The Project

FCHNT is an ANR-funded project which aims at documenting the history of a branch of the ‘Ancient School’ (Nyingma) of Tibetan Buddhism, known as the ‘Northern Treasures’  or Jangter (Byang gter).

The Northern Treasures developed as an independent sub-school of the Nyingmapas, still alive nowadays with all its traditions complete. It originated in the 14th century, with the ‘hidden treasures’ (gter ma) found ca. 1366 by Rigdzin Gödem (Rig ’dzin rGod ldem, ca. 1337-ca. 1408). Thus was set the original core of this tradition, upon which various earlier and later materials were gradually grafted, building up a complete system of Buddhism. It reached its climax with the foundation of Dorjedrak (early 17th century) and then under the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682), with the activity of Rigdzin Pema Trinley (1641-1717). Then, it heavily suffered from the Dzungar Mongol invasion (1717-1718). Its later survival was somehow a long twilight (despite a revival in Eastern Tibet from the late 18th century onwards).

A circumstance that made the present ANR-funded project possible was the publication in 2015 of a 63-volume collection of the Northern Treasures literature, which brought to the surface an enormous collection of yet unknown materials, dating from maybe the 9th century to the most recent years of the 21st century.  This collection includes a large contemporary chronicle of the Northern Treasure from its beginnings to the present day (filling its 62nd volume) by one Khenpo Chöying, and a great quantity of other historiographical materials.

This text will be translated, while adding to it critical notes and introductions, etc., in order to complete it with materials drawn from other souces. We intend to use it as a reference frame, upon which we will add, when needed, information or critical remarks drawn from all the other available sources. Tibetan historiography is generally about constructing a ‘pedigree’ establishing the legitimacy of the present holders of the lineage, while we, as academic researchers, are of course interested in many other aspects, regarding either the context or elements that are regarded by the Tibetans, given their aims in writing history, as secondary or even irrelevant.

We will enlarge the scope of the Tibetan chronicle to pre-14th Century materials concerning the corpus that historically became amalgamated with the Northern Treasures as an independent branch of the Ancient Order. Those elements, not documented in Chöying’s synthetic narrative,  have to be found elsewhere. We are also willing to inquire into another ‘pre-history’ of the Northern Treasures, especially about one figure of the Bon religion, Pönsé Khyunggötsal, who, some 150 years earlier or so, revealed a great quantity of “treasure texts” from the same spot.