Ancestor’s Song: On Tibetan Amdo Northern Type Gesar Epic’s influence on the Bard Ngagrig
Affiliation: Institute of Ethnic Literature, CASS

I have investigated on a bard of Tibetan Epic King Gesar named Ngagrig from Golok District of Amdo area of Tibet since 2008. His epic Gesar’s type-structure consists of four aspects that are “conquer 4 monsters, 18 big castles, 25 little castles and 47 besides castles.” Based on his type-structure and his singing melodies, his Gesar’s singing tradition has five sources: (1) Amdo Northern Type (or lower Amdo Type), (2) Amdo Southern Type (or upper Amdo Type), (3) Amdo Eastern Type, (4) Khams area Type and (5) Little and Besides Type. Especially I found that the Amdo Northern Type has a strong influence on his Gesar epic singing tradition. So I will be a brief introduction on it.

Taking it by and large, Amdo area is a great region around the Yellow River (the upper of stream segment of Ningxia Province, Tibetan called Rmachu) live in by primary-Tibetan system cultural ethnic minorities (nowadays it includes Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Ningxia Provinces). Conventionally, Tibetan calls Rmachu’s northern is lower Amdo and southern is upper Amdo. Lower Amdo’s center is the Khrishor Rgyalmo’s lake (or Mtso sngonpo in modern Tibetan, Kokonor in Mongolian, Qinghai Lake in Chinese), and upper Amdo’s center is the mountain Amye Rmachen’s district. So we also call Amdo Northern Type Gesar epic is Lower Amdo Type.

The mainly type-structure of the Lower Amdo Type of Gesar epic is “conquer 4 monsters”: Yarkhams’ Bdud state, Chinese state, Hor state and Mon ‘jang state (or missing lost). The Lower Amdo Type mainly diffused at khrika (Guide in Chinese) Minhe, dpalung and Rebkong counties and districts of Qinghai Province. It’s typical text is “Guide version” that found in Guide county’s manuscript in 1950’s. “Ladakh version,” Tu ethnic group’s Gesar, Yugu ethnic group’s Gesar and Mongolian “Beijing version”, Mongolian manuscript the Biography of Lion King of the World (also called Ling Geser) found in 1927 are all near this text. Especially both the “Minhe version” found Minhe County in 1885 and peacefully settle down three worlds (khamsgsum bdebkod in Tibetan) consist of basic structure of this kind of type.

The core-story of the Amdo Northern Type (Lower Amdo Type) is the canto a battle between Hor and Gling state (Horgling g.yul’jed in Tibetan,abbr.Horgling). If no this canto in the Lower Amdo Type, we can say King Gesar just is a hero story, not a great epic in this area. This canto’s value also shows in its content and form. Especially Gling state’s smaller heroe’s quantity and all be killed in this battle hints its “originate” and “integrality”.

Although his “conquer 4 monsters” belong to Amdo Southern Type of Gesar epic, Ngagrig’s Horgling is close to the Amdo Northern Type. Base on this feature, we can find that The Lower Amdo Type Gesar Epic play an important role in his Type-structure. In other words, we can understand that the “originate” of the Amdo Northern Type has an influence on the bard Ngagrig. Meanwhile, In his Horgling, Rmachu(the Yellow River) became a mainly pillar of epic edifice. Rmachu’s here(southern) is Gling state, Rmachu’s over(northern) is Hor state, Rmachu’s ferry-place, Rmachu upper 13 mountains, Rmachu lower 9 mountains, Rmayul darthang and so on. Those real geographic names have described “real history”, “our” Gling state’s ancestor’s history. That is to say, Gesar epic is “our ancestor’s song”.