In the early morning of winter in Derge, the sun has not yet spilled into the valley. In the small town’s Derge Printing House, it was quiet and peaceful. As the warm sun rises, the sun shines through the windows of the printing house, shining light on the countless scriptures.
The Derge Printing House is located in a deep mountain gorge in Derge County, Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. This temple, known as the “bright pearl of the snow mountains”, was founded in 1792 by the 12th Derge chieftain, Choekyi Danba Tsering. The construction lasted 27 years through the reigns of three chieftains. The printing house’s unique Tibetan architecture, windowsills, carvings, and rich paintings are breathtaking.
For protection against fire, no lighting equipment is used in any room that houses scripture printing blocks, so everything depends on natural light. Walking into the warehouse where scriptures are stored, there is a thick scent of ink. Shelves of printing blocks are arranged neatly, and the books are classified by edition.
The Derge Printing House is not only a printing house, but also a museum and a library. The existing scripture printing blocks include Tibetan-language Buddhist classics, medicine, philosophy, and astronomical calendars. It has the most collections among printing houses in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China.
There are 320,000 printing blocks of Tibetan classics and a large number of prints reserved in the vast warehouses of the printing house. Thanks to complicated and meticulous antiseptic and insect control treatments, the prints have been well-preserved for three hundred years.
In order to preserve and pass down the printing blocks, the Derge Printing House seals them for a protection period, and only a limited amount undergo protective printing. From 2018 to 2020, the Derge Printing House will implement final limited protective printing of exhausted editions, after which the old printing blocks will be sealed and preserved, and only new editions will be printed.
The place where printing staff work. Due to climate, the printing time is only in operation for half a year, from the fifteenth day of the third Tibetan calendar month to the twentieth day of the ninth Tibetan calendar month. As it is currently winter, there are no printing staff working at this time.