SOAS University of London

Tibetan Studies at SOAS

The sku-bla and its cult

Mount Sku-bla
Nathan W. Hill

Date: 12 June 2014Time: 6:30 PM

Finishes: 12 June 2014Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Vernon Square Room: V211

Type of Event: Special Lecture

Rolf Stein, Ariane Macdonald and other scholars regard the sku-bla as a mountain deity; however, whereas Stein sees this cult as a foreign import Macdonald regards it as central to Imperial Tibetan religion. After a re-examination of the relevant passages, I conclude that the sku-bla is not a mountain deity and that the sku-bla ceremony is no peripheral foreign borrowing into Tibet, but a central part of the ideology of sacral kingship in the Old Tibetan Empire. The ceremony created a bond of vassalage between the celebrant and the person of the Tibetan emperor in his role as deified ruler. This ceremony was not performed by the royal court itself, but was rather performed by vassals of the emperor. This theory not only gives account for the absence of the sku-bla from the Old Tibetan Annals (PT 1288, ITJ 750) and its presence in the Annals of A-Zha Principality (ITJ 1368), the Envoys of Phywa to Dmu (PT 0126), the Rkong po inscription, and other Dunhuang texts such as PT 1047 and PT 2204c, but also better accounts for the use of sku-bla in the two texts, the Shangshu paraphrase (PT 0986) and the Prayers for the foundation of De ga g.yu tshal monastery (PT 0016), than the vague spectre of Chinese influence invoked by Stein.

Organiser: Dr Nathan W. Hill

Sponsor: London Shangshung Institute