King Gesar is a heroic epic created by the Tibetans from a collection of ancient legends, myths, verses, proverbs and various other folk cultures of Tibet. Originating via folk oral traditions, King Gesar was passed down from generation to generation orally in a combination of song and narration for over 1, years. In the later years, some folk balladeers continued to pass on the story orally; this enriched the plots and embellished the languages. The story had gradually become near perfect and very popular in the early 12th Century.
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It is recorded variously in poetry and prose, shuochang being the style of traditional performance,  and is sung widely throughout Central Asia and North East of South Asia. Its classic version is to be found in central Tibet. The epic is composed of a very large body of versions, each with many variants, and is reputed by some to be the longest in the world.
Like the outstanding Greek epics, Indian epics and Kalevala , King Gesar is a brilliant pearl in the world's cultural treasure and is an important contribution made by our country to human civilization.
Some think the medium for this transmission may have been via Mongolian Kesar. The Mongols were allied with the Byzantines , whose emperor still used the title. Francke thought the Tibetan name Gesar derived from Sanskrit. In Tibet, that Gesar was an historical figure is rarely questioned. Though the epic was sung all over Tibetan-speaking regions, with Kham and Amdo long regarded as the centres for its diffusion,  traditions do connect Gesar with the former Kingdom of Ling Wylie : gling.
An historical kingdom of Lingtsang Wylie : gling tshang existed until the 20th century. The success of the Turk Fromo Kesaro , whose name is a Persian pronunciation of "Rome Byzantium Caesar", in overwhelming an intrusive Arab army in Gandhara sometime between —, may have formed the historic core behind the Gesar epic in Tibet.
In its distinctive Tibetan form, the epic appears to date from the time of the second transmission of Buddhism to Tibet marked by the formation of the Sarma or "new schools" of Tibetan Buddhism, although the story includes early elements taken from Indian tantricism. The oral tradition of this epic is most prominent in the two remote areas associated with the pre-Buddhist ethnic religion known as Bon Ladakh and Zanskar in the far west of Tibet and Kham and Amdo in the east , strongly suggesting that the story has native roots.
However, the oral versions known to us today are not, according to R. Stein, earlier than the written versions, but rather depend on them. As an oral tradition, a large number of variants have always existed, and no canonical text can be written. However, the epic narrative was certainly in something similar to its present form by the 15th century at the latest as shown by the mentions in the rLangs-kyi Po-ti bSe-ru by Byang chub rgyal mtshan.
Despite the age of the tradition, the oldest extant text of the epic is actually the Mongolian woodblock print commissioned by the Kangxi Emperor of Qing China in None of the Tibetan texts that have come down to us are earlier than the 18th century, although they are likely based on older texts that have not survived.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries a woodblock printing of the story was compiled by a scholar-monk from Ling-tsang, a small kingdom northeast of Derge , with inspiration from the prolific Tibetan philosopher Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso.
The wide variety of cultures in which the Gesar epic is encountered means that the name for the hero varies. Among the Buryat he is known as Abai Geser Khubun. The Khalkha oral version calls him Altan Bogdo khan. Among the Balti and Ladakhi people he is most famously known as Gyalpo Kaiserr.
The epic has a vast number of variants in plot and motifs, but while there is little point in looking for a consistent picture, the core of the story, similar to that of many legendary cycles, has been summed up as follows:. King Ge-sar has a miraculous birth, a despised and neglected childhood, and then becomes ruler and wins his first wife 'Brug-mo through a series of marvellous feats.
In subsequent episodes he defends his people against various external aggressors, human and superhuman. Instead of dying a normal death he departs into a hidden realm from which he may return at some time in the future to save his people from their enemies. Samuel, comparing three Gesar traditions, Mongolian, Eastern Tibetan and Ladakhi, that developed relatively autonomously, postulates the following core narrative shared by all three:.
Tibetan versions differ very greatly in details. In other variants, Gautama Buddha is never mentioned, or a certain secular irony is voiced against the national religion. According to Samten Karmay , Gesar arose as the hero of a society still thinly permeated by Buddhism and the earlier myths associate him with pre-Buddhist beliefs like the mountain cult.
In most episodes, Gesar fights against the enemies of dharma , an old warrior ethos, where physical power, courage, a combative spirit, and things like cunning and deceit prevail. There is a version of this translated into English.
Buryat versions of the epic focus mainly on Gesar's battles with various demons, rather than on military campaigns. They also contain a detailed and drastically different prologue to Gesar's exploits. According to these versions, the great Tengri Khormusta Turmas, Khorbustu, Hormust khan of the celestial tribes of the West waged war with Atai Ulan, khan of the malicious gods of the east.
After his victory, Khormusta dismembers Atai Ulan to prevent his resurrection and throws his body parts to Earth, where they become demons and monsters. The act almost causes the extinction of humanity; the middle son of Khormusta Bukhe Belligte or Uile Butelegcji was sent from the realm of heaven to undo the damage.
The Buryat version contains 9 branches or song episodes uliger , each devoted to tell how Gesar defeats an enemy. There are a number of stories not connected with the foregoing nine branches described above; for example, a story in which Gesar shames Gume-Khan of China , or one in which he exterminates the Four Recklings of Evil, demonic beings whose nature is not quite clear.
Distinctive features of these versions of the Gesar epic have led some scholars to the view that the Buryat and Mongolian versions are not directly dependent on a Tibetan original.
Setsenmunkh has argued, and the idea was shared by C. Damdinsuren and B. Vladimirtsev, that the written Mongolian versions stem from one source which has not survived. Chadwick and Zhirmunsky consider that the main outlines of the cycle as we have it in Mongolia, Tibet and Ladakh show an outline that conforms to the pattern of heroic poetry among the Turkic peoples. They conclude that the stories of the Gesar cycle were well known in the territory of the Uyghur Khaganate. The versions of the Gesar epic collected in Bhutan, in publication since , are projected to run into some 31 volumes.
By narrowing the period of its creation to the tenth and eleventh centuries, the dynamic of literary composition is erroneously attributed to an oral epic. Furthermore, the epic reflects Tibetan society during the sixth to ninth centuries rather than the tenth century.
Thus a satisfactory conclusion about the epic's origins cannot be drawn based on the lifespans of historical heroic figures. Jiangbian pointed out that the foundation for the origin of epic is ethnic folk culture.
He conjectured that before epics came into being, the Tibetan people "already had a corpus of stories that described the formation of the heavens and the earth, their ethnic origin, and ethnic heroes; these stories provided a foundation for creating the character Gesar, also known as Sgrung in early history.
After further polishing by the oral poets, especially the ballad singers, Gesar became a great epic" This last mode bears strong similarities with shamanic practitioners like the pawo mediums and mig mthong diviners. As an heroic song composed or recited by oral bards, the epic of Gesar has been, for centuries, improvised on, and there is therefore no canonical or monumental version, as one finds in, for example, Greek epic.
A given Gesar singer would know only his local version, which nonetheless would take weeks to recite. It has been responsive to regional culture and folklore, local conflicts, religious trends, and even political changes on the world stage. Tibetan history has often swung between centralized and stateless poles, and the epic of Gesar reflects the tensions between central authority, as embodied in religious orthodoxy, and the wild, nomadic forces of the autarkic periphery. There are versions that adopt Gesar as a lama showing him as a tamer of the wild, but, in so far as his epic retains his old lineaments as a maverick master of shamanic powers, he represents the stateless, anarchic dimension of Tibet's margins, and is rather a tamer of corrupt monastic clerics and, thus, it is not coincidental that the epic flourished on the outlying regions of Kham and Amdo.
His wars are campaigns of defence against hostile powers intent on subduing the kingdom of gLing, which are often construed as anti-Buddhist.
But his vanquishing of the dzongs or fortresses preserves an ambiguity, since these were potential outposts of the state. Until recently, [ when? The Gelug school disapproved of the epic, while the Kagyu and Nyingma schools generally favoured it, seeing it as an expression of the activity of Padmasambhava and as a vehicle for Buddhist teachings, especially of the Dzogchen school.
Orgyen Tobgyal explained that in the Nyingma perspective, "the real nature of the manifestation we know as Ling Gesar is actually that of Guru Rinpoche himself appearing in the form of a drala " Wylie: dgra bla, "protective warrior spirit". The government of China strongly supports the cult of Gesar and its practice among Han Chinese , according to some as a counter-force to Tibetan Buddhism.
In the region of Baltistan the King Kesar's saga was told in homes, especially in winter, but now it is at the verge of distinction due to availability of the media devices. According to some scholars believing in Kesar saga is un-Islamic. The first printed edition of the Gesar epic was published in Beijing in in a Mongolian version.
It was this text which formed the basis for the first Western-language translation, a Russian version published by the Moravian missionary Isaac Jacob Schmidt in Another Moravian missionary, August Hermann Francke , collected and translated a version from Lower Ladakh between and In George Roerich made a comprehensive survey of the literature of Gesar Roerich ; The first three volumes of the version known as the Lingtsang-Dege woodblock, which was composed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were published with a very faithful though incomplete French translation by Rolf Stein in Another version has been translated into German by Matthias Hermanns This book also contains extensive study by Hermanns explaining the epic as the product of the Heroic Age of the nomads of North-eastern Tibet and their interactions with the many other peoples of the Inner Asian steppe.
Hermanns believed the epic to pre-date Buddhism in Tibet, and saw in it an expression of the ancient Tibetan archetype of the "heaven-sent king", as found also in the myths of the founders of the Yarlung Dynasty, who founded the Tibetan Empire 7th-9th centuries CE. In the occult system of Nicholas Roerich , Gesar is presented as a hero who is believed to accept his physicality in Shambhala.
It's told that he would appear with an invincible army to set general justice. Thunderous arrows will be its weapon. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Gesar may be either someone of Turkish stock or a non-Tibetan dynastic name. The Padma-thang-yig records a Tibetan army subduing Gesar, something also mentioned in the Rygal-po'i-bka'i-than-yig "Pronouncements concerning Kings".
In this interpretation, Gesar's 'soul mountain' would be the famous snow peak of Golog in modern Qinghai Province. See note 1 p. Australian National University Press. Kuensel Online. Retrieved 13 June Religion and Biography in China and Tibet. Routledge, The Squad of King Gesar. In Honko, Lauri ed. Religion, myth, and folklore in the world's epics: the Kalevala and its predecessors. Walter de Gruyter. Retrieved 14 July The classical Tibetan language.
The Growth of Literature. Cambridge University Press. Oral Epics of Central Asia. Lhasa in the seventeenth century: the capital of the Dalai Lamas.
The Epic of Gesar of Ling
The Epic of King Gesar is a great heroic story created by the Tibetans and represents the highest achievement of Tibetan literature. It is the longest epic in the world, the length even exceeding the total of the five most famous epics in the world, that is, Babylonian Gilgamesh , Greek Odyssey and Iliad , Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata. The epic also expresses the theme of the people's wish for justice and bliss. The epic is really an encyclopedia of the social and historical changes, relationships among classes and nationalities, ethnical Tibet culture. Long ago, the Tibetans were suffering from natural disasters and vicious devils and living rather a miserable life. Then he and his mother along with a tribe 'Ling' migrated beside the Yellow River. Since then he began to take the soldiers of his kingdom and banish away all the aggressive devils in the nearby realms.
Epic of King Gesar
For centuries, folk artists in the snow-covered plateau of Tibet, southwest China, travelled the region telling and singing stories of King Gesar, a legendary 11th century hero who fought evil and helped the weak. The epic of King Gesar is fading as an oral tradition, but Jampel Gyatso is determined to preserve it in text, as a "treasure of humanity. Gesar is an encyclopedic masterpiece that reflects the social and cultural landscape of ancient Tibet. During the past four decades, Jampel and his colleagues travelled across the country's vast Tibetan-inhabited areas, interviewing folk artists, while collecting, compiling and translating the epic tale. With Jampel as chief editor, a volume, million-word selected version of King Gesar was published in Tibetan in Now aged 81, Jampel still frequently travels to the oxygen-deficient Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, continuing his research on the epic. His latest work, a five-volume Mandarin version of "Hero Gesar" was published last year.
Tibetan Heroic Epic - King Gesar
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. El rei Guesar , pintura mural d'autor desconegut. Media in category "Epic of King Gesar" The following 10 files are in this category, out of 10 total. Gesar Gruschke. Gesar Khan.
Profile: Guarding the legendary epic of King Gesar
It is recorded variously in poetry and prose, shuochang being the style of traditional performance,  and is sung widely throughout Central Asia and North East of South Asia. Its classic version is to be found in central Tibet. The epic is composed of a very large body of versions, each with many variants, and is reputed by some to be the longest in the world. Like the outstanding Greek epics, Indian epics and Kalevala , King Gesar is a brilliant pearl in the world's cultural treasure and is an important contribution made by our country to human civilization. Some think the medium for this transmission may have been via Mongolian Kesar.