Rewriting the Medieval History of Tibet

News item posted on: November 7th, 2011
“Rewriting the Medieval History of Tibet: A Field Survey of the Great Tombs and Relics of the Tibetan Empire in the Western Kokonor Region”

A lecture by Yongdrol K. TsongkhaProfessor Tsongkha
Professor of Ethnic and Tibetan Studies, Lanzhou University (Amdo)
Research Associate at Indiana University

When: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Where: Gibson 241 at 6pm

Presented by the UVa Tibet Center and the Buddhist Studies Group at UVa

Don’t miss this chance to hear one of Tibet’s foremost historians speak about the biggest archaeological discovery in Tibet since Dunhuang

Since the 1983 discovery of plundered imperial tombs in Dulan in the western Kokonor region of the Tibetan Plateau, thousands of tombs dated to the period of the Tibetan Empire (7th-9th centuries) have been discovered in the area. A great number of tomb relics such as gold, silver and silk artifacts and Tibetan inscriptions on stone tablets and wood slats are now circulating in public museums and private collections in Europe, North America, Japan and China as well as in antique markets in Hong Kong, Beijing, Lanzhou and elsewhere. Based on extensive field studies, Professor Tsongkha’s lecture will give a survey of the tombs, relics from the tombs, and recent academic studies, all detailing the significance of these discoveries for understanding the medieval civilization of Tibet.


A leading historian of Tibet, Yongdrol K. Tsongkha is Professor of Ethnic and Tibetan Studies in the School of History and Culture and School of Ethnology, founding director of the Institute for Tibeto-Burman & Altaic Studies at Lanzhou University, Gansu Province, and a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University. He has published extensively, in Chinese, Tibetan and English, on a wide range of topics, including Tibetan folklore, archaeology and early history of Tibet, local history of Amdo, linguistics, history of Tibetan, Indic and Chinese medicines, ecological and environmental issues. He is also a cultural entrepreneur and advocate for the revival of the lost traditions of Tibet. He has initiated more than seven festivals featuring traditional Tibetan dances, sports and games in his hometown in Kumbum and other areas of Amdo. His 2003 film, Life Among the People of Choni, has been broadcast by Gansu TV, Canadian Shaw Multicultural, Maysles Institute Cinema, and at the Sichuan TV International Festival where it won the Golden Panda Award in 2009. He has lectured at the University of Virginia, Columbia University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Simon Fraser University, Georgia Washington University and Waseda University as well as at universities across the PRC.

Professor Tsongkha holds a Ph.D. in Medical History (1995) and a Master’s degree (1988) in the local history of Amdo. He has taught and studied at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and Department of Anthropology as an assistant professor (adjunct 1999-2003) at Indiana University and was a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for the History of Natural Science of Chinese Academy of Sciences 1995-2000 and Junior Research Fellow in the Department of History at Tso-ngon (Qinghai) Normal University from 1988-1991.

Field Team

Field Team in Western Tso-ngon-po (Kokornor )

Buddhist Text Talk

News item posted on: October 21st, 2011
Buddhist Text Talk with Dr. Dragomir Dimitrov

Please join one of the foremost scholars in the field of Buddhist textual studies discuss the intricacies, trials, and joys of working with various Buddhist manuscripts, Dr. Dragomir Dimitrov of the University of Marburg.

When Friday, October 21, 2011 3 PM – 5 PM,
Where: Nau 241
Snacks, Refreshments, and Discussion included.

Dr. Dragomir Dimitrov is the leading authority in the world on the history of the Mirror of Poetry (Kavyadarsa, Snyan ngag me long), the most important Indian work on poetry in Tibet. See his resume here:

In preparation for the discussion, you may take a look at the essay by Dr. Dimitrov located here.

Note: Dr. Sam van Schaik was scheduled to speak after Dr. Dimitrov. Unfortnately Dr. van Schaik’s plane experienced technical difficulties, and he was not able to make it here from London. We will reschedule Dr. van Schaik’s visit for the Spring.

The Jesuit Enterprise in Tibet

News item posted on: September 29th, 2011
Mission Improbable: The Jesuit Enterprise in Tibet, 1624-1721
Michael Sweet, Lennie Zwilling, and Trent Pomplum

Three of the world’s leading experts on Jesuits in Tibet will talk about the Tibet mission, their past and current work, and then host a roundtable discussion with the audience.

UVa Directions/Map to: Nau Hall – New South Lawn Building, Room 342

Brenton Sullivan – A Study of Tibetan Customaries

News item posted on: September 19th, 2011
Tibetan Customaries (bca’ yig) in the Growth of the Gelukpa in Amdo,
by Brenton Sullivan, Ph.D. Candidate UVa

Gönlung Jampa Ling Monastery

The UVa Buddhist Studies Forum is pleased to announce their first speaker of the year!

Refreshments provided

Brenton will present his study of the chayik (T. bca’ yig)—customary or monastic constitutions—of one of the most influential monasteries in Amdo (i.e. in Western China and Northeastern Tibet) from the late Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911) as well as those chayik of its numerous branch monasteries.

While chayik serve to prescribe the behavior of a monstery’s monks and officers and to prescribe a particular liturgical calendar for a monastery, for the historian they also help reveal how sectarian and institutional networks came into being and legitimized their hegemony. The monastery in question, Gönlung Jampa Ling (dgon lung byams pa gling), was one of the earliest and most influential Geluk monasteries in the region. Also, it is said to have had nearly fifty “branch” or “child” monasteries and temples at its height. Thus a study of the chayikof Gönlung and its affiliates can help us begin to understand the explosion of Geluk activity in Amdo in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and it can also help us understand how a single “mother” monastery such as Gönlung might spread its influence in a region.

The Buddhist Studies Forum, founded in 2010, seeks to facilitate collaboration and exchange among UVA faculty and students in the field of Buddhist Studies.

UVa Directions/Map to: Nau Hall – New South Lawn Building, Room 342

Public Talk with Arthur Holcombe: Founder The Poverty Alleviation Fund

News item posted on: March 30th, 2011
Public Talk with Arthur Holcombe, Founder The Poverty Alleviation Fund

The Tibet Center at UVa invites you attend a public talk entitled “China’s Approaches to Poverty Reduction–Role of The Poverty Fund in Tibetan Townships” by Arthur Holcombe the founder of the Tibet Poverty Alleviation Fund (Now The Poverty Alleviation Fund).

Monday, April 4, 2011
3:00 – 4:00pm, NAU Hall, Room 342

Arthur Holcombe was Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme and Resident Coordinator of UN Operational Activities in China during 1992-1998, and during this period was also accredited to the People’s Republic of China as the UN Resident Coordinator and representative of the UN Secretary General. During 1992-1998, Mr. Holcombe initiated many programs and workshops to promote poverty reduction, employment, environmental protection, improved basic health and education and increased HIV/AIDS awareness.

Prior to 1992, Arthur Holcombe served in many postings with UNDP, including as Deputy and Acting Resident Representative in Afghanistan (1975-79); as Deputy Resident Representative in Pakistan (1979); as Resident Representative of UNDP in the South Pacific based in Fiji (1980-1984); and as Resident Representative in the Sudan (1984-1985). During 1989-91 he was Deputy Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific of UNDP at its headquarters in New York.

In 1998 Arthur Holcombe established the Tibet Poverty Alleviation Fund to promote Tibetan livelihoods and well being in rural areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Main project activities included employable skills training, township and village enterprise development, rural micro credit, milk production and dairy development in rural Nomad areas and Tibetan artisan products development and sales.

Since 2000, Dr. Holcombe has also given lectures on various development and aid strategy topics at the Brandeis University Heller School of Social Policy and at Beijing Normal University.

Arthur Holcombe has an A.B. from Harvard College (Government), an M.P.I.A. from the University of Pittsburgh (Economic and Social Development) and a Ph. D. from New York University (Economics).

– UVA Campus: Nau Hall 342 at 3-4pm on Monday, April 4, 2011

Public Talk with Visiting Fellows: Tashi Phuntsok & Drolma Kyab

News item posted on: March 21st, 2011
Public Talk with Visiting Fellows: Tashi Phuntsok & Drolma Kyab

The Tibet Center at UVa and the Curry School of Education co-sponsored Education to Employment Program (E2E) invites you to the next set of lectures in the brown bag lunch seminar series.  Visiting fellows Tashi Phunstok and Drolma Kyab will share about their current work and their future aspirations, as well as take questions from the audience.   Bring your lunch, and enjoy the next talks in this important series.

Tashi Phuntsok
Founder, Travel Wild Tibet

Monday, March 21
12:00 – 12:45pm, Ruffner Hall (Curry School), Room G004B

Tashi Phuntsok is the founder of TRAVEL WILD TIBET travel company that mostly specializes all kind of tours throughout Amdo and Kham regions of Tibet. He is also an intellectual with a passion for Tibetan life and culture, he is well versed in  the history of the Tibetan plateau, Tibetan musical traditions, and the ancient and modern culture of all Tibetan regions.  In addition, he is an experienced photographer and videographer, and has documented the daily life of Tibetans as well as remote landscapes on video and film.  He has worked as a travel agent, tour guide, and agency manager since 1999.  He has organized and guided the trips of researchers, filmmakers, photographers, explorers and backpackers throughout the Tibetan world.

Drolma Kyab
Tibet Namchen Travel Agency

Monday, March 21
1:00-1:45pm, Ruffner Hall (Curry School), Room G004B

Drolma Kyab exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit. After starting his career as a rickshaw driver in Lhasa, Drolma Kyab worked his way up in travel companies for eight years before striking out on his own and establishing the Tibet Namchen Travel Agency and Hotel Services Company.  Tibet Namchen has been operating for the last six years and employs over twenty people. Drolma Kyab is committed to the advancement and enrichment of his staff and other Tibetans interested in tourism–the largest industry in Tibetan areas of China. This commitment to creating training opportunities for local Tibetans to improve their competitiveness in the tourism industry in central Tibet made Drolma Kyab an excellent choice for the TEEI fellowship program. Through the TEEI fellowship Drolma Kyab would like to connect with institutions and organizations that can help him to create a curriculum centered on practical skills development for Tibetans interested in entering the tourism industry or for those already in the field who seek to advance their careers.

Talk by Fiona McConnell

News item posted on: March 20th, 2011
Challenging the Territorial Trap: The Sovereign Articulations of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, A Seminar with Dr. Fiona McConnell

Dr. McConnell’s interests lie in the everyday construction of statehood and sovereignty in cases of tenuous territoriality, and intersect with scholarship in political geography, development studies, critical international relations and political anthropology. Located within and between theories of sovereignty, statehood and territory, and issues of transnationalism, diaspora and refugeehood, the focus of her doctoral research was on exile politics and the Tibetan community in India. Her current work extends this research and focuses on issues of the diplomatic practices of unrecognised states, geographies of peace and sovereign futures.

Fiona McConnell is currently an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at  Newcastle University.

Nau Hall, Room 342, 5:00-6:30pm

Sponsored by the Center for South Asian Studies

The UVa Digital Humanities Series: Participatory Filmmaking

News item posted on: March 16th, 2011
The UVa Digital Humanities Series,
Participatory Filmmaking: A Two-Part Event: Presentation & Screening

The UVa Digital Humanities Spring 2011 Speaker Series
Presents A Two-Part Event:

Presentation: 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Screening: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

SHANTI, the Scholars’ Lab, and IATH are pleased to announce that they will be co-sponsoring a two-part event on Thursday, March 17, 2011, featuring three prominent filmmakers working in China and Africa, amongst other places, Nelson Walker (Kham Film Project), Lynn True (a New York-based filmmaker and editor), Tsering Perlo (founder of Rabsal), who will offer a presentation on the power of participatory filmmaking and a screening of their current, highly-acclaimed film project, Summer Pasture.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

“Participatory Filmmaking as a Means of Social Transformation”
3:30pm, Minor Hall Auditorium

A reception will follow immediately afterward.

Summer Pasture
7:00pm, Clark Hall 108 (Auditorium)

Summer Pasture is a moving documentary that follows a nomadic Tibetan family over the course of a summer who are faced with a changing world that is threatening their culture and very way of life. It offers a unique perspective into the lives and traditions of the nomadic Tibetan people and their struggle for survival.

To read more about Nelson Walker, Lynn True, Tsering Perlo and their projects, click here. For more information about Summer Pasture and the Kham Film Project, click here.

These events are co-sponsored by:


Politics of Tibet Policy

News item posted on: March 16th, 2011
Politics of Tibet Policy

Institutional Politics and the Politics of Policy

An interdisciplinary exploration of the question of Tibet in the context of institutional politics and the politics of policy change in the PRC

  • Pitman Potter, Professor of Law and Hong Kong Bank Chair in Asian Research, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia
  • Tsering Shakya, Canadian Research Chair in Religion and Contemporary Society in Asia, University of British Columbia
  • Dibyesh Anand, Associate Professor, Department of Politics, University of Westminster, London
  • Tseten Wangchuk, Discussant, Senior Fellow, UVa Tibet Center

Friday, March 18, 2011 Nau Hall Auditorium 3 – 5pm

Cosponsored by the East Asia Center, and the Center for South Asian Studies.

For more information, contact

Public Talk With Visiting Fellows: Lhamo Deva and Tashi Tsering

News item posted on: March 1st, 2011
Public Talk With Visiting Fellows: Lhamo Deva and Tashi Tsering

E2E Invites you to attend: Tuesday, March 1 – Nau Hall 342

The Tibet Center at UVa and the Curry School of Education co-sponsored Education to Employment Initiative invites you to hear two speakers as part of our brown bag lunch seminar series.  Visiting fellows Lhamo Deva and Tashi Tsering will share about their current work and their future aspirations, as well as take questions from the audience.  Bring your lunch, and enjoy hearing from two participants in this important program.

Lhamo Deva: 11:30am – 12:15pm
Operations Manager, Winrock International

Tashi Tsering: 12:30pm – 1:15pm
Eastern Tibet Training Institute

Lhamo Deva has been the central Tibetan in Winrock International as its operations manager.

Winrock International is one of two primary recipients of USAID funding for work with Tibetan communities, and at present is of the main international NGOs working with Tibetans in China on a full spectrum of activities. Its three main areas are livelihoods, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. As the operations manager in the home office in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Lhamodeva plays a key role in all aspects of the work across all three areas and has a broad understanding of the work of Winrock and its diverse partners.

In her talk, Lhamo will introduce one of Winrock’s current projects in Kham and Amdo under the TSERING project.

Tashi Tsering
Eastern Tibet Training Institute

Tuesday, March 1
12:30-1:15pm, Nau Hall 342

Tashi Tsering is a new member of Eastern Tibet Training Institute ( ETTI was founded in 2004 as a not-for-profit community school working to improve the livelihoods of remote communities in China’s southwest through training-based poverty alleviation programs. ETTI’s flagship program is the Youth Pre-Employment Training Program. This program is designed to help unemployed rural youth find their first job. Participants receive training in languages, computer literacy, basic accounting, customer service and life skills. It also includes an on-the-job training component delivered in partnership with local enterprise. ETTI is located in Shangri-la, formerly Zhongdian, in Yunnan province. To date, more than 200 young people have graduated from the Youth Pre-Employment Training Program, with more than 90 per cent securing jobs before or soon after graduating. Graduates have found jobs in a variety of local enterprises. Some graduates have gone on to develop small businesses and tourism-related projects in their home villages.
Another part of Tsering’s work is a tourism company that he started with two other Tibetans in Beijing, China.  High-end tourism is a growing area of China’s economy, but there was a lack of tour guides able to meet the growing demand. Tsering came up with the idea to train some Tibetans as high-end tour guides on the platform of ETTI.