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When Mithra Came as Rain on the Tibetan Plateau. A New Interpretation of an Old Tibetan Topos

Joanna Bialek

Pages 141 - 153


It has long been recognised that the pre-eleventh century narrative popularly called Old Tibetan Chronicles is a patchwork composed of originally independent quasi-historical stories interwoven with folk narratives. Moreover, scholars agree that foreign topoi likewise found their way into the final composition as it has been handed down to us. Previous research has demonstrated that motifs from classical Chinese literature were well-known to the composers of the Old Tibetan Chronicles and at least one of them was faithfully paraphrased there. In this paper I attempt to trace one more, heretofore not considered, source from which the composers might have drawn inspiration: Iranian religious traditions. I put forward the hypothesis that four passages from the Old Tibetan Chronicles were influenced by the Zoroastrian Mithraic tradition transferred most probably via Sogdian Buddhist literature. I argue that the misplaced occurrence of the passages in the discource, the otherwise unfamiliar metaphors used therein, and the non-native Tibetan rhythm of the verses, all speak for their foreign provenance.

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