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Tibetan Tibetology?

Sketches of an Emerging Discipline The development of a properly Tibetan Tibetology, wherein Tibetan civilization is appropriated as an object of analysis by and for Tibetan thinkers themselves, is a recent development that in its broad outlines recapitulates many aspects of ethnic and nationalities studies elsewhere. The present essay seeks to present a general account of the evolution of the area, together with a more detailed review of the study of archaic Tibetan as a specialized field in which the emergence of a new Tibetological discipline among Tibetan researchers is particularly clear. Resulting substantive work in the field has been accompanied by refinements of methodological reflection. In the final section of the essay, the peculiar political pressures to which Tibetan Tibetology is subject is discussed in brief.

Une Tibtologie tibtaine ? Aperus dune discipline mergente Le dveloppement dune Tibtologie tibtaine proprement dite, dans laquelle la civilisation tibtaine devient lobjet danalyse des intellectuels tibtains eux-mmes, rsulte dun dveloppement rcent qui dans ses grandes lignes rcapitule de nombreux aspects des tudes sur les minorits ethniques faites par ailleurs. Cet essai propose ici une prsentation gnrale de lvolution de la discipline, tout en parcourant de faon plus dtaille ltude du Tibet ancien en tant que domaine de recherche spcifique dans lequel lmergence dune nouvelle discipline tibtologique parmi les chercheurs tibtains apparat clairement, et dans lequel au travail principal sajoute laffinement de la rflexion mthodologique. Larticle se termine sur une brve discussion concernant le problme de la Tibtologie tibtaine prise comme objet de pression politique

tibetan tibetology?
sketches of an emerging discipline

Matthew T. Kapstein

hen I was invited to participate in the present collection, it was suggested that I write on the topic of Tibetan Tibetology. This, of course, is a problematic notion, and before entering into the discussion of the particular matters that I wish to introduce in this context, it would be well to clarify some of the implications of the phrase Tibetan Tibetology, as well as the ways in which my chosen subject responds to the initial charge. The various -ologies that have national or ethnic designations (Sinology, Japanology, Indology, Tibetology, etc.), together with their analogues formed in similar contexts by the use of the word Studies (or equivalents in languages other than English)Jewish Studies, African Studies, Bhutan Studies, and the likeare now generally regarded as the direct or indirect products of the nineteenth century project of rationalizing, along more or less scientific lines, our knowledge of human societies. Three often conflicting tendencies, in particular, informed this project in its principle dimensions: the rationalization of European colonialism, the rise of modern nationalisms, and the post-Enlightment emergence of critical historical-philological methodologies. The late Edward Said, in his ground-breaking and influential essay Orientalism (1978), focused notably on the role of the first mentioned in his analysis of the growth of the modern Western academic disciplines concerned with the peoples of Asia and Africa who were subject to the colonial powers during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. However, it is clear that the other two factors mentioned were of considerable importance here as well. In some instancesChinese, Indian and Western European Jewish intellectual circles figure among the notable exampleswe find local elites reflexively embracing the new project of the human sciences, in these cases as Sinology, Indology and Judentumswissenschaft, respectively, in the interest of the modernization and political emancipation of their own communities. It is no accident that we thus find some of the leading -ologists of the twentieth century figures such as Hu Shi (1891-1962), crya Narendra Dev (1889-1956), and Gershom Scholem (1897-1982)to have been closely associated with progressive, nationalistic political movements of various kinds. In short, while acknowledging the valid aspects of Saids argument, it may be said that Orientalism together with its cognate disci-

Images of Tibet in the 19 th and 20 th Centuries Paris, EFEO, coll. tudes thmatiques (22), 2008, p. 799-815

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plines nevertheless proved to be a double-edged sword, serving, in separate ways, both colonialist and nationalist projects. With the formation of the Soviet Union following the revolution of 1918, this bivalence found expression in the on-going development of Communist policies with respect to minority nationalities. On the one hand, in line with the forward-looking aspirations of minority cadres, the liberation of their communities as coequal partners in the new socialist order was articulated as a proper goal, but, on the other, rigorous control of the minorities was increasingly emphasized as a key practical objective of the centralized Soviet State. Under such circumstances, in a pattern mirrorring that which Said attributes to the colonial project of Orientalism, nationality studies under Communism tended to mix scholarship with the political education of minority cadres, a bifurcation of interests that continues to play itself out in China today.1 In Tibet, of course, analogous developments occurred much later than they did in many other parts of Asia. The Tibetan experience of colonialism was largely limited to late-Qing and Chinese republican efforts to establish a colonial presence in some parts of Khams (later Xikang) and exposure to Western modes of knowledge production and organization was of negligible importance prior to the mid-twentienth century.2 Nevertheless, the beginnings of modern Chinese education among Khams pa elites, together with Central Tibetan contacts with British India, did contribute to a gradual reevaluation of traditional Tibetan learning in some quarters, while at the same time the distant roar of Chinese and Indian nationalisms also began to be heard. Though elements of what one might call a Tibetan Tibetology may be seen in the work of dGe dun chos phel (1903?-1951),3 above all, it is only in the 1950s, in
The twists and turns in the development of Chinese nationalities policy in relation to Tibet are trenchantly illustrated in Melvyn C. Goldstein, Dawei Sherap, and William R. Siebenschuh, A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phntso Wangye (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). The tension between social scientific research and political development continues to characterize Tibetan Studies in China today: In the Tibet Autonomous Region, for instance, scholars attached to the Tibet Academy of Social Science have been regularly called upon to participate in political education campaigns. 2 For a useful introduction to the Chinese colonial project in Khams, see Laurent Deshayes, Histoire du Tibet (Paris: Fayard, 1997): 241-251. From the contemporary Chinese perspective, of course, British engagement in Tibetan affairs, especially in the case of the Younghusband expedition of 1904, was the main form of foreign imperialism to which the Tibetans were exposed. Actual British colonial activity among Tibetans, however, was restricted to some parts of northwestern India that were culturally Tibetan, i.e., Ladakh and adjacent regions, as well as Sikkim and parts of what is today Arunachal Pradesh. In some areas in Khams and Amdo, educational activities on the part of Christian missionaries also made small inroads; see Goldstein, Sherap and Siebenschuh, A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phntso Wangye, on the American misson school in Ba thang. 3 This controversial figure has been the subject of much study in recent years. The major contributions to date are Heather Stoddard, Le mendiant de lAmdo (Paris: Socit dEthno graphie, 1985), and Donald S. Lopez, Jr., The Madmans Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun Chopel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006). For further aspects of his scholarly interests, refer to Toni Huber, The Guide To India. A Tibetan Account by Amdo Gendun Chphel (1903-1951) (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2000). The most complete collection of his own work will be found in Hor khang
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the years following the incorporation of Tibet into the Peoples Republic of China and the foundation in 1951 of the Central Nationalities Institute (Zhongyang Minzu Xueyuan ) in Beijing, that, under conditions parallelling colonial ethnic studies projects (and directly inspired by Soviet nationality studies), we find a characteristic Chinese and Tibetan iteration of Tibetan Studies taking shape.4 At the same time, the growing Tibetan diaspora in India and to a smaller extent in the West meant that exiled Tibetan scholars, too, were gaining increasing exposure to nontraditional sources and methods. In some casesthe Tibetan Christian journalist G. Tharchin of Kalimpong offers an early example5new ways of examining Tibet were tied to the impulse to modernize Tibetan society overall, thereby replicating aspects of the pattern noted above. In the present essay, however, our primary focus will be on Tibetan scholarship in China, touching on developments in the Tibetan diaspora only occasionally. The establishment of the Central Nationalities Institute, together with similar institutions at the provincial level, formed the framework for the birth of Tibetan Studies as a distinct discipline in China.6 However, beginning during the late-1950s these institutes became sites for the intensive political campaigns that wholly dominated Tibetan affairs for some twenty years, including, but not limited to, the period of the Cultural Revolution.7 During this time, there was little possibility for undertaking sustained scholarly work on Tibet,8 and most of those qualified for such
bSod nams dpal bar (ed.), dGe dun chos phel gyi gsung rtsom, 3 vols., Gangs can rigs mdzod series 10-12 (Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, 1990). 4 On the foundation and early years of the Central Nationalities Institute in Beijing, see Carmen Meinert, Gangs dkar Rin po che between Tibet and China: A Tibetan Lama Among Ethnic Chinese in the 1930s to 50s, in Buddhism Between Tibet and China, ed. Matthew T. Kapstein (forthcoming). 5 The Rev. Tharchin was the founder of the Tibetan Mirror Press in Kalimpong, West Bengal, which published the Tibet Mirror newspaper from 1925 until 1962. 6 Chinese Tibetology, however, had its start under the republicans. Prof. Yu Daoquan (b.1901) initiated some Tibetological work during the 1930s at what was then Peking University, but then left the country until the late 1940s. After his return, he was active in the post-revolutionary development of Tibetan Studies. The noted anthropologist Li Anche (b.circa 1900) conducted some of his fieldwork in Tibetan regions during the 1930s and 40s, and joined the faculty of the Southwest Nationalities Institute in Chengdu in 1956. Chinese official statements maintain that there were no organizations devoted to Tibetological research in China prior to the establishment of the Peoples Republic (see, for example, the document found on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs [http://www.fmprc.gov. cn/eng/ljzg/ 3585/3592/3599/t17976.htm]). Strictly speaking, this seems correct, but nevertheless there were already some Tibetologists. 7 Melvyn C. Goldstein, William Siebenschuh, and Tashi Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering (Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1997) illustrates some of these struggles as they unfolded at the Nationalities Institute in Xianyang. 8 There were, however, some rare exceptions, particularly in fields that were somehow valued during the Cultural Revolution itself. Thus, for instance, we find that the barefoot doctor (Tib. em rje rkang rjen ma) campaign facilitated some on-going work in Tibetan medicine. A fine pocket encyclopedia of herbal medicines, entitled Bod ljongs rgyun spyod krung dbyii sman rigs, was completed by the Cultural Revolution and Military bureaux of the TAR in

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work, whether they were Han or Tibetan, were subjected to periods of imprisonment or rural reeducation. Hence, it was only following the assumption of power by Deng Xiaoping and his relatively liberal faction of the Chinese Communist Party in 1978 that academic research in this area began slowly to reemerge.9 One of the chief problems that the new generation of Tibetan scholars immediately faced was to assess the place of traditional Tibetan learning in relation to the new enterprise of the post-Cultural Revolution, secular study of Tibet. Clearly, some measure of traditional knowledge was essential for conducting textual research of whatever kind, and in relation to some specific fields, among which local history offers a prime example, the new environment favored the collection and preservation of whatever records and archives might still be found. Nevertheless, a critical engagement with tradition, rather than a mere acceptance thereof, was the felt need of the hour, both for scientific and sociological reasons. This is reflected in the remarks of Don grub rgyal (19531985) on the study of traditional Tibetan poetics, which had for centuries followed the Indian model of ornate and difficult Sanskrit court poetry, or kvya:
While even now there are innumerable model-books on poetics, still it appears that [the Tibetan authors who composed and studied them] were unable to produce many new and novel poetic compositions that are easy to understand, facilitating comprehension. The chief reason for this was that the basis for earlier composition and kvya was not established among the Tibetan people as a whole, but instead was established only among those endowed with the learning involving mastery of the sciences. Owing to this, the treatises and model-books of kvya were bound up with many unknown or poorly known synonyms and archaisms, and adorned with incomprehensible poetic ornaments. Thus, the masses of the people were not able to study their compositions or found them hard to understand, so that it came to be that the relationship between kvya among our literary arts and the Tibetan people grew ever more distant.10
1971 and published by the Tibet Peoples Publishing House (Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang) in 1973. The expression Chinese medicine (krung dbyi, Ch. zhongyi ) in this case clearly includes Tibetan medicine, China (Zhongguo) always being taken, in official usage, as inclusive of the various nationalities and not as exclusively Han. 9 For a survey with respect to literature, see my The Indian Literary Identity in Tibet, in Literary Cultures in History: Perspectives from South Asia, ed. Sheldon Pollock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003): 747-802, and on religious affairs, my A Thorn in the Dragons Side: Tibetan Buddhist Culture in China, in Governing Chinas Multi-ethnic Frontier, ed. Morris Rossabi (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004): 230-269. The crucial moment, ushering in elements of Dengist reform in Tibet, was the visit of Party Secretary Hu Yaobang to the TAR in 1980, on which see Wang Yao, Hu Yaobangs visit to Tibet, May 22-31, 1980, in Resistance and Reform in Tibet, eds. Robbie Barnett and Shirin Akiner (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994): 285-289. A statement of Chinese policy with respect to Tibetology at the time may be found in Liyu Yi, Tibetology: A Chinese View, trans. Samten G. Karmay, The Tibet Journal 8.2 (1983): 25-32. 10 Don grub rgyal, mGur glui lo rgyus dang khyad chos (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1985): 39, translated in Kapstein, The Indian Literary Identity in Tibet, 792-793. See, too, my Don grub rgyal: The Making of a Modern Hero, in Lungta, vol. 12 (Dharamsala: Amnye Machen Research Institute, 1999): 45-48.

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Despite this, however, Don grub rgyal himself felt compelled to retain many of the conventions derived from kvya in developing his own analysis of Tibetan poetic composition. The double relation with tradition that is entailed here, whereby the contemporary scholar is at once critical of and constrained by it, is characteristic of much of Tibetan Tibetology, as indeed it has been of analogous projects among other peoples as well. There are now a number of fields in which Tibetan authors have to varying degrees similarly attempted to bracket out presuppositions inherited from tradition, while elaborating new assessments on the basis of data gleaned in part from non-traditional sources (for instance, previously unstudied documents and other artifacts), as well as from field research of various kinds (especially, archeological and ethnographical work), and, as we see above, from new assumptions guiding research. Among the areas in which these developments have been most pronounced in China, one may note above all Tibetan linguistics and lexicography;11 literature, folklore, and the study of the Gesar epic;12 and Tibetan historical studies.13 Not surprisingly, these are the fields that are stressed in Tibetan higher education and so are institutionally supported, in part, no doubt, because their apparently secular character insulates them to some extent from the complexities surrounding the study of religion in a communist state.14 Local ethnography and cultural geography have also emerged as foci for research in
In accord with my present subject-matter, I note two interesting dictionaries focusing upon archaic Tibetan: bTsan lha Ngag dbang tshul khrims, brDa dkrol gser gyi me long (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1997); and rNam rgyal tshe ring, Bod yig brda rnying tshig mdzod (Beijing: Krung goi Bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2001). A useful textbook of Old Tibetan has also appeared: Go shul Grags pa byung gnas, Bod btsan poi skabs kyi gna rtsom gces bsdus slob deb (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2001). 12 For an overview of work on traditional literature, see Kapstein, The Indian Literary Identity in Tibet. The documentation of the numerous editions, collections, studies and glossaries devoted to Tibetan folklore and the Gesar stories that have been published in China in recent decades goes beyond the scope of the present article. The major anthology of Tibetan poetry, with historical notes and commentary, remains Blo bzang chos grags and bSod nams rtse mo (eds.), Gangs ljongs mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rtsom yig gser gyi sbram bu, 3 vols. (Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1988). 13 The most noteworthy modern synthesis of Tibetan history published in Tibetan to date remains Chab spel Tshe brtan phun tshogs and Nor brang O rgyan, Bod kyi lo rgyus rags rim g.yu yi phreng ba, 3 vols. (Lhasa: Bod ljongs dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, 1989). A ten volume history of Tibet, to be published in Chinese, is currently in progress at the National Centre for Tibetan Studies in Beijing and is being prepared under the general editorial direction of Professor Chen Qingying. Dan Martin, Tibetan Histories: A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Historical Works (London: Serindia Publications, 1997) includes many of the traditional and recent histories published in Tibetan in China through 1996. A series of publications initiated by Nga phod Ngag dbang jigs med, Bod kyi rig gnas lo rgyus rgyu cha bdam bsgrigs, some (but not all) intended for internal distribution only (neibu), has provided testimony and documentation concerning many aspects of modern Tibetan history. 14 Tibetan-medium degree courses were for a long time only available to students majoring in Tibetan language and literature, history, and Marxism-Leninism. Students wishing to specialize in other subjects have generally had no option but to pursue their studies in Chinese.
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the Academies of Social Science, together with some work in archaeology and art history.15 Tibetan medical systems, a source of considerable pride in contemporary China and regarded as particularly promising with respect to the commercial development of patented herbal medications, are mostly studied within the aegis of specialized pharmacological and medical institutions, often not in connection with Tibetology per se as a discipline within the social and human sciences. Tibetan religious studies remain problematic, however, with apparently deep uncertainties regarding just how these may be pursued in a relatively detached, secular manner. To appreciate more fully the shape of current Tibetological research in China, I offer in the following section a brief sketch of recent work within a particular, specialized domain.

The Study of Early Tibet


Early Tibetan history stands out as a key example of an area in which the transition from traditional modes of knowledge to the new Tibetology, as this has unfolded in China during the past few decades, may be followed with considerable clarity. Here, as is well known, until very recently writers were generally content to follow established tradition, although some daring thinkersdPa bo gTsug lag phreng ba (1504-1566) and Rig dzin Tshe dbang nor bu (1698-1755) are among the outstanding examplesdid realize that there were documents and inscriptions in existence that could be employed to refine and to amplify the available record.16 Nevertheless, as illustrated by the much-perpetuated error of such giants among Tibetan savants as Bu ston Rin chen grub (1290-1364) and the Great Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682), both of whom insisted upon the identification of the quite separate monarchs Khri lDe srong btsan (r. 804-815) and Khri gTsug lde btsan (Ral pa can, r. 815-841), traditional scholarship was restricted by its relative indifference to epigraphical and manuscript sources.17 To embrace ancient documents and inscriptions as possessing an evidentiary value for historical research that is often superior to that of later, synthetic accounts involves a marked change of epistemological orientation, one that only a small number of traditional authors were apparently prepared to make, and that could not become current in Tibetan learned circles at large until the institutional conditions for knowledge-formation had been altered, as they were from the 1950s on. The
15 Exemplary in this regard are the fruitful collaborations of G. Hazod and P. Srensen with the Tibet Academy of Social Science: Tsering Gyalbo, Guntram Hazod, and Per K. Srensen, Civilization at the Foot of Mount Sham po: The Royal House of lHa Bug pa can and the History of g.Ya bzang (Vienna: Verlag der sterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2000); and Per K. Srensen and Guntram Hazod, in cooperation with Tsering Gyalpo, Thundering Falcon: An Inquiry into the History and Cult of Khra brug, Tibets First Buddhist Temple (Vienna: Verlag der sterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2005). 16 See, especially, Hugh E. Richardson, High Peaks, Pure Earth: Collected Writings on Tibetan History and Culture, ed. Michael Aris (London: Serindia Publications, 1998): chapters 12 and 38. 17 For a full discussion of the particular question mentioned, and the role of the old inscriptions in resolving it, see Don grub rgyal and Khrin Chin dbyin [Chen Qingying], bTsan po khri sde srong btsan gyi lo rgyus mdo tsam brjod pa (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1984).

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sharp contestation involved here may be seen in the incomprehension that greeted A mdo dge bshes dGe dun chos phel in Lhasa official circles when the researches that formed the basis for his Deb ther dkar po (White annals) became known. This was the first modern history of early Tibet that sought to incorporate data gleaned from the Dunhuang manuscripts, together with a variety of sources unknown to earlier Tibetan writers.18 Other Tibetans who were engaged in historical scholarship, however, soon also began to take stock of the value of previously neglected materials. The late bDud joms Rin po che (1904-1987), for instance, who might best be described as an openminded traditionalist, was sympathetic to dGe dun chos phels efforts and indeed had undertaken to transcribe several of the imperial inscriptions himself. His rGyal rabs includes the fruits of his labors along these lines, though set within an otherwise traditional narrative.19 Similarly, the noted Bon po scholar, Slob dpon bsTan dzin rnam dag (b. 1926), made use of the Old Tibetan Chronicle from Dunhuang in his history of early Tibet and the Bon religion.20 Nevertheless, in neither of these instances do we find so trenchant a questioning of traditional historiography as dGe dun chos phel had already begun. The Tibetan scholars who, indirectly following the footsteps of the latter, would first explore the deeper ramifications of old documentary sources for Tibetan imperial and early post-imperial history were in fact two of the most dynamic Tibetan intellectuals settled in Europe, Samten G. Karmay (mKhar rmeu bSam gtan rgyal mtshan, b. 1936) and Namkhai Norbu (Nam mkhai nor bu, b.1938), both of whom, through their publications and personal contacts, made a major impact on Tibetan thinking in both China and the exile communities.21 Before the contributions of these figures became well known in China, however, a new generation of Tibetan thinkers, those who like Don grub rgyal came of age during the closing years of the Cultural Revolution, had independently begun to reassess the early historical record. In this, the role of Tibetophone Han Chinese scholars, including Wang Yao (dBang rgyal), Chen Jian (bSod nams skyid), and Chen Qingying (Khrin Chin dbyin), in advancing work in this area together with Tibetan colleagues and students should not be overlooked.22 Among the
Stoddard, Le mendiant de lAmdo, 247-248. bDud joms Rin po che Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje, Bod kyi rgyal rabs dus gsal du bkod pa, in The collected writings and revelations of H.H. Bdud joms Rin po che Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje (Kalimpong: Dupjung Lama, 1979-1985): vol. 2. 20 Slob dpon bsTan dzin rnam dag, Bod kyi byung ba brjod pai bel gtam (Dolanji, H.P.: Slob dpon bsTan dzin rnam dag, 1983). 21 Samten G. Karmays best known historical essay in Tibetan is perhaps: mKhar rmeu bSam gtan rgyal mtshan, bTsan po lha sras Dar ma dang dei rjes su byung bai rgyal rabs mdor bsdus (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1986). For an anthology of Namkhai Norbus Tibetan language writings, see Nam mkhai nor bui gsung rtsom phyogs bsgrigs (Beijing: Krung goi Bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 1994). 22 Though the topic of the present essay requires that I underscore to some extent the ethnicity of the persons mentioned, I must confess to some unease in this regard. In my experience as a Tibetanist in Europe and the United States, I have found that in some quarters it is automatically assumed that, in connection with Tibetan affairs, one can draw a strict inference from ethnicity to value: Tibetan is good and Han is bad. This is of course absolutely
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Tibetan language contributions that initiated new approaches to the study of early Tibet in China, some of the key works were by these and other Han authors, whether originally written in or translated into Tibetan.23 Moreover, because Tibetan scholars in China today are universally literate in Chinese, they draw regularly upon Chinese publications, including recent translations of Western Tibetological writings, or use Chinese as their own language of scholarship. In sum, the contemporary Tibetan historian in China is in the interesting position of one who must mediate between traditional Tibetan and modern Chinese (and to a lesser extent Western) historical studies, while at the same time being buffeted by the crosscurrents of scientific research and political interest, as will be seen in the following section.24 With these points in mind, my focus in the remainder of this section will be on a recent collection of articles, most of them previously published during the past two-and-a-half decades, devoted to the study of early Tibet: Bod kyi yig rnying zhib jug (Research on Old Tibetan writings). This volume, which was produced at the Northwest Nationalities Institute (Xibei Minzu Xueyuan ) in Lanzhou, Gansu, under the general editorship of Kha sgang bKra shis tshe ring, and was published by the Nationalities Press (Minzu chubanshe, Mi rigs dpe skrun khang) in Beijing in 2003, brings together eighty-nine articles of which the great majority are
naive. In relation to the quality and balance of Tibet-related scholarship from China, one finds similar merits and problems informing the work of both Tibetan and Han scholars, and some of the latter must be counted among the foremost Tibetanists today. In any case, one must distinguish, too, between serious scholarship produced in China and the work of political hacks, while noting that the latter by no means belong to a single ethnicity. Our interest in the present context, however, exclusively concerns credible academic research, regardless of the scholars ethnicity. Perhaps the best way to put these complications to rest would be to consider just publication in the Tibetan language as the major characteristic of the scholarship that interests us. In all events, among major Tibetan works by the three authors mentioned above we may note: bSod nams skyid [= Chen Jian] and dBang rgyal [= Wang Yao], Tun hong nas thon pai gna boi bod yig shog dril (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1983); bSod nams skyid, Bod kyi rdo ring yi ge dang dril bui kha byang (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1984); dBang rgyal and bSod nams skyid, Tun hong nas thon pai bod kyi lo rgyus yig cha (Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1992); Don grub rgyal and Khrin Chin dbyin [Chen Qingying], bTsan po khri sde srong btsan gyi lo rgyus mdo tsam brjod pa; and Don grub rgyal and Khrin Chin dbyin (trans.), Thang yig gsar rnying las byung bai bod chen poi srid lugs (Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1983). 23 In a useful appendix (pp. 793-802) to the collection to be discussed in greater detail below, Bod kyi yig rnying zhib jug, we find a bibliography of Chinese-language publications on early Tibetan, including Chinese translations of works on the subject by Japanese and European authors. 24 While Chinese popular and propaganda sources sometimes seek to date Tibets incorporation into China to the Tang dynasty, incredibly citing Srong btsan sgam pos marriage to the princess Wencheng as the basis for this assertion, most responsible scholars, whether writing in Tibetan or in Chinese, take the Yuan dynasty as the beginning of their political union. More delicate is the treatment of the Ming period, when the Chinese court was continuing to grant, and Tibetans were continuing to seek and to accept, Chinese titles in legitimation of their authority. While it is clear that these tokens of diplomacy did not imply the real extension of Ming power into Tibet, but only the recognition of the status quo, official history in China at present nevertheless generally insists that one find here proof of Tibets subordination to the Ming.

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Tibetan-language contributions by Tibetan scholars currently active in China. (A small number of the articles are by Han Chinese authors and one is by Namkhai Norbu; some, too, whether by Tibetan or Han writers, were originally published in Chinese and are here translated into Tibetan.) The work thus forms a useful conspectus of current Tibetan scholarship on early Tibet. The introduction to the volume (pp. 1-3), contributed by one of the leaders in the field of Old Tibetan Studies in China, Professor gNya gong dKon mchog tshe brtan,25 provides a valuable overview of the principle orientations in this domain among Tibetan academics in China today. I provide a full translation of it here, although, because the author prefers a syntactically complex style, with very long sentences containing several layers of dependent clauses, it has been necessary to paraphrase at some points rather than to attempt a literal rendering throughout. The bracketed expressions and footnotes have been added by the present writer in order to clarify gNya gong dKon mchog tshe brtans references and allusions as seems required:
In this great cool and medicinal land, which has been said to be in the middle of the heavens, in the center of the earth, in the heart of the continent, in the enclosure of snow mountains, at the head of all rivers, where the mountains are high, the earth pure,26 that is, in this highland of glacial Tibet, history is long and learning is profound and extensive, from the perspective of both theory and practice. Because they possess the exceptional characteristics indicative of the spirit of the [Tibetan] nationality, they form the basis for discovering virtues while rejecting faults through scientific research,27 which is the true responsibility of scholars in the present generation. For it would be inappropriate not to promote fully the positive qualities of Tibetan thought. If one thinks to undertake well-grounded research concerning Tibe tology in general and Tibetan cultural history in particular, at the outset one must gain correct knowledge of the nature and qualities of the true culture of the ancient Tibetans. To arrive at that, there are just three principle objects [of study]: (1) There are the authentic annals and documents of past scholars in which the authentic oral traditions that were passed down for generations were written down, together with the documents of various types that are related to them. (2) There are the genuine remains of cultural objects, whether found below the earth or on the surface, which have been successively deposited since this world began. By means of them, there has been a careful scientific investigation of the actual developments of tens of thousands of years ago, so
25 Among the same authors earlier works, we find an extended study of the uncle-nephew pillar inscription in Lhasa, dBon zhang rdo ring dang thang bod bar gyi brel ba (Lanzhou: Kan suu mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1986), and a useful collection of Old Tibetan texts with notes and commentary, Bod kyi brda rnying yig cha bdams bsgrigs (Beijing: Krung dbyang mi rigs slob grwa chen moi dpe skrun khang, 1995). 26 The citation is from the famous Dunhuang document Pelliot tibtain 1286, lines 35-37. 27 This no doubt paraphrases a favorite adage of Deng Xiaoping: shsh qi sh , seek truth from facts.

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that these may be explained clearly and without error. Hence, this science [of archaeology] is a great, recent anthropological development. If we take, for example, the regions inhabited by Tibetans, we find various plant and animal fossils from many tens of thousands of years back, and, from many thousands of years ago, amazing petroglyphs, as well as the mausoleums of the ancient Tibetan emperors (btsan po), and the remains of ancient dwellings, stone tools, pottery, bone needles, ornaments, etc. Many such have been found in Western, Central and Eastern Tibet, and have been subject to scientific analysis. (3) Through the several phases of the development of Tibetan society, writing finally emerged so as to record the linguistic conventions used by the [Tibetan] nationality in common. Thereafter, by stages, the production, livelihood, ideas, activities, customs and local traditions, etc., of society as it was during that time were set down, and the genuine ancient writings which give indications [of these matters] were not subject to tampering by later persons. To put it clearly, these are the pillar and stone inscriptions from the period of the Tibetan bTsan po dynasty, as well as the bell-inscriptions, the ancient Tibetan writings that came from the Dunhuang cave and that are now distributed everywhere in lands outside and inside [of China], the tally-sticks discovered in the ruins of the ancient Tibetan fort at Miran in Xinjiang, etc. These are unadulterated ancient writings, composed by the Tibetans of a millenium ago. Whichever among these three objects one evaluates, one obtains true and verifiable results. Otherwise, it is difficult to find other means to resolve the many knotty problems of history. In order to undertake genuine research that is really meaningful, the axiom of the examination of gold by burning, cutting and grinding seems to be certainly necessary.28 Absent that, in Tibet, in the face of the many doubtful points of history, it transpired that each scholar seemed to have had his own opinion. Even after the fruits of Tibetological research had ripened in the country, 29 whether one considers the methods of analysis or the substance, a high level was still not attained. Examining the basis for this, [it was because], without pushing the truth to its limits, and relying on ephemeral learning, there seems to have been mostly an effort to undermine other objectives, so there was much weakness [of argumentation].30 In particular, in many of the scientific writings that were published in Tibetan, [the authors] considered the presuppositions of their own thinking to be valid reasons, and

This saying of Buddhist philosophers (see, e.g., the Tattvasagraha of ntarakita, verses 3343 and 3587), which is oft-repeated by the present Dalai Lama, is usually applied to the examination of religious doctrines, which are not to be taken up on faith, but subject to rigorous examination. 29 rgyal nang, i.e., China. 30 I assume that this is an intentionally vague allusion to the subordination of historical scholarship to purely political ends, as occurred in exaggerated fashion during the years of the Cultural Revolution. Cf. the introduction to Blo bzang chos grags and bSod nams rtse mo (eds.), Gangs ljongs mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rtsom yig gser gyi sbram bu, vol. 1, p. 2, of which a translation is given in my The Indian Literary Identity in Tibet, 790.

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so would not accept others positions even when these were true and, making every effort to refute them, set forth their own positions. The objective of what is called research (zhib jug), however, is primarily to affirm what is or is not true or false. It refers to an articulation of the actual matter of fact, just as it is, on the basis of accumulated learning and reason (lung rigs),31 but it is not sophistry (rig phrul ) that serves just to befuddle the thinking of others. Therefore, one ought to get to the essence of what is demonstrated in fine compositions that are based on prior analysis. Examining them repeatedly, and basing oneself upon reliable learning and reason with respect to the many points that flow from them, it is sufficient that the truth be revealed so that all come to affirm it. What is well-known as the view propounded by the scholarly community is just what comes forth through such research. In research, forced efforts that depart from the truth are never applicable. The revision of past conclusions and the rectification of errors are the basis for setting out on the true and genuine paththis is now the point of departure that merits the adherence of all who join the discussion. For this reason, the renowned Professor Kha sgang bKra shis tshe ring has compiled the conclusions of investigations on the old writings of ancient Tibet that are most beneficial for current Tibetological activity. In particular, he has accepted the burden of fulfilling here the need of researchers in this area for rare study materials and, whats more, because many of the studies [republished here] contained errors of word or of meaning, he has corrected them insofar as was possible. In accord with his function as editor-in-chief of the collection, in the year 2000, the research students specializing in archaic Tibetan writingsBis mdo rDo rje rin chen, Chu bzang Klu rgyal tshe ring, Bla mtsho, and rDo sbis gCod pa Klu rgyal32made efforts to assist him in compiling most of the compositions on ancient Tibetan writings that had appeared in provincial journals and books. This book, which they produced, has four great merits:

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In traditional Buddhist contexts this expression refers to the two main sources of religious knowledge, scriptural authority and reasoned argument. In the present secular context, however, lung is probably best taken as meaning received knowledge or book learning. 32 The title page in fact lists five associate editors: it omits Bla mtsho, but adds rDo rje tsho and Brug mo skyid. Though the phrase zhib jug slob ma used above does literally mean research student, in the present context it seems to mean something more like research fellow in English academic usage. Several of those named here have in any case published work included in the present collection: Bis mdo rDo rje rin chen, sBa bzhed las byung bai don chen gai dogs dpyod (pp. 450-455); Chu bzang Klu rgyal tshe ring, Tun hong nas thon pai rje blon bar gyi mna tshig ga gleng ba (pp. 598-602); gCod pa klu rgyal, Tun hong nas byung bai bod kyi gna rabs yig rnying skor la rags tsam dpyad pa (pp. 391-395); Tun hong nas thon pai bod kyi lo rgyus yig cha las don chen gnad bsdus kyi lo tshigs skor gleng ba (pp.396-400); Li yul nas rnyed pai khram byang skor gyi ngo sprod rags bsdus (pp.410412); and rDo rje tsho, Tun hong gter yig las bod btsan poi lo rgyus dang brel bai bud med kyi skor brjod pa (pp. 362-368). The editor-in-chief, Kha sgang bKra shis tshe ring, is represented by a study of Tibetan relations with Khotan, Dus rabs bdun pa dang brgyad pai dus kyi bod li mdza mthun brel bai skor gleng ba (pp. 229-248), and, in collaboration with gNya gong dKon mchog tshe brtan, a general introduction to the Dunhuang Tibetan manuscripts, Tun hong bod kyi gna rabs yig rnying byung lugs dang de rnams dag sgrig dang par bskrun byed thabs kyi bsam tshul gleng ba (pp.157-165).

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First, it illustrates in a single collection the achievements of research, undertaken during the more than fifty years since the [Peoples] Republic [of China] was founded, concerning Tibetology in general and ancient Tibetan writings in particular. Second, in accord with the development of Tibetan educational work, it visibly demonstrates the increasing level of proficiency in composition and research. Third, it offers for researchers a key to knowledge and insight with respect to the archaic writings, for it unites and clarifies the main methods and perspectives of past and current research on the part of many scholars concerning the ancient Tibetan writings. Fourth, it makes it easy to research whatever inconsistencies of word or meaning there may be by comparing earlier and later, former and posterior [contributions]. Beyond that, some works of research on the old documents of ancient Tibet that had not received attention [lit. left empty, stong char lus yod pa], or, for whatever reason, had received passing approbation, and so forth, are made available for examination and may henceforth contribute to the progress of research work overall. Because this work, which possesses these four qualities, is obviously important for all efforts to grasp, preserve, and enlarge Tibetan culture, it merits our hearty congratulations.

Clearly, the essential conception of historical research that is articulated here, that of a discipline that seeks to establish historical truth through critical investigation of the most reliable sources, including both documentary and material evidence, and through an on-going revision of past results, is one that accords in its broad outlines with current conceptions of historical scholarship in general. In particular, in contrast with traditional Tibetan modes of historical study, we find articulated here a clear conception of historical research as an autonomous intellectual discipline. It is perhaps just this fact that presents the most striking novelty, relative to past Tibetan ways of thought, informing the entire collection. The essays given in Bod kyi yig rnying zhib jug are presented in five major sections, embracing the primary concerns of recent research on early Tibet: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) gna boi rdo ring dang brag brkos yi ge (ancient pillar and stone inscriptions) gna rabs rig gnas (ancient culture) gna rabs rtsom rig (ancient literature) gna boi skad dang yi ge (ancient language and writing) gna shul (ancient remains)

As it will not be possible to review individually the almost ninety articles presented in the space available here, in the brief remarks that follow I shall attempt to survey some of the main topics discussed in each of these sections, drawing attention to particular contributions as seems warranted. The studies of the old inscriptions open with an essay on the sKar chung rdo ring of Khri lDe srong btsan (r. 804-815) by Hor khang bSod nams dpal bar (pp.2-7), who begins with his reminiscence of a visit to the site in the company of his friend

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dGe dun chos phel in 1946, during which they prepared the transcription of the inscription given here. The editorial decision to place this at the head of the collection may perhaps be read as a tacit acknowledgement of the controversial dge bshess singular role in the modern Tibetan study of early Tibet. Following this, four articles (pp. 8-40) are devoted to just one particular pillar inscription, namely, the so-called Uncle-Nephew Pillar (dbon zhang rdo ring), on which the Sino-Tibetan treaties of 821-823 are engraved in Tibetan and Chinese. It is not at all surprising that this Lhasa monument should receive a disproportionate share of attention; for it is among the most important witnesses of Chinese and Tibetan political relations and diplomatic conventions to survive from the Tang/Tibetan Imperial period. That it should be so stressed in current research is of course also a healthy sign, as the treaties it reports make absolutely clear that Tibet and China were, at the time, equal partners, despite the symbolic seniority that was perhaps attributed to the Tang emperor through the designation of uncle.33 Usefully reproduced here, too, are a number of studies concerning previously undocumented early inscriptions which have come to the attention of scholars in recent years: Pa tshab Pa sangs dbang duss study of the Khrom chen rdo ring (pp.78-85); two essays by the celebrated historian Chab spel Tshe brtan phun tshogs on the recently discovered inscriptions of lDan ma brag and Kong po De mo (pp.86-101); and two substantial studies of the Bis mdo and Leb khog inscriptions in Yul shul, one by gNya gong dKon mchog tshe brtan with Padma bum (pp.111-128), another by gDugs dkar Tshe ring (pp. 129-148). Essays on two later inscriptions are also included: Hong He examines Yuan-period inscriptions near Beijing (pp.102-110), and Tshe rdor documents a historical text found on the wall of the monastery of mTho lding (Tholing) in mNga ris (pp. 149-155).34 The section on Ancient Culture ( gna rabs rig gnas), with thirty-six articles, is the fullest in the book and concerns primarily (though not exclusively) the study of the Dunhuang Tibetan documents. A number of these are general introductions to Dunhuang and the manuscripts of Mogao cave 17, with much to say, of course, regarding their removal (usually: theft) by Stein, Pelliot, and others.35 A number of the articles, however, address precise philological questions: bSod nams skyid (Chen Jian) on the terms slung tshang and slungs dpon (pp. 266-271); dGa ba Pa sangs on the expression phyug nor in Pelliot tibtain 1071 (pp. 300-306); rGya ye bKra bho on brla
On aspects of this question, see my The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 35 and 221, note 77. More recently, the designation zhang has received detailed attention in Brandon Dotson, A Note on a: Maternal Relatives of the Tibetan Royal Line and Marriage into the Royal Family, Journal Asiatique 292.1-2 (2004): 75-99. 34 The text in question appears to supplement the materials collected in Roberto Vitali, Records of Tho.ling: A Literary and Visual Reconstruction of the Mother Monastery in Gu.ge (Dharamsala: High Asia, 1999). 35 In some cases, however, the authors discuss the carrying off (khyer ba) of the manuscripts without speaking of theft (rku ba) by foreigners, while at the same time noting that some Chinese officials did indeed steal and sell some of the texts for personal profit (dpon rigs che chung rnams kyis rku khyer dang gang dod du btsongs), pp. 160-161.
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brdungs in the historical annals (pp. 323-327); Sangs rgyas mkhar on the phrase g.yag zhu (pp. 456-460); and the same authors detailed study of expressions referring to the Tibetan military divisions (pp. 417-431). Other matters interestingly discussed in this section include social classes (gNya gong dKon mchog tshe brtan, pp.210-218), relations with Khotan (Kha sgang bKra shis tshe ring, pp. 229-248), land measurement (Chen Qingying, pp. 249-255), law (Hor dkar Bu phrug, pp.307-315), medicine (Chab spel Tshe brtan phun tshogs, pp. 316-323, and sKal bzang phrin las, pp. 378383), the queen Khri ma lod and other notable women (Zla ba tshe ring, pp. 341-347, and rDo rje tsho, pp. 362-368), P. T. 1062 and 1065 on horses (gDugs dkar Tshe ring, pp. 369-378), and the Tibetan tally sticks (khram shing) found in Xinjiang (Chos phel, pp. 401-409, and gCod pa Klu rgyal, pp. 410-412).36 These essays, together with other published interpretations of the Tibetan Dunhuang documents by scholars writing in Tibetan should now be included among the essential bibliography for those working in this special field. Notable contributions in the two following sections, on literature and language, include: Ju sKal bzangs study of poetry in the Dunhuang documents, focusing on metrical analysis (pp. 491-506) and Chu bzang Klu rgyal tshe rings article on sworn oaths (pp. 598-602). The final section provides surveys and reports on a number of important ancient sites and archaeological finds: the ruins of the sKar chung temple (Tshe brtan dge legs, pp. 757-766), the neolithic village of mKhar ro (Phur phan, pp.777-779), an early necropolis in Dwags po (bSod nams dbang dus, pp. 780-786), and mortuary finds in Nying khri (Wang Yuanjie, pp. 787-792). When we recall that the sustained investigation of the Old Tibetan artifacts and documents has been feasible for Tibetan scholars in China only during the past three decades, it is clear that Bod kyi yig rnying zhib jug represents impressive, rapid growth in a difficult department of historical-philological research. This development, moreover, as only exemplifying the virtually unlimited potential of Chinabased Tibetologists, given their exceptional access to archival and material resources bearing on all phases of Tibetan history, may be taken as presaging their central role in the future growth of the field. The comments of gNya gong dKon mchog tshe brtan cited above underscore, too, that the methodological principles of research in the historical disciplines have come to be articulated with increasing clarity during this time. Nevertheless, Tibetology in China is not free of political constraint, and this must be taken into consideration still in connection with any assessment of the unfolding Tibetan Tibetology.

The Political Uses of Tibetology


In the above remarks, I have attempted to provide a brief overview of the emer gence of Tibetology as a new sphere of academic research among Tibetan scholars in China, followed by a more detailed review of a specialized area, the study of early
Some of these topics have been the subjects of extended research by scholars in Europe or Japan. This is not the occasion, however, to present a full bibliography.
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Tibet, as seen through a recent publication that highlights both methodological and substantive concerns. We must bear in mind, however, that the political interests of Tibetan Studies in China are never far from the surface, and these cannot be overlooked if one is to assess the achievements and prospects of the field overall. The remarkable development that has taken place in recent years reflects in part Chinese policy decisions to promote Tibetology, and to do so for certain well-defined ends. It behooves us therefore to know what these are, but not to rush to judgment on this account. Let us recall, for instance, that the great upsurge of Asian Studies of all kinds in the American academy during the Cold War years was encouraged by U.S. government funds, and that Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies have more recently been the beneficiaries of the war on terrorism. Political decisions to enable scholarship, however, do not always translate directly into the determination of scholarly outcomes. This may be seen in contemporary China, no less than in the West. Perhaps the clearest statement delineating Chinese official interest in Tibetology in recent years may be found in the statement at the conference on national research in Tibetology and external propaganda on Tibet delivered on 12 June 2000 by the then director of the Information Office of the State Council, Zhao Qizheng, and entitled Tibet-related external propaganda and Tibetology work in the new era.37 This substantial discourse, some 6500 words in its English translation, is concerned in the first instance to combat what it regards as hostile external publicity on Tibet, due mainly to the Dalai clique and its supporters in the West. Tibetology is presented as a key battle ground in the struggle:
The external propaganda on Tibet issue is a very complicated matter. The Dalai clique and hostile western forces have a history of several decades of anti-China activities and propaganda. As well as having complete experience and expertise, they command an army of specialists in this field. They have also developed a complete network of cooperation between nations, between organizations, between parliaments and governments, between governments and peoples, between grassroots level organizations, between media and governments, between non-governmental organizations and media, etc. In this way, they launch their campaigns under various guises and through different methods. In the struggle for public opinion on the issue of Tibet, our adversary is an organized international anti-China force. To counter this united force, we have to build an effective organization and network. The external propaganda struggle for public opinion should be treated as an important work, requiring relentless attention. We should launch a coordinated assault on different fronts. In this overall struggle for public opinion on the Tibet issue, Tibetology institutes should become an effective army. In our Tibet-related external propaganda, we should use our departments of foreign affairs, information,
The version of this document to which I have had access is an English translation that was circulated electronically by the organization Students for a Free Tibet. As their name suggests, this is not a neutral scholarly body, and in fact it has been very actively engaged in promoting opposition to the Chinese position in Tibet. However, I have no reason to believe that Mr. Zhaos comments have been misrepresented in the text cited here.
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security, law, nationality, religion, culture, etc. We need specialists with knowledge on our internal and external affairs as well as those with experience in undertaking campaigns. In addition, we need Tibetology scholars and professors from the academic departments of nationality, religion, philosophy, political science, law, history and archaeology. Effective use of Tibetologists and specialists is the core of our external propaganda struggle for public opinion on Tibet. To sum up, the main responsibilities and potential of Tibetology research in our external propaganda on Tibet are to produce ideas, results, intellectuals, and confrontation strategies. To put it in another words, Tibetology research, in consideration of the needs of our external propaganda, must support our propaganda for public opinion by producing scholastic argu ments, handy materials and consummate intellectuals for external propaganda. Tibetologists should develop confrontation strategies and approaches. They should produce effective articles, ideas and materials for external propaganda. [] Our research activities and their impacts are still a bit scattered. They lack the required organization and planning. There is much research on Tibets history, but little on the present situation and future development. There is much academic research, but little effort to use this to face the ground reality of international confrontation. There is much work on Tibets history, but little research to build an intellectual argument to carry out our external propaganda. Lots of research materials have been published in Chinese and Tibetan languages, but not enough in foreign languages to influence international opinion. We have not been able to influence the international public opinion. We do not have enough internationally-known Tibetan intellec tuals. We do not have adequate intellectual arguments to carry out our external struggle. [] Our Tibetology institutes and specialists have become an effective army of external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. As a matter of fact, the very act of writing and publishing books by the specialists of our Tibetology institutes is for external propaganda and public opinion. We should not underestimate the contribution of scholarly works to our external propaganda for public opinion; westerners have a lot of respect for this kind of works. [] Tibetology has become the object of international attention in the 20 th century. The scope of Tibetology is expanding internationally; Tibetologists are mushrooming; Tibetology institutes are also multiplying. There are more than ten Tibetology institutes in America and Europe. Some well-known universities have established Tibet study departments and specialized programs. Of course, all of them do not serve western political interests; some of them are serious academic institutes. However, generally speaking, the majority of western Tibetology institutes and Tibet-related organizations have connections with western government and the Dalai clique. Even if they do not have direct connections, they still have deep influence on western perspective and the Dalai clique. Their research on Tibet is politically biased and fraught with many mistaken views. A section of them serve western anti-China forces and the Dalai clique. [] If we publish books and articles that are geared to meet the confrontational needs of our struggle against the Dalai clique and hostile western forc-

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es, they will serve as material for our external propaganda and as weapons for external struggle. Particularly, succinct and well-written works are as effective as missiles in the battlefield. However, such works should be factual with ability to strike the important views of foreign adversaries; the arguments should be clear and credible; sources quoted should be reliable; there should be footnotes and bibliographies. To sum it up in one sentence, they must be standard works, combining political and scholarly elements.

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., In the title of this essay, I introduced a question: Tibetan Tibetology? Is there such a thing, can there be such a thing under present circumstances? The easy answer is, of course, yes and no. Certainly there are Tibetan Tibetologists, in China, India and the West. That is to say, there are highly qualified Tibetan scholars, working in the contemporary academy, whose special sphere of study is Tibet and whose contributions represent the forefront of Tibetan studies today. But, at the same time, they must often confront the particular challenges that stem from the necessity of steering a course between the powerful currents of ancient tradition and contemporary political interest. In this, their predicament resembles the one faced by others who find themselves to be at once the objects and agents of ethnic or nationality studies. Precisely how they negotiate the challenge, however, will necessarily reflect the specificities of the Tibetan world today.