Lectures and Seminars
21 - 21
May May
Asian Treasure Traditions Seminar


Tuesday 21 May 2019
Add to Calendar 05/21/2019 15:00 Asian Treasure Traditions SeminarSeminar Room 3 - The Academic Wing


15:00 to 19:00



Anna Sehnalova, Reinier Langelaar,




There is provision for wheelchair users.

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Robert Mayer

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Anna Sehnalova Tuesday 21st May Seminar Room 3, 5.pm - 7pm, followed by dinner at Wolfson Title: Mountain Deities and Their Treasures: Possible Indigenous Origins of the Tibetan gTer ma tradition

Tuesday 21st May, Reinier Langelaar (IKGA, Austrian Academy of Sciences & Humboldt University of Berlin)

Wolfson College Seminar Room 3, 15:00 - 17:00

Title: Boons from Bones: Dead Ancestors and Buried Treasure in Eastern Tibet  

Abstract: This paper will examine some parallels between the tradition of buried treasure texts and ancestor cults as attested in ritual texts from the eastern Tibetan region of Khams. A series of such manuals from the 17th c. stipulate that the bones of deceased ancestors should be buried in a vase, with bone being the metonym for patrilineal descent, along with funerary gifts and a ritual seat for the departed soul. These vases provide the ancestral spirit (pha-mtshun) with a safe dwelling, ideally under the protection of a territorial deity, and enable them to bestow vitality on their living descendants. Notably, these vases are sometimes referred to as “treasures of the earth” (sa-gter) or “treasure vases” (gter-bum), and the texts explicitly state that they ought to be hidden, rather than incorporated in visible funerary monuments. There are several important parallels between these treasures (gter) and treasure texts (gter-ma). To highlight these, we will also look at a renowned genealogical treasure text from the turn of the 15th c. that contains traditions from the same region in Khams. Claiming quite similar functions as these treasure vases, I will discuss the potential underlying role of ancestral cults in informing its contents and internal logic.
Tuesday 21st May, Anna Sehnalova (University of Oxford)
Wolfson College Seminar Room 3, 17:00 - 19:00, followed by dinner at Wolfson

Title: Mountain Deities and Their Treasures: Possible Indigenous Origins of the Tibetan gTer ma tradition

Abstract: This paper discusses the possible origins of the Tibetan gter ma treasure traditions from outside its own testimonies and narratives, making use of other written historical documents (such as chronicles and genealogies), other ritual texts, and mainly recent fieldwork in East Tibet in the area of the sacred mountain of gNyan po g.yu rtse in the region of mGo log. The paper focuses on Tibetan indigenous religious notions, particularly on local, and mainly mountain, deities (variously called gzhi bdagyul lhagzhi bdag yul ha, also sa bdag, etc.), and their relationship to the concept of a hidden treasure, gter. Such a gter treasure is an offering to the deities of land, acquires various functions, and is employed at different social and religious occasions. It represents a coherent part of local indigenous cosmological perceptions and linked ancestral worship. Different kinds of treasures are offered to the deities of land as repositories of various forces of good fortune, prosperity and well-being (g.yang, bla, sa bcud), ensuring success and continuation of the social groups concerned. The treasures offered nowadays usually acquire the form of “treasure vases” (gter bum) or “treasure sachets” (gter khug), and based on the location of their placement can be “earth treasures” (sa gter) or “lake treasures” (mtsho gter). Treasure burials of bones of leading figures, typically clan chieftains, in “treasure vases” as “earth treasures” mark important sites of their groups' history and religious practice, as well as places of own perceived (and sometimes divine) ancestry. The sites of such burials can become venerated as sacred mountains and the individuals thus buried as mountain deities, becoming worshipped ancestors by their descendants. The paper aims to open the questions in which ways the gter is related to gter ma, if it eventually might have stood at its origins, and if, for instance, the latter might be an outcome of the Buddhicisation of the former.