an 'r' prefix to the Ba clan name), and refers to 'genuine', 'impure', 'large' and 'medium' versions of the text.[3]

A later, expanded version of the Testament of Ba, titled Sba bzhed zhabs brtags pa (Supplemented Testament of Ba), was produced during the mid 14th century. A manuscript copy of this text was published with a summary in French by Rolf Stein in 1961.[3]

Up until 2009 it was thought that the Testament of Ba dated back to no earlier than the 11th or 12th century, and therefore its composition may not have been contemporaneous with the late 8th century events that it recorded.[3] However, in 2009 Sam van Schaik of the British Library realised that two Tibetan manuscript fragments catalogued amongst the Chinese manuscripts of the Stein collection (and consequently previously overlooked by Tibetan scholars) preserved a section of the Testament of Ba relating to the arrival of the Indian monk Śāntarakṣita, abbot of Nalanda University, to Lhasa:[5]

These two fragments came from the 'Library Cave' at Dunhuang, which was sealed in the early 11th century, and so pre-date all of the other known versions of the Testament of Ba. Van Schaik dates the fragments to the 9th or 10th centuries.[3]

The text of the British Library fragments is very close to that of the Dba' bzhed manuscript discovered in Lhasa in 1997, but has some differences that suggest that it represents an earlier recension of the Testament of Ba. Most notably, in the British Library fragments the king is concerned that the foreign monk may have brought evil spirits with him, and so Śāntarakṣita is confined in the Jokhang and interrogated for three months through an interpreter called Ananta. However, the Lhasa manuscript softens the language, politely asking Śāntarakṣita to stay at the Jokhang rather than having him forcibly confined there.[5]


See also


  1. ^ Tibetan Law, n.d., dBa'/sBa bzhed chronicles. Oxford: University of Oxford, pp.13
  2. ^ Janet Gyatso, 2006, Partial Genealogy of Yeshe Tsogyal, Harvard University, JIATS, pp.27
  3. ^ a b c d e f van Schaik, Sam; Iwao, Kazushi (2009). "Fragments of the Testament of Ba from Dunhuang". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 128 (3): 477–487. ISSN 0003-0279.
  4. ^ Wangdu, Pasang; Diemberger, Hildegard (2000). dBa' bzhed: the royal narrative concerning the bringing of the Buddha's doctrine to Tibet. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. ISBN 978-3-7001-2956-1.
  5. ^ a b Van Schaik, Sam (20 November 2009). "The Abbot, or Ironing out History's Wrinkles". Retrieved 23 January 2011.