Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter


Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter
Vol. 2, #2
September, 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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Editor's comment
I. Addendum and Errata to the New Tibetan-English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan
II. New Publications
III. Conference News
IV. Websites and collections
V. New Dissertations

Editor's comment:

Please keep sending me news items for inclusion!


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 5-6 months, so please SEND new words or corrections to Professor Melvyn Goldstein at mcg2@po.cwru.edu.


Blondeau and Meyer, Dakpa (2001) Dictionnaire thématique français-tibétain du tibétain parlé (langue standard) vol.1 L'homme anatomie, fonctions motrices et viscérales sous la direction de A-M. Blondeau, Directeur d'études à l'EPHE, Fernand Meyer, Directeur d'études à l'EPHE et Ngawang Dakpa, assistant à l'INALCO Editions l'Harmattan: Paris, 450 p. ISBN: 2-7475-1689-X 36.60 Euros. email: harmat@worldnet.fr fax 33 1 43 25 82 03.

Manderscheid, A. (1999). Lebens- und Wirtschaftsformen von Nomaden im Osten des tibetischen Hochlandes. Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin.

Manderscheid, A. (2001). "The Black Tent in it's Easternmost Distribution: The Case of the Tibetan Plateau." Mountain Research and Development, Vol 21, No 2:154-160.

Goldstein, M.C. and C.M. Beall. (2002). "Changing patterns of Tibetan nomadic pastoralism." In Human Biology of Pastoral Populations, Leonard and Crawford (eds.). Cambridge University Press, 131-150.

Goldstein, M.C., Ben Jiao, C.M. Beall, Phuntso Tsering. (2002) Fertility and Family Planning in Rural Tibet. The China Journal, 47 (1).

III. Conferences and Symposia

1. The international workshop on "NATURAL PASTURES AND MOBILE ANIMAL HUSBANDRY UNDER PRESSURE: THE CASES OF LAPLAND AND THE TIBETAN PLATEAU" takes place in the Department of Geography, at the university of Oulu. For more information, please visit the WEB page: http://terra.oulu.fi/english/events.htm

2. In April 2002 an international conference was convened at Harvard on: "The Cold War and its Legacy in Tibet: Great-Power Politics and Regional Security."

The Conference discussed Cold War-era developments in Tibet and South Asia based on newly declassified archival materials as well as on the current situation and prospects for the future. The overall aim of the conference was to achieve a better understanding of the Cold War's legacy in Tibet and the impact of separatist movements on the security environment in South Asia.

For a list of Panels, Discussants and Papers presented please visit their web page: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/tibetprogram.pdf

3. The 34th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Kunming, Yunnan, PRC, Oct. 24-28, 2001

The Sino-Tibetan conference has been meeting annually for 34 years to compare work being done on all the known languages of the Sino-Tibetan family and their dialects, in an effort to reconstruct the historical relations between them and to eventually reconstruct proto Sino-Tibetan. While the conference originated at Yale University, its main sponsor over the years and the center of research throughout most of its history, has been the University of California at Berkeley which is in the process of publishing an etymological dictionary for the entire family including Tibetan dialects ( http://www.linguistics.berkeley.edu/stedt/ ). UC- Berkeley also publishes the Journal of Tibeto-Burman linguistics which features numerous articles on Tibetan, classical and colloquial, by both western and Chinese scholars ( http://www.linguistics.berkeley.edu/ltba/ ). Both welcome contributions from any source although authors must transcribe all language samples into the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

The Sino-Tibetan family has the greatest numbers of speakers in the world after Indo-European, and is particularly interesting to linguists for its unique system of tones, but unlike Indo-European, has yet to be thoroughly analyzed. Indeed, whole new groups of languages in this family were being discovered and described as recently as 15 years ago. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that many of the speakers of these languages, reside in rather inaccessible jungles and mountains, and are often scattered among several countries. It took a hundred years for linguists to successfully analyze Indo- European and reconstruct the proto language while the study of Sino-Tibetan is about 50 years old. Unfortunately, time is running out as the current rate of language extinction in the world indicates that of the 6,000 languages currently spoken, only 3,000 will still be viable in 2050 and many of the extinctions will be Tibeto-Burman languages and dialects. Hope was expressed at the conference however, that analysis and reconstruction of Sino-Tibetan can be speeded up through the use of computers. Indeed, one whole session was given over to the demonstration of various linguistic data bases.

The conference was essentially divided between those linguists studying Chinese, ancient and modern (generally Chinese speakers), and those linguists studying Tibetan and Tibeto-Burman languages (generally westerners). Given the location in China and the chronological proximity to September 11, the majority of the approximately 200 participants were Chinese. I personally attended only sessions on Tibeto-Burman and I gave my own paper on the language of the Sherpa people of Nepal as part of a six person panel on Tibetan language since the Sherpas originated in east Tibet 500 years ago. Two of the six speakers were from mainland China and gave their papers in Chinese, the Chinese speaker from Taiwan gave summaries of his work in both Chinese and English, and three of us (two Americans and one Japanese), did ours exclusively in English. The young Japanese woman spoke on the evolution of "New Tibetan" in the Tibetan settlements in India.

The title of my paper was "Sherpa Kinship Terminology and Its Wider Implications". Although I was the only anthropologist at the conference, it fit into the general scheme of things because it was historically oriented, discussing the transition of Sino-Tibetan kinship terminology in general from that of cross cousin marriage to the Omaha typology, of which Sherpa is an excellent example. The process evidently began between the Shang and Chou dynasties in China and was already in place in Tibet by the classical period of the Yarlung Tsangpo kings, but is only now occurring among the Tibetan speaking populations south of the Himalayas and not at all among Himalayan tribes such as the Tamang and Gurung. My paper then concluded with some predictions about the difficulty of reconstructing proto Sino Tibetan terms unless some of the more obscure languages of the Himalaya are analyzed since they alone seem to preserve the more archaic forms.

As with any conference, the informal discussions are as informative as the formal presentations. Among others, I was able to meet several members of the Himalayan Languages Project based at the University of Leidan in Holland ( http://iias.leidenuniv.nl/host/himalaya/index.html) and discuss with them their research in several Himalayan countries. As a result, I later ordered the two volume set by the head of the project, George van Driem, entitled Languages of the Himalayas, which is surely the most comprehensive treatment of the subject to date. One of van Driem's many projects has been surveying the Tibetan languages of Bhutan and devising at Bhutanese government request, a Roman script for Dzongka, the national language. He does not cover just the languages of the Himalayas in his book however, but also the anthropology of Asia, and relates findings of archaeology and genetics to the attempt to classify Sino-Tibetan and eventually all Asian languages. In fact, one of the theoretical differences between the Sinologists and the Tibeto-Burman specialists seemed to be that the Sinologists were more oriented toward linguistics and history while the Tibeto-Burman scholars were more anthropologically oriented. Currently the Chinese scholars maintain that the Sino-Tibeto-Burman people originated in the north as did ancient Chinese civilization, while the anthropologically oriented Tibeto-Burman scholars, using a combination of genetics and linguistics, are more and more certain that the entire group entered China from the south. Indeed, van Driem goes so far as to say in his book that the language family should be renamed the Tibeto-Burman-Chinese family.

The main reason I came to this particular conference however, was to obtain information regarding research done by Chinese linguists on speakers of the Sherpa language who still live in Tibet. I knew that such research had been done though no one in the West is familiar with the details. Many of the Chinese linguists however, knew about the Sherpas living north of the Himalayas and could site the works in Chinese which give language samples and their analysis. Further, all seemed aware that Sherpa retained elements of the Khampa dialect although officially classified as central Tibetan. They also gave me references to other Chinese linguistic surveys of eastern Tibet where the Sherpas originated. These were valuable as I have the hypothesis, based on two of the four original Sherpa clans, that some of the words in Sherpa which are neither eastern nor central Tibetan, are from two unrelated Chiangic languages of eastern Tibet and western Szechuan province - the Chiangwa and Minyakpa.

In conclusion, it seems indisputable that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Central Institute of Nationalities have created a wealth of ethnographic and linguistic information on Tibetan and Tibetan dialects during the past fifty years and that a translation of just the titles along with brief abstracts of the work already done, would be extremely valuable to the western scholarly world. It would also seem to be the type of project which could get funding. Therefore if any other Tibetologists are interested, I would be happy to hear from them.

Janice Sacherer Asian Studies and Anthropology Depts. University of Maryland - Asia jturner@sunny-net.ne.jp

4. International Workshop : "The Changing Face of Pastoralism in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau Highlands" Lhasa, TAR, May 12-19, 2002

Rangelands of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) - Central Asian highlands are much like rangelands of other parts of the world: they are a marginal resource, naturally low in productivity and diverse in character in terms of both precipitation and forage availability. They also reflect a diverse cultural landscape, concurrently shaped by physical forces and human use. In this context it is important to view rangelands as something more than just a resource to sustain livestock, but rather as a complex environment with a diverse array of amenities and possibilities, and a rich cultural milieu. Despite the significance of rangeland resources in the livelihoods of diverse ethnic communities, these people increasingly find themselves at the fringes of modern society and the development process. Their economy, way of life and the environment upon which they depend poorly understood, they struggle to make ends meet in a world that increasingly sees their way of life as "backward" and "irrational". Yet these communities have proven themselves to be quite resilient and have adapted in the face of change, although swayed and constrained by the world around them.

There is an urgent need to bring diverse players together, from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, to build mutual understanding about the realities of highland pastoralism of the HKH-Tibetan Plateau region. What factors have contributed to the marginalisation of pastoral peoples? How have they responded? What are the challenges faced by development workers and policy makers for bringing pastoral communities into the "mainstream"? What programmes and policies have helped them to adapt to modern forces of globalisation? What are future policy strategies that legitimise local knowledge and collective action in the management of rangeland resources?

To address these issues, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and The Tibetan Academy of Agriculture and Animal Sciences (TAAAS) jointly organised a strategy workshop "The Changing Face of Pastoralism in the HKH-Tibetan Plateau Highlands", held in Lhasa, TAR, May 12-19, 2002.

The objectives of the workshop were:

1) To increase understanding of the current state of pastoralism in the highlands of the Tibetan Plateau;
2) To celebrate the knowledge and strengths of mountain rangeland communities;
3) To highlight success stories of development programs and policies that have fostered sustainable pastoral livelihoods in a world of rapid change;
4) To collectively devise working strategies for future innovations in pastoral development and rangeland conservation.

Presentations covered a variety of topics relevant to pastoral development and rangeland conservation, including:

  • pastoral production systems research;
  • resource tenure policies and impacts;
  • alternative livelihoods for pastoralists (marketing of niche products, medicinal plants, ecotourism etc);
  • successful participatory approaches for pastoral development and conservation of rangelands;
  • institutional strengthening of social services in remote pastoral areas;
  • improving organizational performance of government agencies;
  • and, institutional and policy models for co-management of rangelands (China and Mongolia).

In addition a number of working groups were conducted on:

  • Demonstration of IFAD's Livestock and Rangeland Knowledge Base
  • Developing an agro-pastoral conceptual model for the Agri-Karakorum project, Northern Areas Pakistan
  • Rangeland conservation on the Tibetan Plateau
  • Appropriate Institutional Arrangements and Policies for Community Based Rangeland Management
  • Integrated Research and Extension Needs for Participatory Rangeland Management and Pastoral Development
  • International Science and Technology Co-operation under EC's FP6
  • RRP meeting to plan consultations for next phase

Field visits included a cultural fair in the pastoral region of Damxiong County, north of Lhasa, and a juniper restoration site adjacent to Drepung Monastery near Lhasa.

In general the meeting offered participants a unique opportunity to engage in scholarly exchange, stakeholder dialogue and strategy formulation to address these important questions. Outcomes include:

  • A broader scope of knowledge among a diverse audience (CBO to policy level);
  • Establishment of linkages across a common ecological and cultural landscape (e.g. cultural fair for Ladakh, Mustang, Bhutan; trade in livestock genetic material across closed borders; Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan linkages; Central Asian linkages);
  • Research collaborations forming across borders and among international organizations;
  • Initiation of a juniper restoration forum set up with the Asia Pacific Mountain Network located at http://www.mtnforum.org/apmn/juniper_forum.html
  • Plans formulated for follow-up policy level meetings to address collaborative management issues for rangelands in the HKH.

Proceedings and case studies will be published in 2003. For further information contact Camille Richard, Rangeland Specialist, crichard@icimod.org.np

IV. Websites and Collections

The Essen Collection from the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Switzerland, has been added to the digital archive of the Himalayan Art Project web page. From the more than 750 paintings, sculpture and ritual objects in the Essen Collection an initial 102 are now exhibited with the remaining bulk of the collection to be added to the web page over the next 2 years - as the objects are photographed. http://www.himalayanart.org/search/set.cfm?setID=533

It is with some degree of excitement that we announce the exhibition of this outstanding collection comprised of many unique images of famous Tibetan lamas that until now were not represented on the web page. The collection also boasts a wealth of unique iconography and several complete sets of paintings (tangkas), along with intricately designed ritual objects and ornate textiles of various types.

Currently each image is accompanied with the basic catalogue information. Detailed write-ups will be added over the next few months along with links, where appropriate, to the biographical information courtesy of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center database (TBRC), www.tbrc.org . The contact person is Jeff Watt, Chief Editor, Himalayan Art Project.

V. Dissertations:

1. Carole McGranahan. "Arrested Histories: Between Empire and Exile in 20th Century Tibet," Program in Anthropology and History, University of Michigan, 2001.

Abstract: This dissertation is an ethnohistorical study of twentieth century Tibet as experienced and narrated by Khampa Tibetans. It is based on ethnographic participant-observation and interviews with Tibetan refugees in multiple communities in South Asia, and archival research with Tibetan and British colonial documents. My focus is on three interrelated histories: first, a series of boundary disputes between the governments of Tibet, China, and British India in the eastern Tibetan region of Kham; second, the story of a Khampa trading family, the Pangdatsangs, members of which challenged social, political, and economic aspects of the Tibetan status quo; and third, the Tibetan resistance movement, begun in Kham as a series of independent uprisings, and later transformed into an organized guerrilla army supported by the CIA.

I focus on the Tibetan region of Kham in order to explore the "arrest" of regional pasts from national Tibetan history as produced in exile. Despite this exclusion, Tibetan refugees continue to remember and narrate marginalized pasts, and do so as part of a national history, not just as local or personal histories. These narrations comprise a new historical genre in exile-the "new lo rgyus," which combined with the Tibetan practice of "historical arrest" raise questions regarding the weaknesses in hegemonic political projects (such as the nation), the flexible parameters of historical truth, and the always contested nature of "shared" cultural formations. Tibet also offers the opportunity to rethink the idea of history as a modern project from the edges of nation and empire: Tibet was not quite a modern nation-state at the time of the Chinese invasion, and in exile is but a virtual nation-state. In addition, while Tibet was never colonized by Europe, it did have relations with agents of British India, was colonized by the People's Republic of China in the 1950s, and was drawn into U.S. imperial politics through the CIA's cold war support of the Tibetan resistance. In sum, this dissertation is about Tibetan attempts to forge a modern nation-state as constrained by external conditions of empire and exile, and internal problems of the place of the region within the nation.

2. Steven Venturino. "Critical Baggage: Traveling theory in China, Tibet and the transnational academy." Loyola University of Chicago, 2000, 246 pages.

1998 The Center for Research on Tibet
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