Mongolian woodblock for a Prajñāpāramitā Sutra

Carved woodblock for the first page of a Buddhist sutra, Mongolian, no date. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2013- in process

Martin Heijdra (East Asian Library) has provided us with a title for this book: Bilig-ün činadu kürügsen ǰaγun mingγan toγ-a-tu (probably chapter 4). He goes on to mention that this is the most common Buddhist sutra, the (large version of the) Prajñāpāramitā sutra. Our woodblock has not been dated, except for a small label guessing Ming Dynasty, also called Empire of the Great Ming, which was the ruling dynasty of China for 276 years (1368-1644). The text begins with Namu Buddha, Namu… etc. (Hail the Buddha, hail the dharma, hail the sangha).


The figure on the left might be Manjushri, a meditational deity who holds a book and a sword. Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of transcendent wisdom and the sword is used to cut through illusion. Manjushri is one of the most important of all Buddhist deities, the veritable god of wisdom and herald of emancipation.

The figure on the right might be Avalokitśvara, a Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. This figure holds a locus branch in one hand and what might be a snake in the other.

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