These two source books give students and general readers access to an emerging academic field, modern Tibetan studies, which challenges the shallow popular image of Tibet as an isolated land of changeless wisdom. The volumes show Tibet as part of world history, not apart from it. The chronological structures of both books reveal a society that has never been static: a turbulent mix of cultures, clans, dialects, religious lineages, and forms of rule, with a creative center that has both received and exerted cultural influence in its relations with China, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Russia.
Sources of Tibetan Tradition contains substantial excerpts from over 180 primary documents, many of them translated into English for the first time, covering Tibet’s history from the seventh century, when Buddhism made its first inroads, to the creation of the position of the Dalai Lama at the behest of a Mongolian king in 1578, to the eve of Tibet’s integration into the People’s Republic of China in the mid-twentieth century. Paired with authoritative commentaries by leading scholars, the documents trace the region’s eventful political history and its rich interactions with surrounding civilizations -- sometimes as an empire ruling nearby societies, sometimes as a fragmented collection of monastic principalities, sometimes as a unified polity under the loose rule of the Dalai Lama’s Gelukpa sect.
The Tibetan History Reader brings together 33 otherwise hard to find chapters and articles from innovative recent scholarship on Tibet. The topics covered include governmental structures, trade, the agricultural economy, land ownership and serfdom, international relations, and the sometimes murderous religious politics of reincarnation. The material is specialized but animated by a sense of fresh discovery.