King Gesar A Touch of Gesar Gesar Studies Gesar Artist Gesar Bards Foreign Influence  
In recent years, research on King Gesar has achieved further great progress both at home and abroad. Chinese research has had positive impact in the international academic world, and is highly praised by some experts. The noted epic expert, Prof. Walther Heissig of Bonn University commented to colleagues at the First International Academic Seminar on The Life of King Gesar held in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in November 1989: I envy you, as your government has attached such high importance to the collection of folk literature and this epic. There are no precedents in the history of world literature. You are quite lucky. Your work is of global significance. In Germany or some other nations, the collection of folk literature has relied on the private work of experts and scholars.

Back in the period of the Tubo Kingdom, King Gesar, the ancient epic was already widely spread in the areas along the Himalayas. After the 13th century, with the introduction of Buddhism into Mongolia, large volumes of Tibetan works and scriptures were translated into Mongolian, and King Gesar was one of them, which thus formed Mongolian style of King Gesar. In the latter half of 14th century, namely, the period at the end of the Yuan dynasty and the early Ming dynasty, the epic was even spread in a large range, when it was introduced to the Tu ethnic group, the Naxi ethnic group and the Yugu ethnic group bordering on Tibet.

King Gesar has been studied abroad for over 200 years. A few sections of it were translated into English, Russian, German, and French. Foreigners knew about it from the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the Qing dynasty), when the Mongolian version was printed in Beijing, foreigners got to know about this epic. In 1776, the Russian traveler Palas first mentioned The Life of King Gesar in the Collection of Mongolian Historic Documents published in St. Petersburg, making comments on the form of performance and the scriptures related to it, as well as a discussion of the life of Gesar. In 1836-1839, a Russian scholar by the name of Jakov published the epic in Mongolian and later translated the work into German and published it in St. Petersburg, helping to launch foreign research into the epic. For instance, one Russian scholar made a comparative study of King Gesar and the Tartar Heroic Epic published in St. Petersburg. At the end of 19th century, the Tibetan version of King Gesar received attention. From 1879 to 1885, the Indian Das twice entered Tibet to gather Tibetan documents about King Gesar, and published articles on it. Undoubtedly, the exploration of Tibetan documents has widened the vision of foreign researchers, helping to form the Oriental and Occidental school.

Che of the People’s Republic of Mongolia, stands out as the best of Oriental school(referring to scholars from Soviet Union, Mongolia, and East European countries), whose major work was The Historical Source of King Gesar, which, in a certain sense, became the benchmark for the research of the Oriental school. As a comparison, the research of Occidental school started later, and reaching its peak in the 1930s and again in the 1960s.Two French scholars, A. David-Neel and Prof. R.A. Stein was representative of the school. David-Neel had been to China twice, staying in Sichuan and Tibet for a long time. She herself listened to balladeers performing King Gesar, and made a record; at the same time, she collected handwritten copies and wooden carved scripts with the help from Lama Yundeng. After she went back home and compiled her study of Gesar, she published La vie surhumaine de Gue’sar de Ling(the superhuman Life of Gesar of Ling) in French in Paris in 1931, which, was then translated into English and published in London in1933. With this book more Western people got to know about King Gesar. Prof. Stein was a celebrated contemporary scholar on Tibetan culture. He has written a lot of works, including the following on Gesar: Tibetan Painted Scrolls about Gesar’s life in 1958, and A study of the Tibetan Epic King Gesar and Balladeers in 1959.

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Legend of King Gesar English Xinhua

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