Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter


Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter
Vol. 2, #1
February, 2002


Published by The Center for Research on Tibet 
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA
Melvyn C. Goldstein, Director

Compiled and Edited by Melvyn C. Goldstein


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I. Addendum and Errata to the New Tibetan-English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan
II. New Publications
III. Conference News
IV. New Dissertations
V. Tibet Nomad Web Site

Editor's comment:

Sorry for the delay in getting out Volume 2. I would like to produce a steady flow of issues, but need your help. Please send me information on new publications, research, conferences, dissertations, websites, development projects and the like.


Professor Goldstein has begun posting additions and corrections to his new dictionary on the web site of Case Western Reserve University's Center for Research on Tibet at: http://www.cwru.edu/affil/tibet/. To go directly to the addendum use: http://www.cwru.edu/affil/tibet/addendum_new.pdf.

The plan is to update the additions and correction site every two months, so please SEND new words or corrections to Professor Melvyn Goldstein at mcg2@po.cwru.edu.


Smith, Andrew T. and J. Marc Foggin. 1999. The plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae) is a keystone species for biodiversity on the Tibetan plateau. Animal Conservation 2:235-240.


It is necessary to look at the big picture when managing biological resources on the Qinghai-Xizang (Tibetan) plateau. Plateau pikas (Ochotona curzoniae) are poisoned widely across the plateau. Putative reasons for these control measures are that pika populations may reach high densities and correspondingly reduce forage for domestic livestock (yak, sheep, horses), and because they may be responsible for habitat degradation. In contrast, we highlight the important role the plateau pika plays as a keystone species in the Tibetan plateau ecosystem. The plateau pika is a keystone species because it: 1) makes burrows that are the primary homes to a wide variety of small birds and lizards; 2) creates microhabitat disturbance that results in an increase in plant species richness; 3) serves as the principal prey for nearly all of the plateau's predator species; and 4) contributes positively to ecosystem-level dynamics. The plateau pika should be managed in concert with other uses of the land to ensure preservation of China's native biodiversity, as well as long-term sustainable use of the pastureland by domestic livestock.

Matthew T. Kapstein. "Reason's Traces: Identity and Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought." Wisdom Press, 2001.

Melvyn C. Goldstein. The New Tibetan-English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan." U. of California Press, 2001.


Dear Potential Delegate:

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and the Tibetan Academy of Agriculture and Animal Sciences will be organizing a strategy workshop in Lhasa, entitled "The Changing Face of Pastoralism in the Highlands of the Hindu-Kush Tibetan Plateau: Forging a Sustainable Path for the Future", to be held in Lhasa, TAR, China, May 12-19, 2002. The purpose of this meeting is to celebrate the pastoral cultures of the high mountains and plateaus, to highlight success stories of pastoral development and rangeland conservation from around the globe, and to devise working strategies for the future of pastoral people and rangelands of the region.

We invite you to attend this meeting as an opportunity to share with us your knowledge and experience in highland pastoral regions of Asia and abroad. Together we hope to identify critical issues and strategies that can help pastoral communities rise above the poverty that encumbers them, while simultaneously protecting the rich natural and cultural heritage upon which they depend.

The attached draft brochure gives details of sessions and activities during the workshop. We can also send you a full color brochure if your computer can handle large files. Please indicate your interest to attend by filling out the attached registration form and sending back to the organizers along with a photocopy of your passport (please make sure the photograph is clear and the text readable). We do have limited funds to support regional delegates and will be contacting those who are eligible, based on nominations by ICIMOD partner organizations.

Papers will be by invitation only but we welcome participation by all. If you will be presenting a paper, I will contact you individually regarding content and format.

We hope that you will be able to join us for this event in the beautiful pastoral landscape of Tibet.

Warm regards,

Camille Richard
Rangeland Management Specialist
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
G.P.O. Box 3226
Kathmandu, Nepal
phone: 977-1-525313 ext.362


1. Jane Ardley: "Resistance, religion and politics: the Tibetan Independence Movement in comparative perspective." Ph.D. thesis in Politics, Keele University, October 1999.

The thesis seeks to examine the role of resistance, religion and politics in the Tibetan independence movement, and compares and contrasts the course and tactics of the movement with those of India. The justification for this comparison is the admiration that the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, holds for Mahatma Gandhi. The ambition of the thesis is to rectify the problem that the Tibetan independence movement is not taken seriously from a political perspective. The thesis is particularly concerned with the relationship between Buddhism and Tibetan politics and resistance, and compares this with the relationship between Hinduism and Gandhian political thought, and the impact of religion upon the Indian nationalist movement. It also seeks to expand on the limited literature concerning violent resistance in Tibet.

The relationship between religion and politics in the Tibetan state prior to the Chinese invasion in 1950 is examined, as is the influence that religion continues to have on the Tibetan government in exile. Two case studies of Tibetan resistance are analysed: guerrilla resistance from the 1950s to 1970s, and a hunger strike by the Tibetan Youth Congress in 1998. The success of each case is evaluated, as are the implications that each case holds for the future of Tibet. There is also an examination of the movement toward democracy by the Tibetangovernment in exile.

The thesis then examines the Indian nationalist movement, focusing in particular on the development of Gandhian methods, the progress of the movement and the importance of religion. The lessons which India can offer Tibet are analysed, and conclusions regarding the role of religion in the Tibetan independence movement are drawn. The thesis concludes that democratisation and secularisation must be the principles, learnt from India, on which the future success of the Tibetan independence movement rests.

2. Fabienne Jagou, "The 6th Panchen Lama : traitor or visionary ?," PhD. thesis in History, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, May 1999.

On 22 December 1923, the 6th Panchen Lama, Blo-bzang Chos-kyi-Nyi-ma (1883 -1937), fled from his monastery. He and his companions in adversity rode hell for leather towards the Mongolian Republic, pursued by an army of one thousand men at the orders of the Tibetan government. After many adventures, the fugitives managed to safely reach the Chinese province of Gansu. Informed of their arrival, the President of the Chinese Republic, Cao Kun, ordered local authorities to escort them to Peking.

While in Tibet the Sixth Panchen Lama had been confronted with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's determination to create an independent Tibet, but in China he soon became involved in Republican government activities and international politics. He was to die prematurely at the age of 54, having spent fourteen years in exile with no chance of returning to the land of his birth.

This thesis is based on unpublished Tibetan and Chinese sources (official documents, media publications, hagiographies and written and oral testimonies) and constitutes a biography of the Sixth Panchen Lama.

Part One sets out the economic and structural causes of the Sixth Panchen Lama's flight into exile. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, wishing to cement his country's sovereignty, had decided to build an army; he ordered bKra-shis-lhun-po monastery to pay a quarter of the military budget and provide corvee labor. The Sixth Panchen Lama refused to comply, claiming he would be unable to collect enough tax revenue. The ensuing legal battle is examined, as well as the Sixth Panchen Lama's alleged inability to pay. The latter's institutional profile is compared to that of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.

Part Two focuses on the religious and political roles of the Sixth Panchen Lama. It illustrates his activity as an agent of Buddhist renewal in China, where he transmitted many teachings and created Buddhist associations and institutions, and highlights his ambition to establish patron-donor relationships with Chinese dignitaries. Initially, the prelate frequented warlords. Subsequently, he met Republican leaders and became partial to their policies. Most notably, he adopted Sun Yat-Sen's \x93Three Principles of the People\x94 (for which he offered a Buddhist interpretation) and served as an ambassador of China's cultural values in Inner Mongolia and on the marches of Tibet. In Inner Mongolia, he officiated several times as a negotiator, with Mongol princes seeking autonomy. In Tibet's borderlands, he set up local offices and published a magazine in Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan, dedicated to spreading the Chinese Republican government's message in Tibet. In return, he expected China to help him carry out his plans for the modernization of Tibet. The motivations of both parties are analyzed.

In Part Three, the Sixth Panchen Lama's failed attempt to return to Tibet is examined from the different perspectives of the various protagonists : the Sixth Panchen Lama and his entourage, the Lhasa government, the Chinese Republican authorities and the British government. It concludes with an analysis of the part played by the entourage of the Sixth Panchen Lama, including efforts to set up an independent state in Khams (Xikang) after his death on 1 December 1937, and a narrative of the incidents involved in conveying the prelate's remains back to Tibet.

The annexes contain a chronology, translations of official documents and speeches of the Sixth Panchen Lama, several background papers (on tax and corvee labor systems in Tibet in the early 20th century, on the 1931 border conflict between China and Tibet, a flow chart of the bKra-shis-lhun-po administration, etc.), glossaries of place-names and Tibetan titles, maps and photographs.

3. Zeisler, Bettina. "Relative tense and aspectual values in Tibetan languages. A comparative study." PhD thesis, Freie Universit\xE4t Berlin, Germany, 1999.

Ladakhi and Balti are the only Tibetan languages that have grammaticalized the concept of absolute tense, i.e. the reference to an event with respect to the point of "here and now" of the utterance. The temporal and aspectual system of Ladakhi (the dialects of Leh, Sham and Purik) and Balti is compared diachronically with Old Tibetan (documented since the mid-7th century) and Classical Tibetan, and synchronically with "Lhasa", Kham and Amdo Tibetan.

The temporal and possible aspectual functions of the grammaticalized verb forms are described according to their usage in discourse. The underlying general function of the Tibetan verbal system is shown to be that of relative tense, i.e. the ordering of events as anterior, simultaneous, or posterior in relation to a contextually given time point which may or may not coincide with the time of communication. A special focus lies on the pragmatic and metaphorical use of temporal reference in narrations, and a typology of the motivations for the use of the Narrative Present in Tibetan languages is offered.

The thesis is arranged in four parts. The first part is concerned with the definition and delimitation of tense, aspect, and related concepts. The second part deals with general features of Tibetan and the Tibetan verbal system, and, in subsequent sections, with the temporal subsystem of Old and Classical Tibetan, "Lhasa", Kham, and Amdo Tibetan. The third part is solely concerned with Ladakhi and Balti. The language data is derived from text editions, such as the Lower Ladakhi version of the Kesar saga, as well as from fieldwork in the years 1994 and 1996. Accordingly, the temporal system can be described in great detail and in consideration of pragmatic features of discourse and narration. The fourth part compares the ancient and modern varieties with respect to their formal inventory, the functional oppositions of temporal (and aspectual) coding, and the narrative conventions, and proposes a hypothetical reconstruction of some developments from the undocumented protolanguage to the stages of Old and Classical Tibetan as well as a sketch of the possible development of the modern vernaculars.

4. Helen Robert Boyd, "The Political Modernization of a People in Exile: The Tibetans in Northern India," Ph.d. thesis, St. John's University (N.Y.), 1999.

The overall purpose of this research has been to demonstrate the emergence of the modernizing force of democracy in an exiled community, whose historic political base has been rooted in a feudal theocracy. The early Tibetan government was embedded in the institution of the Dalai Lama that was established permanently in Tibet by the 16th century. In this timeframe a parallel government structure evolved characterized by both a monastic and a secular arm whose duties were shared by both the monastic hierarchy and the political aristocracy. In this model, the monastic influence was always the predominant power. Nevertheless, there were seeds of egalitarianism within the structure that could account for a democratic future. Much of this can be traced to their Buddhist philosophy which I maintain has many democratic nuances in its core belief system.

Since arriving in exile almost forty years ago, the leadership of the Dalai Lama and his Government-in-Exile has steered this fledgling democratic community toward the fulfillment of this high lama's dream of converting this theocracy to a democracy. The establishment of a three branched government with separate powers and the framework for a future democratic polity if and when Tibetans regain their land is a testament to the democratizing revolution going on presently.

Being surrounded by the largest democracy in the world, India has influenced their adoption of a democratic welfare state with a parliamentarian form. They have had the guidance of Indian constitutional scholars to assist them in the formulation of their constitution. Educationally, India has also helped pave the way in the education of future Tibetans as to the civic preparation for living in a future democratic state. Each Tibetan school whether it be part of the Central Tibetan School Administration, or the Department of Education must follow the Indian Curriculum.

The fulfillment of their dreams in becoming a self determining nation of course depends upon their future relationship with the Peoples Republic of China. The independent status of Tibet is dubious at best, unless the Chinese allow for some domestic autonomy within a federal system, which some Chinese dissidents offer as a solution to the friction between the Chinese position and that of the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama's Strasbourg Proposal initiated this concept back in 1987, whereby he proposed a future for Tibet within the confines of a united China. Under such a framework, Tibet would supervise its own domestic affairs while China would control its foreign affairs and defense. Thus the exiled Tibetan dream of transferring their democracy from exile back to Tibet depends upon what occurs within China's polity. The guidelines for Tibet's future government is only presently a paper model, whether it will ever emerge from the printed form to a real government on the "roof of the world" is yet to be determined.

5. Lisa Shawn Keary, "Terrain of Struggle: The Tibetan Nation and the Chinese State," Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1999.

This is a study in the politics of education in which state elites attempt to establish political integration by transmitting ideologies of nationhood and national identity via the school system. In some countries, the national identity transmitted by state elites may result in disintegrative rather than integrative effects. Educational theorists have argued that weak state structures, colonial legacies, and economic inequalities, are some of the factors that may inhibit education from achieving national integration. Few theorists, however, have suggested that pre- existing national identities may circumscribe the ability of education to serve as a viable integrating and consolidating agent.

This study argues that in order to understand why the Chinese government has been unsuccessful in integrating Tibet into China, one needs to move beyond the prevailing literature on the development of nations, and recognize that Tibetans had a sense of nationhood and national identity prior to the Chinese takeover in 1950.

The study focuses on the development of Tibetan nationhood by drawing on historical experiences, folk literature, and oral traditions, as well as religious practices and cultural symbols in creating a sense of Tibetan national consciousness. It then turns to the role of the Chinese government in trying to reshape Tibetan nationhood and identity in its efforts to incorporate Tibet into China, and examines the contestation of national identities.

In this sense, the study argues for a new perspective on the Tibet Question, one which posits different yet important contributions being made from both Tibetans and Chinese to the creation of Tibet as a nation. Toward this end, the study argues that the formation of the Tibetan nation is an ongoing process, neither ceasing nor originating with the Chinese takeover, but one which has continued in response to Chinese policies. This suggests that a realistic and accurate picture of contemporary Tibet must move away from the overdrawn and simplistic analysis that Tibetan culture and national identity is on the verge of disappearing, and move to a more richly textured consideration of the complex processes occurring in the country, specifically the role of education in the evolution of Tibetan national identity.

6. Charlene Elizabeth Makley, "Embodying the Sacred: Gender and Monastic Revitalization in China's Tibet," Ph.D. Thesis in Anthropology, The University of Michigan, 1999.

This thesis is an exploration of the gendered nature of religious revitalization in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery town of Labrang in southwest Gansu Province, China. Labrang monastery, which belongs to the dGe-Lugs sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was founded in 1709 and in its heyday housed over 3000 monks. It was considered a center of high learning and of religious and political authority in Amdo Tibetan regions. Chinese government efforts to liberate Tibetans from the "feudal oppression" of the monastery culminated during the radical period(1958-76) in the closing of the monastery and the persecution of monks, nuns and prominent lay people. Since the state relaxed controls on religion and the economy beginning in the early eighties, Tibetans began rapidly revitalizing the monastic community by participating in worship practices and donating goods and labor to its reconstruction. With a secular education system that offered few alternatives for young Tibetans disadvantaged in fierce competition for jobs in the more open economy, this process drew large numbers of young men and women to Labrang seeking ordination.

The thesis avoids reductionist portrayals of Tibetans as pious Buddhists opposed to the Chinese by developing a "performance" approach to gender and religion. It uses field and archival data collected among Tibetan monks, nuns and laity during two years of fieldwork. Drawing on linguistic anthropological methodologies that integrate analyses of micro and macro contexts, the author demonstrates that local Tibetans'appeals to the karmic inferiority of the female sex justified the intensifying burden placed on women to maintain traditional boundaries between household and monastic life while young men exercised a greater range of choices in pursuing social mobility in ways that weakened their ties to both. The analysis conceptualizes monkhood as the performance of a separate masculine gender status epitomizing the superiority of maleness. In the context of state efforts to control monasticism and increasing demographic pressures from Han and Hui settlers, Tibetans considered the gender ambiguity represented by unprecedented numbers of young nuns in town to be the most pressing threat to the integrity of the community. Yet, with the erosion of the ritual infrastructure of the monastery, the much larger numbers of young monks experimented with performing monkly identities in new ways that seriously blurred the lay-monastic divide.

6. Mona Schrempf, "Religious revival and ethnic identity among a Bon po community, the Shar-ba of A-mdo Shar-khog, in present-day China" (in German), Ph.D. thesis, Institute for Ethnology, Free University of Berlin, Germany, 2001

Revived traditions of both religious and popular "folk" village festivals represent one important paradigmatic arena of cultural production and ethnic identity negotiation in Tibetan populated areas of the People's Republic of China. Based on fieldwork undertaken in 1995 and 1996 and on local Chinese and Tibetan sources I discuss and analyse monastic ritual dance performances in A mdo Shar khog as local collective rituals in the framework of local ethnohistory and modern Chinese state institutions and ideology. Since local rituals are not just part of cultural traditions but are also well-known for their traditionalising effects as well as reiterating cultural identity, they are potentially resistant to state ideologies and also have the ability to ethnically re-territorialise the people with their land and re-connect them with their past and their mythologies. My thesis is concerned with religious revival and ethnic identity issues among a Tibetan community belonging to the Bon religion who live in A-mdo Shar-khog, Songpan County, in the Northwest Sichuan province of the PR China. Looking both at the history of this Tibetan society and its Bon-po monasteries before the Chinese occupation and then after Cultural Revolution - in particular at its efforts and processes of ethnic and religious revitalisation since the 1980s, I focus on the instrumental role of Tibetan ritual dance performances as contemporary socio-cultural events but also as main providers for the monastic economies through an analysis of ritual practice and agency. Thereby all participants \xAD monks, sponsors and the lay audience \xAD are examined regarding the ways of their participation, motivation, intentions and interpretations of the event.

7. Ben Jiao, "Socio-economic and cultural factors underlying the contemporary revival of fraternal polyandry in Tibet," Ph.D thesis in Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University, May, 2001.

Tibet represents one of the most important polyandrous societies in the ethnographic record and polyandry of multiple males sharing a wife represent an important, but relatively little studied, type of marriage and family structure. This dissertation presents the first new empirical data on Tibetan fraternal polyandry in Tibet proper based on 12 months of anthropological fieldwork conducted in a village in Benam county in Shigatse prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region between 1996 and 1997. It focuses on the social, economic and political factors that have led to a resurgence of polyandrous marriages. Despite the illegality of polyandry in the People's Republic of China, China's post-1978 economic reforms have created a set of socio-economic conditions that had led a substantial number of families to choose fraternal polyandry over monogamy. The villagers own explanation was that it would prevent the land fragmentation among sons if each of them did not marry monogamously and establish neolocal household of his own, and it would concentrate the male laborers in a household so that polyandrously married sons could engage diverse economic activities such as farming, herding, trading, and wage laboring to maximize their mutual income to improve the standard of their living. The evidences from this dissertation clearly shows that: firstly, in the study village when the population had been increased 33% while the per capita land had been decreased 24% from 1980 to 1996, there is a trend in right direction that polyandry and polygynandry reduced less per capita land than monogamy and polygyny. Secondly, the households who practiced this marital type had significantly higher amounts of male labor, cash income and animals than monogamy and polygyny on per capita base. Thirdly, there was a significantly difference between marital type and socio-economic status where polyandrous and polygynandrous households fared much better in terms of overall economic status. It revealed that 88% of the rich and 72% of the upper middle households were polyandrous and polygynandrous. By contrast, only 8% of the poor and lower middle households were polyandrous and polygynandrous. In the anthropological literature it was predicted that with more opportunities on wage laboring and other diverse economy the practice of fraternal polyandry would be decreased. The findings from this dissertation suggested that the change of fraternal polyandry could be either way. That is when there are socio-economic and political conditions for villagers to manage their own production and family composition according to their best interests, the revival of polyandry would take place. The socio-economic explanatory model of polyandry in the literature is convincing while the cultural explanation is not visible in case of this studied population.

V. Tibet Nomad web site

The Center for Research on Tibet has established a Tibetan Nomad Web Site and is soliciting ideas, articles, essays, editorials and data. Notices of meetings and conferences are also welcome, as are links to other sites. The nomad site's URL is www.Tibetnomads.org (or you can access it via the Center for Research on Tibet's website: http://www.cwru.edu/affil/tibet/.

\xA9 1998 The Center for Research on Tibet
Text is not to be used without written permission.