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Lecture by Dr. Yunfei Bai

Date: 12 Nov 2020 (Thu)

Time: 6:30-8:00 pm

Conducted in English

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Online lecture:

Meeting ID:928 1720 6372


HKU Centre of Buddhist Studies


Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Faculty of Arts, HKU


Tung Lin Kok Yuen


This talk first reviews the full 1933 French translation by Gustave-Charles Toussaint of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava’s most influential biography, the Padma bka’ thang shel brag ma—recovered/composed by the treasure-finder U-rgyan gling-pa in 1352. Despite its many flaws, Toussaint’s rendition, along with Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays’s 1978 improved English translation based upon it, remains a widely available reference for Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism to this day. 

More specifically, this talk analyses the first chapter of the Padma bka’ thang where Amitābha Buddha’s western pure land (Sanskrit: Sukhāvatī; Tibetan: bDe ba can) is extolled, and traces how Toussaint’s gross misinterpretation of this chapter inspired the famous French writer Victor Segalen’s unfinished long poem Thibet, in which a Nietzsche-spirited mountain climber embarks on an existential journey of conquering Tibet.


About the speaker

Dr. Yunfei Bai is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. He holds a PhD in French from Rutgers University. His recent articles on the intersections between Tibetan and French literatures have appeared in journals such as Archiv Orientální and Revue d’Études Tibétaines.

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