Zhang-Zhung language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
𑲄𑲮𑱵 𑲄𑲮𑲲𑱵
Native toZhangzhung
RegionWestern Tibet and Central Asia
Era7th–10th century[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3xzh

Zhangzhung (Tibetan: ཞང་ཞུང་, Wylie: zhang zhung) is an extinct Sino-Tibetan language that was spoken in Zhangzhung in what is now western Tibet. It is attested in a bilingual text called A Cavern of Treasures (mDzod phug) and several shorter texts.

A small number of documents preserved in Dunhuang contain an undeciphered language that has been called Old Zhangzhung, but the identification is controversial.

A Cavern of Treasures (mDzod phug)[edit]

A Cavern of Treasures (Tibetan: མཛོད་ཕུག་, Wylie: mdzod phug) is a terma uncovered by Shenchen Luga (Tibetan: གཤེན་ཆེན་ཀླུ་དགའ་, Wylie: gshen chen klu dga') in the early eleventh century.[2] Martin identifies the importance of this scripture for studies of the Zhangzhung language:

For students of Tibetan culture in general, the mDzod phug is one of the most intriguing of all Bön scriptures, since it is the only lengthy bilingual work in Zhang-zhung and Tibetan (some of the shorter but still significant sources for Zhang-zhung are signalled in Orofino 1990)."[3]

External relationships[edit]

Bradley (2002) says Zhangzhung "is now agreed" to have been a Kanauri or West Himalayish language. Guillaume Jacques (2009) rebuts earlier hypotheses that Zhangzhung might have originated in eastern (rather than western) Tibet by having determined it to be a non-Qiangic language.[4]

Widmer (2014:53–56)[5] classifies Zhangzhung within the eastern branch of West Himalayish, and lists the following cognates between Zhangzhung and Proto-West Himalayish.

Gloss Zhangzhung Proto-West Himalayish
barley zad *zat
blue ting *tiŋ-
diminutive suffix -tse *-tse ~ *-tsi
ear ra tse *re
fat tsʰas *tsʰos
girl tsa med *tsamet
god sad *sat
gold ? zang *zaŋ
heart she *ɕe
old (person) shang ze *ɕ(j)aŋ
red mang *maŋ
white shi nom *ɕi


A number of scripts are recorded as being used for writing the Zhangzhung language. These are the Marchen script and its several descendents:[6]

Old Zhangzhung[edit]

F. W. Thomas suggested that three undeciphered Dunhuang manuscripts in a Tibetan script were written in an older form of the Zhangzhung language.[8][9] This identification has been accepted by Takeuchi Tsuguhito (武内紹人), who called the language "Old Zhangzhung" and added two further manuscripts.[10] Two of these manuscripts are in the Stein collection of the British Library (IOL Tib J 755 (Ch. Fragment 43) and Or.8212/188) and three in the Pelliot collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale (Pelliot tibétain 1247, 1251 and 1252). In each case, the relevant text is written on the reverse side of a scroll containing an earlier Chinese Buddhist text.[10] The texts are written in a style of Tibetan script dating from the late 8th or early 9th centuries. Takeuchi and Nishida claim to have partially deciphered the documents, which they believe to be separate medical texts.[11] However, David Snellgrove, and more recently Dan Martin, have rejected Thomas's identification of the language of these texts as a variant of Zhangzhung.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zhangzhung at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. ^ Berzin, Alexander (2005). The Four Immeasurable Attitudes in Hinayana, Mahayana, and Bön. Study Buddhism. Source: [1] (accessed: June 6, 2016)
  3. ^ Martin, Dan (2000). "Comparing Treasuries: Mental states and other mdzod phug lists and passages with parallels in Abhidharma works of Vasubandhu and Asanga, or in Prajnaparamita Sutras: A progress report". In Karmay, S.G.; Nagano, Y. (eds.). New Horizons in Bon Studies. Senri Ethnological Reports. Vol. 15. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology. pp. 21–88. doi:10.15021/00002197. p. 21.
  4. ^ Jacques, Guillaume (2009). "Zhangzhung and Qiangic Languages". In Yasuhiko Nagano (ed.). Issues in Tibeto-Burman Historical Linguistics (PDF). Senri Ethnological Studies. Vol. 75. pp. 121–130.
  5. ^ Widmer, Manuel. 2014. "A tentative classification of West Himalayish." In A descriptive grammar of Bunan, 33-56. Bern: University of Bern.
  6. ^ West, Andrew (30 April 2011). "N4032: Proposal to encode the Marchen script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF).
  7. ^ West, Andrew (2013-10-22). "N4491: Final proposal to encode the Marchen script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF).
  8. ^ Thomas, F. W. (1933). "The Z̀aṅ-z̀uṅ language". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 65 (2): 405–410. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00074943. JSTOR 25194777.
  9. ^ Thomas, F. W. (1967). "The Z̀aṅ-z̀uṅ language" (PDF). Asia Major. 13 (1): 211–217.
  10. ^ a b Takeuchi, Tsuguhito (2002). "The Old Zhangzhung Manuscript Stein Or 8212/188". In Christopher Beckwith (ed.). Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages. Leiden: Brill. pp. 1–11. ISBN 978-90-04-12424-0.
  11. ^ Takeuchi, Tsuguhito; Nishida, Ai (2009). "The Present Stage of Deciphering Old Zhangzhung". In Nagano, Yasuhiko (ed.). Issues in Tibeto-Burman Historical Linguistics (PDF). Senri Ethnological Studies. Vol. 75. pp. 151–165.
  12. ^ Snellgrove, David L. (1959). "Review of Giuseppe Tucci, Preliminary Report on Two Scientific Expeditions in Nepal, Serie Orientale Roma no. 10, Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (Rome 1956)". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 22 (2): 377–378. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00068944. JSTOR 609450. S2CID 190715371.
  13. ^ Martin, Dan (2013). "Knowing Zhang-zhung: the very idea" (PDF). Journal of the International Association for Bon Research. 1: 175–197.

Further reading[edit]

  • Martin, Dan (n.d.). "Comparing Treasuries: Mental states and other mdzod phug lists and passages with parallels in Abhidharma works of Vasubandhu and Asanga, or in Prajnaparamita Sutras: A progress report." University of Jerusalem.
  • David Bradley (2002) "The Subgrouping of Tibeto-Burman", in Chris Beckwith, Henk Blezer, eds., Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages. Brill.
  • Martin, Dan (2004). Zhang-zhung Dictionary.
  • Haarh, Erik. The Zhang-zhung Language: A Grammar and Dictionary of the Unexplored Language of the Tibetan Bönpos. Universitetsforlaget i Aarhus og Munksgaard, 1968.
  • Hummel, Seigbert and Guido Vogliotti, ed. and trans. On Zhang-zhung. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2000.
  • Namgyal Nyima Dagkar. "Concise Analysis of Zhang Zhung Terms in the Documents of Dunhuang." In Tibet, Past and Present: Tibetan Studies I, edited by Henk Blezer, Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000, vol. 1, pp. 429–439. Leiden: Brill, 2002.
  • Namgyal Nyima (Rnam rgyal nyi ma). Zhang-zhung – Tibetan – English Contextual Dictionary. Berlin, 2003. Description: This new dictionary of Zhangzhung terminology from the Bön tradition of Tibetan religion includes 3875 entries drawn from 468 sources. These entries include Tibetan and English definitions as well as the citation of passages in which they occur with full bibliographical information for these passages.