Epic of King Gesar

https://tinyurl.com/mpjl4fl (c) 2017

Epic of King Gesar is an epic cycle from the 12th century about how a mythical character from heaven-King Gesar, comes to the realm of human, and eliminates demons and spreads Buddhism and Tibetan culture. The epic is well known in Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, and China, and artists from many surrounding cultures and states are still inheriting the legacy by singing or reciting it.

In Tibet, Gesar is arguably an historical figure that did existed. Some scholars argued that he was born in 1027, on the basis of a note in a 19th-century chronicle, the Mdo smad chos ‘byung by Brag dgon pa dkon mchog bstan pa rab. Yet certain evidences indicates that King Gesar could be the sum of a series of historical figures that reflects the dawn rise of the Tibetan civilization; the marriage to a Chinese princess is reminiscent of legends concerning Songtsän Gampo’s alliance marriage with Princess Wencheng in 641, for example.

Given that the mythological and allegorical elements of the story defy place and time, the historicity of figures in the cycle is indeterminate. Though the epic was sung all over Tibetan-speaking regions, with Kham and Amdo long regarded as the centers for its diffusion. Traditions do connect Gesar with the former Kingdom of Ling (Wylie: gling). In Tibetan, gling means “island” but can have, as with the Sanskrit word dvīpa, the secondary meaning of “continent” Ling was a petty kingdom located in Kham between the Yangtze and Yalong River. An historical kingdom of Lingtsang (Wylie: gling tshang) existed until the 20th century.


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