A Chinese-Tibetan manuscript of the Lankavatara Sutra


This concertina manuscript contains a Chinese commentary on the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, with the text of the sūtra also written in Tibetan between the lines of Chinese.

How is the bilingual text laid out?

The Chinese text, written in black ink, is a commentary on the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, while the Tibetan text, written in red ink between the lines of Chinese, is the Tibetan translation of the sūtra itself (but not the commentary). When you read the Chinese text on this manuscript, the reader treats the concertina as if it were a folded Chinese scroll, reading from top to bottom and right to left. On the other hand, in order to read the Tibetan, the reader turns the manuscript ninety degrees to the left, and reads from left to right. In this orientation the concertina looks much more like a Tibetan pothi.

What was this bilingual manuscript used for?

It is likely is that this manuscript was used as a translation aid. We know that a translation of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra into Tibetan from Chinese was made by a translator working in Dunhuang. We also know that this translation was based on the Chinese commentary found in this manuscript. So this manuscript may have been the very one that was used to produce that Tibetan translation of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.

Full title:
Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra with commentary
Manuscript / Concertina
Chinese / Tibetan
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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