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A History of Zhang Zhung and Tibet, Volume One: The Early Period

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  • Posted June 2, 2014

    The Zhang Zhung culture that predates Buddist Tibet is one that

    The Zhang Zhung culture that predates Buddist Tibet is one that needs more exposure to interested readers. This book is certainly a scholarly contribution to that aim, but the editors have gone out of their way to make the subject difficult to read and understand. The translator makes the excuse that the Wylie pronounciation system "has been preferred as the most accurate method, despite its notorious difficulty for non-specialists, since reader-friendly solutions, though more accessible, are notably misleading." To non-speakers of Tibetan, Wylie translations are notoriously difficult to pronounce in one's head as one reads. This causes a deterioration of understanding of the work, thereby negating its effectiveness. I first came to an interest in Zhang Zhung culture when I became suspicious that Tibetan Buddism had obliterated any evidence of the culture that must have predated it. All I have been able to discover from Tibetan sources is that the Bon tradition was the only one that came before Buddism, and many of its beliefs and practices have been co-opted into the Tantric canon of post-medieval Tibet. It must be noted that I am not very far into the work due entirely to the difficulty understanding Wylie translations; however, so far it appears that the book is a Bon apologist's magical interpretation and co-opting of Zhang Zhung. Tibetan Buddism's unfortunate preoccupation with teaching lineages is greatly evident in the work. I would say that this book is not really about Zhang Zhung history as much as it is about what a Bonpa believes about a rich, extensive culture that was wiped out by a marginally Buddist Tibetan warlord. The real history of this culture has yet to see much light and won't as long as Tibetan apologists continue to obfuscate about it.

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