Historical Dictionary of Tibet

By (author) John Powers, David Templeman

Hardback - £137.00

Publication date:

18 May 2012

Length of book:

832 pages


Scarecrow Press

ISBN-13: 9780810868052

Tibet is a land bounded by the world’s highest mountains, and it is the repository of an ancient culture. For centuries it was viewed by Europeans as a remote, mystical place populated by Buddhist masters with supernatural powers and profound wisdom. In contrast to this image, it was once a warlike country whose expansionist rulers conquered a vast empire that incorporated much of central Asia and parts of China. Even now the Tibetan Plateau remains a scene of contestation, both ideologically and militarily. Major popular uprisings in 1959, 1988, and 2008 have drawn the attention of the world’s media, and its religious teachers often attract large crowds when they travel overseas. The situation in the country remains highly volatile today, as the 2008 uprising—the largest and most widespread in the history of the region—attests.

The Historical Dictionary of Tibet is the most comprehensive dictionary published to date on Tibetan history. It covers the history of Tibet from 27,000 BCE to the present through a chronology, an introductory essay, an extensive bibliography, and over 1,000 cross-referenced dictionary entries on important personalities, politics, economy, foreign relations, religion, culture, anthropology, and sociology. This book is an excellent access point for students, researchers, and anyone wanting to know more about Tibet.
Although most of us are familiar with Tibet as a nation at odds with its powerful neighbor and as the home of the Dali Lama, much of the land’s rich history and diverse culture remains hidden atop the soaring heights of the Himalayan plateau. In this comprehensive dictionary, Powers (Australian National University, Canberra ) and Templeman (Monash University, Melbourne) have given scholars of Tibetan culture and history a rich compendium for future research.The work begins with a listing of terms covered, followed by a highly useful chronology detailing the main events of Tibetan history from the life of the Buddha to the present day. A judicious 49-page introduction presents users with a lucid overview of Tibetan religious and political history as well as a synopsis of its rich, dynamic culture and spectacular geography. The A–Z arranged entries canvass a broad diversity of subjects, including geopolitical relationships, major political leaders, episodes from an expansionist past, and religious figures as well as thematic entries such as Banking and finance, Human rights, Mongolian Buddhism, and Trade. Examples of other entries include Chakrata Project, Foreign relations, Islam, and Tibetan uprising of 2008. The volume concludes with a substantial categorized bibliography for further research into such themes as Tibetan art, history, and literature. The chief obstacle to the volume’s utility lies with the Tibetan language, which, as the authors point out, presents “unusual problems.” The authors have chosen the transliteration system developed by Turrell Wylie, a system they argue “makes it difficult for beginners to pronounce terms properly” because of its equation of Sanskrit letters with the Tibetan letters they resemble. Although this hurdle is easily overcome by subject specialists, it presents a problem for those new to the subject. Nevertheless, with its diversity of topics and clear writing, the volume is essential.