The library was originally created from the need to preserve the texts that Chögyal Namkhai Norbu brought with him from Tibet and the works that gradually became necessary for his studies. Hence what was and is essentially his personal library is now accessible to scholars, practitioners, and also to those who are simply interested in some aspect of Tibetan culture.
It is therefore a mainly tibetological library and contains at present more than 12,000 volumes. Over half are texts and magazines in the Tibetan language (manuscripts, xylographies, print texts and magazines), but there is also an important section in Western languages (especially English and Italian), with both academic and educational publications about Buddhism and Tibet, and in other Oriental languages (Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese).
The name, Zikhang, means "House of Zi (གཟི་ gzi)", the agate stone to which Tibetan traditions attributes special properties as an amulet as well as material and symbolic connotations. There are two mains sections:
- The Western section
- The Tibetan section
- The Western Section
This section houses texts in Western languages divided according to the Five Traditional Tibetan Sciences (རིག་གནས་ལྔ་ rig gnas lnga): the first part focuses on the Dharma, the teachings, in turn divided into Sutra (Hinayana and Mahayana), Tantra and Dzogchen and then into different Tibetan schools (Bon, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelugpa etc) with a section on biographies. The second section is on Tibetan language and grammar, followed by a section on medicine and the arts (visual arts, music, dance etc) and a small collection of texts on logic. In addition to these five sections divided according to the five sciences, we have a section on history, ancient and modern, a section on places of pilgrimage, and a shelf dedicated to India, Nepal and Mongolia. There are also sections that contain scholarly works (such as a large collection of East and West magazines and other publications from IsIAO / IsMEO in addition to Tibet Journal) and one with the works of authors of the Dzogchen Community. A shelf is dedicated to the books of Shang Shung Publications in different languages. Sections on Chinese Buddhism, Zen and China in general will be exhibited later in new shelves.
The reading room. Photo by Magda Zych.
- The Tibetan Section
In the upper floor there is the area of Tibetan texts, which houses the main collections of the various traditions of the Land of Snows, such as the Bon and the Buddhist canons, the Tantras of the Ancient School, the fundamental texts of Dzogchen, the complete works of Longchenpa, of Adzom Drugpa, of Shabkar, and of Lopon Tendzin Namdak as well as the main texts of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, works on Medicine, Astrology, Language, Logic and Arts, and a precious collection of unique manuscripts. There are more than 6,000 books and journals in Tibetan Language, and among them, more than 2,000 works are in traditional Tibetan format (དཔེ་ཆ་ dpe cha), namely woodblock prints or manuscripts, or copies of them made on paper made from different organic materials depending on the location and time of production. The use of fabrics of different color makes it clearly visible where a work (which may be composed of several volumes) finishes, while the color of the label changes depending upon the topic.
The Tibetan section. Photo by Magda Zych
The traditional Tibetan book (དཔེ་ཆ་ dpe cha)
These Tibetan texts generally consist of unbound sheets that are rectangular and read horizontally. The page is changed by turning the sheet on the upper horizontal pivot (which means that the back of the sheet has to be upside down in relation to the front). Since they are not bound these texts are wrapped in squares of cloth (དཔེ་རས་ dpe ras) with cloth strings that guarantee the compactness of the text and its preservation. In our library, many of these fabrics have been brought directly from Tibet or from the areas of the diaspora, in India; others were produced locally.
The traditional Tibetan Pecha format. Photo by Magda Zych.
In the catalogue only the texts of the Tibetan section are available at present. Expanding on the previous inventory, in addition to the title, the author’s name and the number of pages, the new catalogue is enhanced with reference to the codes assigned to the same work by the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Centre (TBRC, now BDRC Buddhist Digital Resource Center), the largest online library of Tibetan texts, and by the Library of Congress. This makes it possible to search through the catalogue also using a single code used by the TBRC and the Library of Congress. It also generally provides a brief description of the content and keywords; where necessary the table of contents (དཀར་ཆག་ dkar chag) has also been entered.
Services and opening hours
The library is open most of the year and everyone can come to visit and see the texts. There is also a loan service for most of the texts on display in the reading room for those staying longer. You can request partial scans of the texts by contacting the librarian, Margherita Pansa, who can also guide you in visiting the library and library research. Please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
The Zikhang Library of Merigar wants to express its deepest gratitude to all those who have contributed to the expansion of its collection for the benefit of all those who come and read in our beautiful reading room. Thanks to you we are increasing our collection of Western and Tibetan books every year. Firstly we want to greatly thank Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and his family, from whom all of this began. Thank you also especially to Andrea di Castro for donating his precious collection of academic journals and books, Harald Braun for his great contribution of new books on Tibet and India, Donatella Rossi especially for the Collected works of Adzom Drugpa in tibetan, Adriano Clemente, Aldo Oneto, Giorgio Dallorto, Monica Marinelli, Paolo Lamon, Peter Eisenegger, Stefania Merzagora, and the late Antonio di Giammarco and Rochelle Hood and all the others who contributed in a way or another. May your example inspire others!
(If you wish to donate books to the library, please write to email@example.com)
Detail from a Tibetan manuscript. Photo by Magda Zych.
When the last period of five hundred years [the degenerate age] arrives, I will come in the form of writing. Believing in your mind that it is me, respect it!
Read more on Tibetan books:
Hildegard Diemberger, Holy Books as ritual objects and vessels of teaching in the era of the 'further spread of the doctrine (bstan pa yang dar) in Buffetrille, K(ed.) The Trasformation of Rituals in Contemporary Tibet. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
Agnieszka Helman-Ważny, The Archaeology of Tibetan Books. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
Kurtis Schaeffer, The Culture of the Book in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
• 1987 Inauguration of the Zikhang building.
• 1990, May 29th Inauguration of the Library at the presence of His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso.
• 1991-1992 Library physical restructuration and acquisition of two editions of the Bon Canon.
• 1992 A cataloging project started under the responsibility of Mauro Nascari and the collaboration of Phungtsog Wangmo and Tsering Thar for the Tibetan and Chinese sections.
• From 1993 the cataloging project continues under the umbrella of PROGETTO ARCHIVIO DIGITALE. Between 1995 and 1998 this projects received also the patronage and support of the Region of Tuscany and the Province of Grosseto for the preservation and valorization of the documents, plus a generous donation given by Elisa Copello. Many people collaborated and supported in different ways to the valorization, enlargement and to complete the first catalogue of the library. Just to mention few of them: Adriano Clemente, Alexander Pubants, Enrico Dell’Angelo, Felice Storgato, Iacobella Gaetani, Maria Simmons, Nida Chenagtsang, Paola Davico and Zeljka Jovanovic. Also the scanning and indexing of Changchub Dorje’s texts and manuscripts starts with the collaboration of Iacobella Gaetani, Soledad Suarez and Topgyal Gontse.
• 2012 Library physical restoration and enlargement. Reorganization and online catalogation of the Tibetan section started under the responsibility of Fabian Sanders and continued by Margherita Pansa
• 2015 Changchub Dorje's manuscripts scanning has been completed by Topgyal Gontse.
• 2016 Tuscany’s Archives Administration, a branch of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, recognized the significant value of the Shang Shung Foundation's Archive and Library by declaring it of particularly important historic interest.
• 2017 Online catalog of the Tibetan books has been completed