China and Inner Asia
This paper examines the history of the five minor fields of knowledge (rig gnas chung ba lnga) with a focus on how this Indian category of knowledge was adopted and adapted in the Tibetan intellectual tradition. Early modern Tibetan intellectuals from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries set out on a project that offered periodization of the dissemination of the five minor fields of learning in Tibet, restructurization of what enumerates as the five minor fields of learning, consolidation of different categories of sciences, and correction of mistranslations of the original verse that introduced the category of the five sciences in the Tibetan intellectual tradition. I argue in this paper that although Tibetans attribute Sa skya paṇ ḍi ta kun dga’ rgyal mtshan (1182-1252) as the founder of the five minor fields of learning there is no philological reference in Sapaṇ’s works about the five minor fields of learning. As a result of this lack of explicit reference, Tibetans ended up having different enumerations. From what I have found, Pang Lo tsa wa’s (1276-1342) classification of the five minor fields of learning is the earliest—probably closest to the original Indian classification. Later Tibetan intellectuals from the post-Pang restructured these five minor fields of knowledge starting from Snar-thang (1383-1445), who excluded alaṅkāra and included poetry, to what we enumerate to this day as the five minor fields of learning which consist of: poetry, prosody, lexicography, astrology, and dramaturgy.