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Oral teachings and written texts: Transmission and transformation in Dunhuang

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Chapter Summary

It might be argued by those familiar with the Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts that poor handwriting and wild orthography are the norm, rather than the exception. This chapter identifies forms of distortion or transformation in Dunhuang manuscripts. The persistance of orality in present-day Tibetan Buddhist education and scholasticism has been discussed in the context of Dge lugs pa scholasticism by Anne Klein and George Dreyfus in their accounts of contemporary practice. The transcription of the oral teaching may only be just one link, and not the most recent one, in the chain of transmission. It is arguably an inherent feature of manuscript culture that texts are often copied through oral rather than visual means.

Keywords: Dunhuang manuscripts; oral teaching; orality persistance; Tibetan Buddhist education



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