Guide to Classification

The following is a guide as to the classification system used for traditional written and printed books (dpe deb) kept in the National Library of Bhutan.

All books are marked both with an inventory and depository number. Books and prints are classified according to the following alphabetically arranged typological (i.e. genre) classification code (KA through NA) listed below in tandem with an additional letter code which indicates the book's sectarian provenance (bka', dge, rnying, sa, jo and bon), whenever feasible or required.

In other words, each book marked with a given type code is in addition assigned with a code informing about the book's sectarian origin or affiliation, if identifiable.

Canonical writings are coded separately and kept in a separate section. Books or collections coded with a sectarian letter-code are allocated to their respective sections found within the main library building. Non-canonical texts or a collection/series of texts (belonging together), which are not directly and immediately to be identified as the writing(s) of a scholar or monk adhering to a distinct school (chos lugs), are assigned with a depository or signature code and number that places the work in the section solely arranged according to the overall genre classification (i.e. KA through NA) of the library's collection.

Main Sections

The library accommodates three main depository sections (rtsa ba'i sde tshan) for traditional books each with distinct holdings:

  1. Canonical Writings
  2. Books and writings arranged according to sectarian provenance
  3. Non-sectarian or genre-classified books, writings and prints


1st. Section: Canonical Writings

This section includes, exclusively, all available editions of the Buddhist Canon (bka' 'gyur and bstan 'gyur) treasured in the NLB as well as individual copies of any canonical work, such as sutra-s and shastra-s etc. A print or fascicle of a sutra (mdo), vinaya ('dul ba) or tantra (rgyud) text, for instance, is consequently marked or coded: 1-KA-nnnn: The number 1 indicates section 1, KA indicates its genre or type class (as given below) and the digits nnnn indicate the relative depository number code given to the work in question.

Canonical works are primarily located on the uppermost floor of the library, though some editions of the Buddhist scriptures are located on shelves which flank the shrines on each of the top three floors.

2nd. Section: Texts arranged according to sect or tradition

The second section, covering by far the largest section in the library, consists of all the traditional Dzongkha (rdzong kha) and Chokey (chos skad) written books and scriptures, which are catalogued and stored primarily according to the sect or school of a work's author and secondarily according to the genre type of the work. A biography (rnam thar), for instance, of any of the great Kagyu masters, written by one of his pupils, should thus be coded: 2-KA-DA-nnnnnn. The number 2 for section 2, KA for the Kagyupa school and DA for the typological category of the book (here rnam thar), and finally a six digit depository number ('nnnnnn').

Sect Codes:

  • (KA) bKa': bKa' brgyud pa (all sub-schools and lineages)
  • (G) dGe: dGe lugs pa incl. bKa' gdams pa
  • (SA) Sa: Sa skya

  • (N) rNying: rNying ma pa (and rDzogs chen)
  • (J) Jo: Jo nang pa
  • (B) Bon: Bon


Phyisically, most works by authors belonging to the Kagyu tradition are located on the top (3rd) floor of the library, and some works of the Nyingma tradition are located here also.

For reasons of simplification, the collected writings or a collection, a text-cycle (chos skor) or a set of books, for instance the Precious Treasury of Revealed Teachings (Rin chen gter mdzod), the sGrub thabs kun 'dus, or the gDams ngag mdzod etc. which may or may not contain works and texts that individually should require or claim a separate depository code and hence location, such a collection, since it is considered an inseparable and coherent grouping of books, shall be located under the code or class that is indicated by its main title, in this case invariably under TA, TA being the typological class code for collections.

3rdSection: Non-Sectarian or Genre-classified Books, Writings and Prints

This section comprises of books or prints, that are usually not registered sectwise but mainly according to type, in other words classified and deposited purely according to the type or genre characterizing its contents. A salient sample may be 'Gos Lotsava gZhon nu dpal's Deb ther sngon po, which is assigned to section 3 and hence marked or coded 3-NA-xxxxxx. The number 3 indicating the third section, NA indicating the genre or type class (in this case a prominent specimen of the deb ther genre) as given below and xxxxxx again indicating its relative depository number code to be given to the particular book in question.


Class Code:


KA: bka' 'gyur dang bstan 'gyur

1. mdo sde (sutra)
2. 'dul ba (vinaya)
3. chos mngon (abhidharma)
4. rgyud 'bum (ancient tantras)
5. gzungs 'dus (
6. bstod tshogs
7. rgyud (tantra)
8. sher phyin
9. dbu ma (madhamaka)
10. sems tsam
11. 'dul 'grel
12. tshad ma
13. sgra mdo
14. sna tshogs


KHA: mdo 'grel mtshan nyid kyi skor:

Any 'grel ba, rnam 'grel, rnam bshad, dka' 'grel, rgya cher bshad pa, mchan 'grel, mchan du bkod pa, rnam bzhag, brjed byang, zin bris su bkod pa etc. on

1. ['dul ba] mdo sde
2. dbu ma
3. sems tsam
4. tshad ma
5. phar phyin (bstan bcos)
6. grub mtha'

KHA: Paramitayana: Hermeneutics, Exegeses, Analyses, Explication, Annotation, Commentatorial Treatises or Summaries, Expose on Doctrine, Canonical Texts/Topics and Philosophy (mtshan nyid) as well as Thematically Related Indigenous Doxography (grub mtha').

GA: sgrub thabs, gsang sngags dang rgyud 'grel kyi skor:

1. sgrub thabs, bsnyen sgrub, thugs sgrub, tshe sgrub, ril sgrub, sgrub skor, nor sgrub, mngon rtogs, bzlas brjod, bskyed rim, rdzogs rim
2. bla sgrub (bla [ma'i] sgrub [thabs]), gsang sgrub, bdag bskyed, bskyed rdzogs, bum bskyed, dmigs rim, sgom rim
3. bla ma'i rnal 'byor
4. gzungs, sngags
5. rgyud dang rgyud 'grel ['grel bshad, dka' 'grel, rnam bzhag la sogs pa]
6. bka' 'gyur dang bstan 'gyur nang ma tshud pa'i rdzogs chen dang rnying ma chos tshan ga ci ra in rung sde tshan 'di gi nang tshud pa in / dpe 'bad pa cin / ring brgyud bka' ma: gsangs sngags nang rgyud sde gsum, nye brgyud gter ma, zab mo dag snang, phyag rgya chen po la sogs pa gzum in /

GA: Mantrayana: Invocational-Meditational and Propitiatory Texts and Books including guruyoga, as well as Indigenous Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries, and Expositions on Tantric Texts and Treatises. Lastly All (Single-volume) Non-Canonical Tantric Scriptures (bka' ma, gter ma) especially of the rNying ma and rDzogs chen school.

[NB! For separately transmitted or entire text cycles (e.g. Klong chen snying thig, rNying ma rgyud 'bum, etc.) as well as Collections of sadhana, dharani and tantra etc. see also under class code TA].

NGA: lam rim blo sbyong nyams len dang gsung mgur sogs kyi skor

1. lam rim, thar lam
2. lam 'bras, slob bshad
3. blo sbyong
4. gsung bgros dang gsung thor bu, bka' thor bu, ngag thor bu, bka' rgya, gsung mchan, mdzod
5. nyams len, phyag len
6. gsung mgur, rdo rje'i glu [mgur], chos glu, nyams mgur, thol glu

NGA: Doctrinal Treatises and Compositions: Stages-on-the-Path and Mind-Training Texts, Miscellanea including Texts of Religious Experience, Songs of Spiritual Realization.

CA: smon lam dang gsol 'debs sogs kyi skor:

1. smon lam, gsol 'debs, 'dod gsol [gi smon tshig], mnga' gsol, smon 'debs, byin 'debs, shis brjod, mchod brjod, gros 'debs, spyan 'dren
2. bla 'debs [= bla ma'i brgyud pa gsol 'debs], zhabs brtan, brtan zhugs
3. 'phrin bcol
4. bsnyen yig, bsnyen pa
5. sdig bshags dang ltung bshags, tshogs bshags, skong bshags dang bskang gsol, bshags sdom dang bshags brjod, gso sbyong, bskang gso
6. bstod pa, bstod tshogs, dbang bstod, mchod bstod
7. bsngo yig, bsngo ba
8. bka' bsgo, rjes gnan

CA: Prayer Texts: Aspiration (pranidhana), Devotional, Supplication, Petition For Blessings, Vows, Absolution and Confessional Texts etc. as well as Eulogies.

CHA: zhal gdams man ngag dang khrid yig gi skor

1. zhal gdams, gdams ngag, gdams pa, gdams chos, man ngag
2. khrid yig, dmar khrid, lam khrid. dmigs khrid, tshe khrid, don khrid
3. bslab bya
4. sngon 'gro, ngo sprod, klog thabs
5. yig cha
6. zhu[s] lan, yig lan, dris lan, thob yig, gsan yig
7. zin bris, mtshan tho, tho yig, par tho, brjed byang, sa bcad
8. rtsod gleng, rtsod zlog
9. dgag pa, dgag lan

CHA: All Types of Esoteric Instructions, Precepts, Guidance Texts, Propaedeutics, Monastic College Manuals and Obligatory Syllabuses as well as Question-Replies Manuals and Texts, Catechisms, Writings on Teachings Received, Synopses, Memoranda and Notes, Polemics, Apologetics, Critique, Dialectics etc.

JA: mdo sngags chos spyod sogs kyi cho ga'i skor

1. sbyin sreg gi cho ga, dkyil 'khor kyi cho ga, sbyang ba'i cho ga, sa bcud bum sgrub kyi cho ga, sdom pa 'bogs pa'i cho ga, rjes 'dzin cho ga, lhan thabs
2. phyag mchod [= phyag 'tshal dang mchod pa], mchod 'bul, gsol mchod, tshogs mchod, sgrub mchod, mchod bstod, bsangs mchod, mchod 'phreng
3. bla mchod [= bla ma mchod pa'i cho ga]
4. bzlog bsgyur, gtor bzlog, gtor bshad, gtor 'bul, bdud bzlog, gto bsgyur, brul gtor, gtor ma, klu gtor, gto bcos, gtor cho ga, gtang rag, gzor gyi cho ga, tshe 'gugs
5. mdos cho ga, bsgyur mdos, mdos bzlog, glud, srog glud, 'gegs sel, bcos thabs, lho sgo
6. gcod, dur gcod, tshar gcod, zhi byed, 'khrugs bskong
7. las byang, las tshogs, las rim, rab gnas
8. gser bskyems, khrag skyems, ja mchod, lto mchod
9. khrus gsol, byabs khrus
10. dbang cho ga, dbang bskur, bdag dbang, dbang bshad

JA: Liturgical, Ritual and Ceremonial Texts: Apotrophaic, Purificatory, Protective or Prophylactic (Charm, Ransom), Votive, Performatory and Propitiatory Opuscula, Oeuvre and Manuals.

NYA: rig gnas che chung sogs kyi skor

1. bzo rig pa, zlos gar, a lce lha mo, 'khrab gzhung, sku rten bzhengs tshul, thig rtsa skor, zhing dang dkyil 'khor gyi bkod pa, rten gyi skor tshad, ras ris 'bri tshul, bris yig, gtor bzo
2. sgra rig pa, sum cu dang rtags 'jug [gi 'grel ba], sgra brda'i bstan bcos, brda' gsar rnying gi skor, dag yig, tshig mdzod, mngon brjod, snyan ngag, dper brjod, sdeb sbyor, ming gi rnam grangs, yig bskur, dpe ris, legs bshad, lugs kyi bstan bcos
3. gso rig [= gso ba rig pa], sman gzhung, khog 'bugs/dbub, 'khrungs dpe
4. rtsis (nag dang dkar), rtsis gzhung, skar rtsis, mo rtsis, mo 'debs, [rmi lam bya sgra sogs kyi] rtags dpyad, sho mo 'debs, zor 'phen, phyva phrin
5. gtan tshigs rig pa

NYA: The Traditional Buddhist Sciences: Arts and Crafts, Iconography and Iconometry, Grammar, Dictionary, Glossaries, Lexica, Poetry (Belles Lettres), Prosody, Medicine, Herbal Science, Astrology, Divination, Geomancy.

TA: gsung 'bum dang chos skor sogs kyi skor

1. gsung 'bum, bka' 'bum, gsungs rab
2. chos skor, chos sde

TA: Collected Writings (opera omnia), Entire Text Cycles and Collections f. ex. Byams chos sde lnga etc., Sets and Series, but also Minor Writings.

THA: rnam thar 'khrung rabs dang gter chos sogs kyi skor

1. rnam thar [phyi nang gsang]
2. 'khrungs rabs, skyes rabs, gdan rabs, khri rabs, sku 'phreng, gdung rabs
3. rtogs brjod
4. [bka'i] thang yig, bka' thang
5. bka' ma, gter ma, gter chos, gter yig, gter lung, gter mdzod, gter byang, kha byang, bris byang, zhal byang

THA: Sacred Hagiographies, Biographies, Birth-Stories, Throne-Successions, Monastic and Clan Genealogies, Chronicles, School Lineages, Mythographical Writings, Pseudo-epigraphica.

[NB: For multi-volumed Collections of bka' ma or gter ma, gter mdzod see TA.]

DA: rgyal rabs chos 'byung dang gnas yig sogs kyi skor

1. chos 'byung, bstan 'byung
2. rgyal rabs, deb ther, yig tshang, lo rgyus
3. dkar chag, gnas yig, lam yig, gnas bshad, gnas bstod, byung khungs, skor tshad, lag khyer
4. bstan rtsis, re'u mig
5. khrims yig, bca' yig, chab shog, `phrin yig, yi ge, springs pa, springs yig
6. bka' chems, zhal chems
7. sgrung, gtam rgyud, gtam sgrung [incl. ge sar sgrung/rabs text cycle]
8. glu gzhas, glu deb, gtam dpe, dpe chos
9. be'u bum, 'bel gtam, mol ba
10. [ma 'ongs] lung bstan, lung byang

DA: Sacred and Secular Historiography: (Monastic or National) Chronicles, Genealogies, Records, Annals, Law Code Books, Documents, Dossiers etc. as well as Religious Chronology, Chronology Charts, Guides, Catalogues, Topographical Eulogies, Biographical Testaments, Registers, Tables of Contents, Topical Outline, Synopses, Tables, Narrative Literature, Stories, Tales, Fables, Myths, Songs (Secular, Non-Religious), Prophecies. NA:dpe deb sna tshogs kyi skor

NA: Miscellaneous Texts.