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Tibetology (Tibetan : བོད་རིག་པ།, Wylie : bod-rig-pa) refers to the study of things related to Tibet, including its history, religion, language, culture, politics and the collection of Tibetan articles of historical, cultural and religious significance. The last may mean a collection of Tibetan statues, shrines, Buddhist icons and holy scripts, Thangka embroideries, paintings and tapestries, jewellery, masks and other objects of fine Tibetan art and craftsmanship.

Tibetan alphabet abugida used to write the Tibetic languages and others

The Tibetan alphabet is an abugida used to write the Tibetic languages such as Tibetan, as well as Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Ladakhi, and sometimes Balti. The printed form of the alphabet is called uchen script while the hand-written cursive form used in everyday writing is called umê script.

Wylie transliteration

The Wylie transliteration system is a method for transliterating Tibetan script using only the letters available on a typical English language typewriter. It bears the name of Turrell V. Wylie, who described the scheme in an article, A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription, published in 1959. It has subsequently become a standard transliteration scheme in Tibetan studies, especially in the United States.

History of Tibet aspect of history

Tibetan history, as it has been recorded, is particularly focused on the history of Buddhism in Tibet. This is partly due to the pivotal role this religion has played in the development of Tibetan and Mongol cultures and partly because almost all native historians of the country were Buddhist monks.



Tsaparang human settlement in China

Tsaparang was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Guge in the Garuda Valley, through which the upper Sutlej River flows, in Ngari Prefecture near the border of Ladakh. It is 278 km south-southwest of Senggezangbo Town and 26 km west of the 11th-century monastery at Thöling, and not far west of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. The Tsaparang Dzong was located here. Nearby is the Bon monastery of Gurugem.

Guge former country

Guge was an ancient kingdom in Western Tibet. The kingdom was centered in present-day Zanda County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region. At various points in history after the 10th century AD, the kingdom held sway over a vast area including south-eastern Zanskar, Upper Kinnaur district, and Spiti Valley, either by conquest or as tributaries. The ruins of the former capital of the Guge kingdom are located at Tsaparang in the Sutlej valley, not far from Mount Kailash and 1,200 miles (1,900 km) westwards from Lhasa.

Ladakh Administrative Division in Jammu and Kashmir, India

Ladakh is a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture.

The publications of the British diplomat Charles Alfred Bell contributed towards the establishment of tibetology as an academic discipline. As outstanding tibetologists of the 20th century the British Frederick William Thomas, David Snellgrove, Michael Aris, and Richard Keith Sprigg, the Italians Giuseppe Tucci and Luciano Petech, the Frenchmen Jacques Bacot and Rolf Alfred Stein, finally the Germans Dieter Schuh and Klaus Sagaster, may be mentioned.

Charles Alfred Bell British civil servant and Tibetologist

Sir Charles Alfred Bell, KCIE CMG was the British Political Officer for Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet. He was known as "British India's ambassador to Tibet" before retiring and becoming a noted tibetologist.

Frederick William Thomas, usually cited as F. W. Thomas, was an English Indologist and Tibetologist.

David Snellgrove British Tibetologist

David Llewellyn Snellgrove was a British Tibetologist noted for his pioneering work on Buddhism in Tibet as well as his many travelogues.

A Thanka painting inside the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, in Gangtok Thanka.jpg
A Thanka painting inside the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, in Gangtok

Since a few decades, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries, the study of Tibet and Tibetology open itself towards other disciplines, resulting in works with interdisciplinary approach. This has become most obvious in the regular conferences of the IATS (International Association of Tibetan Studies), held at intervals of three years in different cities all over the world. As examples of such open-minded Tibet researcher we might mention the American anthropologist Melvyn Goldstein, among others, who has done noted research and publications on lexical questions, about Tibetan nomads and the modern history of Tibet. Others are Robert Barnett, Matthew Kapstein, Elliot Sperling, Alex McKay, Geoffrey Samuel, and many more.

Melvyn C. Goldstein is an American social anthropologist and Tibet scholar. His research focuses on Tibetan society, history and contemporary politics, population studies, polyandry, studies in cultural and development ecology, economic change and cross-cultural gerontology.

Robert Barnett is the former Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program, Adjunct Professor of Contemporary Tibetan Studies, and Senior Research Scholar in Modern Tibetan history at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. He retired from Columbia in December 2017. He is also referred to as Robbie Barnett by the media.

Matthew Kapstein is a scholar of Tibetan religions and Buddhism at the University of Chicago Divinity School. One of his study areas has concentrated on Tibetan culture and the influence of China's invasion. He is of Jewish descent.

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David Germano American academic

David Francis Germano is an American Tibetologist and Professor of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia (UVa), the largest Tibetan Studies program in the Americas, where he has taught and researched since 1992. With dual appointments in the School of Nursing and the Department of Religious Studies, Germano currently oversees the work of over twenty graduate students. He is on the board of the International Association of Tibetan Studies and is Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies (JIATS), a leading journal of Tibetology. In 2000, he founded the Tibetan and Himalayan Library, a digital initiative for collaborative building of knowledge on the region, which he continues to lead as Director. Since 2008 he has also been the co-director of the UVa Tibet Center. More recently, Germano acted as the founding director of SHANTI at the UVa. Since 2011, Germano has also played a leading role in organizing the University of Virginia's Contemplative Sciences Center, which he currently directs.

Giuseppe Tucci Italian orientalist

Giuseppe Tucci was an Italian Orientalist, Indologist and scholar of East Asian studies, specialised in Tibetan culture and history of Buddhism. During its zenith, Tucci was a supporter of Italian Fascism, and he used idealized portrayals of Asian traditions to support Italian ideological campaigns. Tucci was fluent in several European languages, Sanskrit, Bengali, Pali, Prakrit, Chinese and Tibetan and he taught at the University of Rome La Sapienza until his death. He is considered one of the founders of the field of Buddhist Studies.

Elliot Sperling American historian

Elliot Sperling was one of the world's leading historians of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations, and a MacArthur Fellow. He spent most of his scholarly career as an associate professor at Indiana University's Department of Central Eurasian Studies, with seven years as the department's chair.


  1. At the school of Oriental Studies in Paris. See:Le Calloc'h, Bernard. "Philippe-Edouard Foucaux: First Tibetan teacher in Europe." Tibet Journal 12.1 (1987): 39-49.
  2. Richardson, Hugh. "INTRODUCTION to The Tibet Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, Shakabpa Memorial Issue: Part I (Winter 1990)". Library of Tibetan Works and Archives: 3–4. JSTOR   43300372. It is an honour to introduce this volume of articles by eminent scholars of Tibetan in memory of my friend of many years, Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa, and to make my own contribution. Tsepon Shakabpa is well known to readers of English for his Tibet: A Political History - the first venture of that kind by a Tibetan - and to those with a knowledge of Tibetan for his extended version of that book, and for his Guide to the Central Temple of Lhasa. Those works show the wide range of sources, especially Tibetan historical records, with which he was familiar; and in the Introduction to his Tibet he tells of his deep study of the documents relating to the Simla Convention of 1914 which were entrusted to him by his uncle, former Kalon Lama. Further, as rtsis-dpon, a post he held from 1943, he was at the heart of every political development and had access to all Tibetan Government archives, of which he retained an acute recollection. (...) He will be remembered as a fine scholar...
  3. "One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet". Brill.com. Brill. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2018. Reviews 'No book review can do justice to this overwhelming and almost intimidating sum of detailed scholarship and careful translation and editing. This book, not only for its historical contents and the point of view of its author, but also for its academic “tour de force”, is a great contribution to the history of Tibet and will benefit Tibetans and Westerners alike.' Françoise Pommaret, The Journal of Asian Studies, 70/1 (2011)
  4. Pommaret, Françoise. "Reviewed Work(s): One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet. Vol. 1; Vol.2 by Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa and Derek F. Maher Review by: Françoise Pommaret". The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 70, No. 1 (FEBRUARY 2011): Association for Asian Studies: 230–233. JSTOR   41302243. How to review what can be considered a historical monument of Tibet? One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet written by Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa (Rtsis dpon Dbang phyug bde ldan zhwa sgab pa, 1908-89) and translated and annotated by Derek F. Maher, is a monument in all senses of the term. First by its length: running 1,184 pages in two volumes, it covers the history of Tibet from the origin of the Tibetans until 1959. Second, it is the first full-scale history of Tibet written by a Tibetan who had access to sources unknown to Westerners or available only now. While abridged English version was published in 1967, Shakabpa finished writing this larger Tibetan version, Bod kyi srid don rgyal rabs , in 1976. The more detailed work has acquired almost mythic status, and it is finally available to the wider public with Maher's English translation.


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