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The Tibetan Dragon Sutras
Buddhism is one of the three major religions in the world, and Tibetan Buddhism is one of its important sects. The “Treasury of the Law,” the collection of sutras known as the Tripitaka, not only preserves in Tibetan much of the scriptural tradition of Buddhism, is also the crystallization of Tibetan wisdom over the ages.
The Dragon Tripitaka handwritten in gold from the Kangxi reign of the Qing dynasty, now in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, is the oldest and most well-preserved of the Tripitaka collections in Tibetan produced by the Chinese court down through the ages that survives today. Not only is the production exquisite, the contents include all 1,057 of the esoteric and exoteric sutras presented by Shakyamuni Buddha, being the version of the Kanjur (bkav vgyur) with the most texts.
The Kangxi Emperor was an enlightened ruler who inaugurated a flourishing age in the Qing dynasty represented by his reign followed by those of the Yongzheng and Qianlong Emperors. Assuming the throne at the age of eight, he went on to quell the rebellion of the Three Feudatories and completed the task of unifying the country, establishing a solid foundation for Manchu Qing rule. Exceeding previous rulers in terms of military and political rule, he is known in history as “Kangxi the Great.” The Kangxi Emperor’s achievements, however, had much to do with the assistance and instruction of his grandmother, Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang (Borjigit Bumbutai). Not only was Xiaozhuang an able and virtuous empress, she was also a devout Buddhist. On one occasion in the imperial storerooms she discovered a Kanjur transcribed in Tibetan from the Ming dynasty. Damaged and in disrepair, she felt it a pity and thereupon instructed the Kangxi Emperor to appropriate funds to have it rewritten in gold ink so that the compassion of the Buddhas could spread to the people and bring the country peace and prosperity. With the transcription completed in the eighth year of Kangxi’s reign, 1669, the Emperor gave it the title The Dragon Tripitaka, also ordering Grand Empress Dowager Yi to compose a preface to explain its origins.
This set includes a total of 108 cases that symbolize healing the 108 afflictions of living beings. Each case has sutra leaves ranging from 300 to 500 in number, with the front and back of each leaf transcribed in Tibetan with scriptural text in regular script using gold ink. The sutra leaves are stacked neatly in order, and the four sides are painted in gold ink with decorative patterns of the Eight Auspiciousness signs (white conch, dharma wheel, treasure parasol, victory streamer, lotus blossom, treasure vase, golden fish, and auspicious knot). The sutra leaves are protected above and below with decorated wooden boards tied with a cord and bundled with several layers of wrapping cloth. Various aspects of the production, from the paper to the transcription, illustrations, embroidered weaving, boards and others, brought together at the court the concerted efforts of secular and religious Manchu, Tibetan, and Chinese craftsmen in paper, gold, wood, and textiles, the completion making it a high point in Chinese book-making in the early Qing dynasty.
This monumental sutra production of Tibetan Buddhism is one of the most precious of the national treasures in the National Palace Museum collection. Except for special exhibitions, it is rarely placed on display, and if so, only one of the 108 cases is presented at a time. For the special exhibit of treasures from the National Palace Museum in Germany (“Treasures of the Sons of Heaven”), for example, a special request was made by the German authorities to include this work, but only one case was granted for display.
Besides its value as an object of art, The Dragon Tripitaka is also very important in terms of scholarly research. From the scriptures collected therein and the method by which they are ordered, they can be compared with other versions of the Kanjur for proofreading. Investigation of the contents of the Tripitaka written in Tibetan and the history of its translation and editing provide precious material for scholars in their study of various editions. Furthermore, for religious devotees, The Dragon Tripitaka was offered at the grand Buddha hall in the inner court so that high monks and lamas could recite before it at the court on special occasions. Produced more than three centuries ago, the blessings concentrated within it are truly hard to fathom.
Considering the value of the Tibetan Dragon Tripitaka explained above, Western art institutions over the past few decades have often asked that a reproduction be made. And many high-ranking Tibetan monks have paid their respects, also encouraging that it be reproduced as soon as possible. With a confluence of causes, and the protection of the Buddhas and heavenly figures, it has finally been published. Following the National Palace Museum’s Abstracts from the Four Treasuries and Complete Collection of the Four Treasuries, it is its largest publication project. Hopefully with its publication this treasure from deep in the palace collection can be reincarnated in a form to go around the world, bringing with it the blessings it has to the fortunate who have it.
Introduction to the Authorized Company
A History of Continued Operations
Mr. Chao Chun-Cheng established Long-Kuang Digital Culture Co. Ltd. in 1977, promoting quick and quality productions from the beginning to end and unfailing for more than thirty years. In 1986 he began producing textbooks for African countries, thereupon embarking on an export business, and in 2004 he received approval from the National Palace Museum in Taipei to begin reproducing Buddhist sutras, which has continued to the present day.
The Buddhist sutras that have been published over the years include Guan Zhengyin’s Transcription of the Lotus Sutra in 2004, The Amitayus Buddha Sutra from 2006, The Amitabha Sutra of 2007, The Universal Door of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva from the Lotus Sutra Transcribed by a Ming Calligrapher of 2007, and authorization from the National Palace Museum to publish the monumental Dragon Tripitaka in Tibetan in January of 2008, and 2009 saw the publication of Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, The Avalokitesvara Sutra by a Ming Calligrapher, Song Embroidery of the Avalokitesvara Sutra, and The Marici Sutra. Not only is the company one of the larger publishers in Taiwan, it has also branched out in the publication field and continuously sought the goal of maintaining ideals and steadiness in its operations as “quality first, leading service, and professional innovation.” With its persistent and earnest attitude towards passing on knowledge, art, and culture, the company’s goal is to give something back to society as well.