News about the Paris Manuscript

In April 2014, I have introduced here the “Paris Manuscript” of the sNang mdzad ye shes sgron me. This is a handwritten copy of the commentary on the Single Intention by Dorje Sherab, a direct disciple of Sherab Jungne (1187-1241). It was brought to France by Alexandra David-Neel and is now kept at the Musée Guimet in Paris. Since my last post on it, many exciting things have happened.

The most exciting thing is that the manuscript is now dated with great certainty to the period between 1267 and 1290. That means that it is either a copy written by the author himself, or by one of his immediate disciples. In any case, the manuscript is the earliest witness of the Single Intention and this commentary that we possess. We have to treat this copy as the Leit-Handschrift and all future editions of the text must be based on it. Moreover, the manuscript is very well preserved, without significant damages and gaps (lacunae). It contains many important variants to Rinchen Phüntshok’s block print edition of ca. 1530 and numerous little glosses by different hands.

How can we be sure of the above-mentioned dating? I had some pieces of the paper carbon dated (according to the OxCal4 program) in a laboratory in Glasgow. The result was that the paper of the manuscript was manufactured with 95.4 % probability between 1215 and 1290 (calibrated dates). We can assume that paper is usually manufactured in Tibet for specific purposes and that it is highly unlikely that paper that was produced is left lying around for years or decades. We can, thus, assume that it was promptly used for our manuscript.

calib plot

Last month I visited a workshop on Tibetan manuscripts at the Chicago Centre in Paris, organised by Matthew Kapstein. On one afternoon we all went over to the Musée Guimet, where I introduced the original manuscript to my colleagues. I had ample opportunity to discuss its features with them. Several of my learned colleagues – experts on art, paper, and handwriting – confirmed the early date of the manuscript. The artwork on the left side of the reverse of the cover folio is an exact copy of a Tibetan thanka depicting Jigten Sumgön, which was carbon dated to the early 13th century (see the pictures in my post of April 2014). The handwriting is comparable to 12th to 13th century Kharakhoto script.

jan paris

Since we know that the commentary was composed around 1267, since that date is mention as the present date in the text, we can now narrow down the date of the manuscript to 1267-1290.

A generous grant of the Garchen Foundation, Munich, made it possible to reproduce the whole manuscript in a beautiful edition in its original size, with 274 colour photographs and a 16 page foreword. The 290 pages are kept in a robust textile-covered box


44 x 33 x 3 cm / 17.3″ x 13″ x 1.2″

The Garchen Foundation, moreover, has made endeavours to make this facsimile manuscript edition available as a gift to Drikung Kagyu monasteries and colleges in Tibet, China, Ladakh, Nepal, and India. I am very happy that, thereby, this precious text can now be studied in the study institutions of the tradition.

Ordering Information
• Please email your order to
or fax it to +49-(0)5193-97432-099.
The work is also available at bookstores
(ISBN 978-3-945457-07-8).
• Secure transport packaging, total transport weight approx. 3.1 kg
• Price: 129,– € (approx. 147 $ | 96 GBP)
• Postal charges are additional.

(1) Amy Heller, Agnieszka Helman-Wazny, Sam VanSchaik, and Kurt Tropper graciously shared their impression on the manuscript with me.

1 comment
  1. Dan said:

    I stopped dating a long time ago, but this new date for the old manuscript is wonderful news!

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