A volume of the Shelkar Kanjur


An 18th-century Kanjur.

What is the Kanjur?

The Kanjur (bka' 'gyur) is a corpus of collected teachings of the Buddha, translated into Tibetan. The whole set consists of around 108 volumes of sūtras and Tantras which have mostly been translated from Sanskrit.

Religious texts are generally treated with the highest respect and the volumes of the Kanjur are often placed in a high position on the altar in Tibetan Buddhist temples serving as objects of worship specifically representing the speech of the Buddha (gsung rten). Other representations of the Buddha include images and statues, which represent the body and stupas, which represent the enlightened mind of the Buddha.

There have been printed versions of the Kanjur since the early 1400s but, at the same time, there were also precious manuscript copies of the Kanjur, either in part or whole. The production of such Kanjurs often involved financial support from worldly and spiritual dignitaries and was considered to be a highly meritorious act.

What do we know about this manuscript?

The volume displayed here is the result of such a project which was completed in 1712 at the south-western Tibetan monastery of Shelkar. A text accompanying the Kanjur lists the names of eighteen sponsors, ten monks from the monastery who acted as editors, six people who provided the paper, and eight calligraphers who came from Nyemo, a monastery in central Tibet whose monks were famous for their calligraphic skills.

This volume contains the Fortunate Aeon Sūtra, a text which is traditionally always the first in the sūtra section of the Kanjur.

Full title:
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Or 6724 MDO 1

Related articles

The development of the Buddhist 'canon'

Article by:
T H Barrett
Buddhism, Sacred texts

The Buddhist ‘canon’ is vast, complex and difficult to define. Here Professor Tim Barrett outlines some of the key works for the different branches of Buddhism.

Buddhism introduction

Article by:
The British Library

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Buddhism.

Illuminated Buddhist Manuscripts

Article by:
Ms Jana Igunma, San San May, Burkhard Quessel
Buddhism, Illuminated texts

British Library curators Melodie Doumy, Jana Igunma, San San May and Burkhard Quessel explore some of the illuminated and illustrated Buddhist manuscripts in the Library's collection.

Related collection items