Lecture by Elliot Sperling – Tangut Legends and Legacies in Tibet

News item posted on: January 21st, 2010
Tangut Legends and Legacies in Tibet

By Elliot Sperling, former chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, director of the department’s Tibetan Studies Program

The Tanguts, a Tibeto-Burman people, were a major presence on the Sino-Tibetan frontier for centuries, ultimately establishing a strong dynastic state known as Xixia in Chinese. The state’s destruction by the Mongols led to a migration of many Tanguts back onto the Tibetan Plateau where, under their Tibetan appellation, Mi-nyag, they appear as components of lineages stretching from Khams and A-mdo in Eastern Tibet, to Sikkim, in modern India, and even into Western Tibet. Claims of descent from the Tangut imperial clan appear in several Tibetan clan
histories; indeed in the lineage of Sikkim’s traditional rulers as well. Although the Tangut state still looms as little more than a bit of arcane lore for most Tibetanists, the fact is its impact on the Tibetan and Himalayan world-and particularly on the way that world imagined itself-was greater than many have long assumed

Sponsored by the East Asia Center and the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia.