R E S E A R C H C E N T E R
Tibet has a long history of scholarship dating back to the seventh century, and the spread of Buddhism to Tibet. Around this time a minister named Thonmi Sambhota was sent to India and returned with a modern Tibetan alphabet based on Sanskrit. This new invention greatly aided in translation of Buddhist texts from India and scholarship flourished in monasteries, which became the hubs of scholasticism in Tibet.
During the Cultural Revolution, many monasteries were closed down, and the Tibetan language ceased to be taught beyond the elementary school level. It seemed that the Tibetan literary heritage was doomed. However, after the relaxation of prohibitions in Tibet in the 1980’s, a great number of scholars re-emerged and began programs to educate the next generation in Tibetan scholarship. These programs had great success, and a sort of literary renaissance took place, this time among the lay population. Many Tibetan youth showed great enthusiasm in becoming scholars, and inspired by the genres existing in other languages, adapted these styles to create a modern Tibetan literature.
In the 1990’s many of these highly educated young scholars began arriving in India and applying to Norbulingka. Impressed by their flair for writing, and wanting to encourage Tibetan scholarship, in 1997, Norbulingka formed the Literary and Cultural Research Center. In the early days our team of scholars worked diligently to produce and edit publications featuring many genres of Tibetan literature. Nor Ö was a Tibetan magazine filled with poetry, stories, and essays and Nordzeu was a scholarly journal published biannually. These two publications featured the work of many different scholars from Tibet and India, and was edited by our staff. At the time, Nordzeu was the only journal that paid authors for their contributions. They also published, a monthly newsletter in Tibetan containing short articles on various cultural topics. These periodicals were widely subscribed to and distributed freely to Tibetan schools.
Eventually, it became so easy to publish and read Tibetan literature on online forums, that the production of the journal and magazine was discontinued, although the newsletter is still published each month. It was at this time that our scholars’ attention turned to an even larger project. The goal of the project was to complete an encyclopedia on Tibetan culture and history, with subjects ranging from various climates and animals in Tibet, to life in exile, to nomadic customs, to the biographies of famous and infamous individuals. This was a monumental project, especially as the research process in Tibetan is much more difficult than it would be in a more common language. To begin with, there is much less information available online, and that which is, is often from on forums rather than verified sources. Also, although there has been much written in Tibetan and many books published, these books are not organized into any catalogue or system, so even once one does discover the existence of a particular book of interest, locating it can be an even greater task.
The head of the Research Section explained the research process for each article which is written for the Tibetan encyclopedia. He has a list of hundreds of librarians in different Tibetan libraries throughout the world. To find a book on a particular subject, he contacts these people personally, and asks them if they have any books on the topic. If they do, they post the books to him free of cost, as there is an understanding between Tibetan libraries to encourage research and scholarship. If he cannot find
enough information about a topic from books, he then has a contact list of other knowledgeable scholars whom he will consult.
The research process for the encyclopedia is now almost complete, and there are enough data to fill more than 20 volumes. Our research department has organized the information collected into individual volumes to be published. The first set of books with 11 volumes was published in 2016 on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of Norbulingka Institute, graced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The second set consisting of 10 volumes was published in June, 2019. Intensive research was done both verbally and formally to make it simpler about Tibetan environment, flora & fauna, historical events, Tibetan civilization.
The published volumes has information on religious traditions, cultural habits and traditions, monasteries, reestablishment of monasteries in exile, schools in exile, Tibetan settlements in exile, renowned individuals in the modern and contemporary Tibetan history.
We hope to eventually compile the encyclopedia onto a digital format to make it easily accessible, as it will be an extremely valuable resource to Tibetan scholars and researchers, as the first comprehensive encyclopedia on Tibetan culture.