In the late 10th century, during the period which became known in Tibet as the ‘Later Spread of Buddhism’ (bstan pa’i phyi dar), Buddhism was revived in Central Tibet and introduced into Western Tibet as a state religion. Closely following the proclamation of a Buddhist constitution by the ruler of Western Tibet in the form of two royal edicts (986 and 988), the foundation of four central Buddhist monasteries was begun, simultaneously in all cases in 996 in major areas of the West Tibetan kingdom. At the same time also in border areas of the kingdom, the construction of a number of Buddhist temples and monasteries started. Concomitant with these foundation processes, the social and economic order of the whole society was re-organised and rigorously structured according to Buddhist concepts.

In this project, based on work by the late Guge Tsering Gyalpo and in collaboration with Tsering Drongshar and Christiane Kalantari, various new textual, historical, and art-historical information relating to these early West Tibetan Buddhist monuments and their foundation by members of the royal West Tibetan lineage is examined from a social-anthropological perspective. This concerns, for example, two important historical textual sources authored by Guge Paṇḍita Drakpa Gyaltsen (1415-1486), the “Royal Genealogy of the Solar Lineage” (Nyi ma’i rigs kyi rgyal rabs) and the “Extended Biography of the Royal Lama Yeshe Ö” (lHa bla ma Ye shes ’od rnam thar rgyas pa). The foundation of the West Tibetan kingdom, its antecedents and an account of the royal lineage of West Tibet are some of the topics treated in the first text while the second is dedicated to the life and activities of perhaps the most important and influential person in the early history of Western Tibet, who according to all relevant sources was responsible for the Buddhist transformation of Western Tibet in the late 10th/early 11th century. New information is also studied and prepared for publication on the main temple of Nyarma (Ladakh), a stela in Kyuwang (Tsamda District, TAR, China) related to the Great Translator (lo chen) Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) and the monumental stela in Chokro (lCog ro) (Purang District, TAR, China).

Project leader:
Christian Jahoda

Tsering Drongshar, Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Documentation of Inner and South Asian Cultural History (CIRDIS), University of Vienna; Christiane Kalantari, ISA


core-funding, private foundations