In the center of Asia and the southwest part of China lies the Tibetan plateau, which is about 4,500 metres above sea-level. Given its high altitude, this area is popularly known as the Roof of the World. It is also the source of the major rivers of Asia, these are the Indus, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Huang Ho river.
In the past, on the plateau there was a country called Tibet and it was divided into three provinces, U-Tsang in the west and Kham and Amdo in the east. The people who lived there were called Tibetan. They were introduced to Indian culture as early as the year 600 CE and Indian Buddhism played a major influence. These people established their own individual Tibetan Buddhism which later spread to Mongolia and to other Himalayan regions.
Most of the early Tibetan literature was derived from ancient Indian Buddhist literature. However, one popular non-Buddhist literature that came from India was Vetala (Vetalapancavimsatika) or corpse stories. In Tibet it is called, Ro sgrun (pronounced Ro Dun) also called, Siddhivad corpse stories, it means stories told by a dead body. Tibetans memorized the corpse stories and transmitted them orally to all parts of Tibet. During that time, the Indian Vetala (corpse stories) changed into Tibetan stories. They became one of the most important literature in Tibet. Many years later, after the stories had traveled to all of the areas in Tibet, hand-written manuscripts (U Med) were made of them. This is why there are a few different versions of the same stories, because people in different areas remembered them differently.
The author has translated into English one group called, "Fascinating Stories of the Golden Corpse" which was published in the Tibetan language in kham, east Tibet. A Siddhivad corpse narrates 34 stories to Prince Gautamiputra. Nagarjuna (150-250 CE), who was the founder of the Madhyamika School of Buddhism, and King Gautamiputra, who was the last king of the Satvahana dynasty, collected these stories which are included in this book.
About the Author(s)
Ryoshun Kajihama, PhD, was a Professor at the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Setsunan University in Osaka, Japan. He specializes in Tibetan Buddhism and culture.