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Sutra Printing House

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Sutra Printing House Introduction

Dege Sutra-Printing House, also called "Dege Auspicious and Wisdom-Gathering House", is located in Dege County in northwestern Sichuan, 913 kilometers away from Chengdu City. Dege Sutra-Printing House is of unique structure, looking tranquil and spectacular with the high red walls and whirling green trees. On one side of the gate is a two-storey building, and the principal house is composed of a two-storey building and a three-storey building, all of which are well arranged and in classic Tibetan architectural style. In the House, there are Block Book Library, Paper Storeroom, Sutra Paper Drying Floor, Block Cleaning Platform, Paper Tailoring and Collecting Room, Buddha Hall and Sutra Hall, etc. For the Block Book Library, there are 6 rooms all together covering about 50% of the total area of the House, in which the Sutra printing is made.

Dege Sutra Printing House

In Block Book Library, there are rows of block book shelves which are trimly arranged and filled with block books by categories, with each block having a handle. The book blocks have different sizes, among which the largest one is over 110cm long, 70 cm wide and about 5 cm thick, and the smallest one is about 33cm long and only about 6cm wide. By the end of 1780s, there had been 217,500 blocks of books in the House, with each engraved on both sides. Dege Sutra-Printing House is well known all over the world for its well-stocked and widely-ranged block books in different religious sects. The creator Danbazeren believed in Mongolian Lamaism, but he did not exclude the classics of other religions. Thus, Dege Sutra-Printing House is distinctive and is superior to other sutra-printing houses. During initial collection of manuscripts, a number of learned persons were sent to Tibet in search of manuscripts or woodcuts with the help of Situ Quejiqiongnai, and then some scholars including Qugewangqu were invited to make collation and finalization on the manuscripts by categories. After finalization, dozens of persons who were good at Tibetan calligraphy scribed the manuscripts, which were then reviewed by several scholars, engraved on the blocks by hundreds of trained skillful craftsmen and checked by scholars. Until repeatedly reviewed for 4 times, confirmed correct and subjected to complex and meticulous technical treatments such as anti-corrosion and anti-cracking treatment, etc., a block book is completed. There are strict quality standards for each process, and the completed block books are legible, correct and durable.

Dege Sutra Printing House

Due to the climate here, there is only half a year for printing each year from Tibetan March 15 to September 20 when people can worship the book blocks in the House, which is called "Baerqiadong". The House stipulates that all the "Tripitakas" shall adopt the ink from cinnabar (red ink made of porphyrized cinnabar mixed with gum) for respect and others shall adopt black ink. During printing, one person fetches and sends the blocks back and forth, and another two persons sit face to face with one block between them, one wiping the block and painting with ink and the other putting a paper on the block, rolling with a roller and then taking off the paper. In this way, a paper is printed. Since each group has different proficiency and is assigned with different quantity of papers to be printed, one group can print 700 pages to 1000 pages. The printed papers are delivered to Bazhong after dried in the sun in the fixed area of each group, then inspected and reviewed by the supervisor of the House and other two persons, and finally sent to the Paper Tailoring and Collecting Room for sorting out, rubbing down, painting red and bundling up after confirmed qualified. Then, a finished paper is produced.

Dege Sutra Printing House

The papers for printing are made of a kind of grass roots called "Ajiaorujiao", which have high tenacity, will not be eaten by worms and rats and are durable. The paper technology basically follows the ancient manual paper technology of the Hang Dynasty. In the old days, there were over 100 households engaged in paper making in the jurisdiction of Tusi (a system of appointing national minority hereditary headmen in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties). Most are in the territory of Baiyu Country, and a small number of such households are in Guze, Sege, Niequ, Gongya, Kasongdu, etc., with an annual output of over 100,000 pieces of paper (The size of each paper is larger than the half size of a machine-made paper), all of which are delivered to the sutro-printing house. For over 260 years since the establishment of Dege Sutra-Printing House, the book blocks are almost intact. It is not only famous in the world for the interoperability, good versions and exquisite printing, but also enjoys a high reputation both abroad and at home for the large number of collections and rich contents. It is said that there are more than 300,000 sutra blocks at the most.

Dege Sutra Printing House

According to the collection record of Dege Sutra-Printing House, the House takes the lead in the rich collections among the sutra printing houses in the Tibetan areas, including more than 200 books or monographs in respect of Buddhist scriptures, astronomy, geography, medicine, history, literature, music, art and technology, etc. as well as some rare editions and unique copies. For example, the "Origin of Indian Buddhism" kept in the House had been lost in the origin of Buddhism – India, to which some international science researchers and Buddhists have to resort. The book "Religion Origin of Han Nationality" is also a precious material studying the Buddhism of Han Nationality and investigating the relationship between Han and Tibetan Nationality in the history. "Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra" in Sanskrit, Nepali and Tibetan language, having 300 years' history, is also the only one in the world.