Photo story: Derge Parkhang – The Tibetan Printing House

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The Dêrge Barkang , alternative names Dege Parkhang, Derge Sutra Printing Temple, is the barkang (printing house) and one of the foremost cultural treasures of Tibet. Derge is a county seated in a high valley in Kham, an eastern district of traditional Tibet which is now part of China’s Sichuan Province. The Derge Parkhang is a living institution devoted to the printing and preservation of Tibetan literature, a printing temple that has, in its library, the greatest number of Tibetan woodblocks in the world. Dege town is at a height of 10,170 ft.

Founded in 1729 by Demba Tsering, the fortieth King of Derge , the Derge Sutra Printing Temple (Parkhang in Tibetan) is one of the most important cultural, social, religious and historical institutions in Tibet as an active centre for publication of Tibetan Buddhist sutra, commentaries, and thangka as well as works of history, technology, biography, medicine and literature. Books are still being made in the same way as they have been for almost three hundred years: hand printed from hand-carved wooden blocks. Cinnabar is used to colour the text red, in which workers can print eight to fifteen pages manually a minute, 2500 in a day, from wooden blocks that have already been engraved with text. Thirty printers are in working condition where printers work in pairs, one puts ink on wooden press, later cleaned in a trough, while the other rolls a piece of paper using a roller which is imprinted red with sayings of Buddha. The whole place does not have electricity as a fire can destroy the wooden blocks. Printing is done in daylight only.

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