The Tibetan Studies Student Association (TSSA) at Indiana University recently invited a leading Tibetan scholar of Tibetan history to the IU Bloomington campus to present a lecture and meet with faculty and students. His three-day visit brought together students and members of the Tibetan community in Bloomington in what was both a learning experience and a celebration of Tibetan language, culture, and history.
On Monday, September 30, Tibetan historian Gyelmo Drukpa gave a lecture titled “Important Terms in Chinese Documents for Tibetan History,” moderated by CEUS Professor Stacey Van Vleet and translated by doctoral student Tenzin Tsepak. Our visitor began his lecture by tracing the terms for Tibetan places or kingdoms described in old Chinese documents, focusing on those that are as yet unknown or understudied. Drawing on his expertise in this area of history and old Chinese, he identified the names of the places in question in both ancient and modern Chinese pronunciations. He also suggested areas for possible further study within the field, such as work on the unidentified Tibetan personal names in these documents. The event ended after a lively Q&A session with students that expanded particularly on the terms more widely used in the history of Tibet.
A day prior to this fascinating lecture, Gyelmo Drukpa and his wife, Tenzin Choedron, were welcomed to Bloomington with an evening of dinner and conversation at the home of Gedun Rabsal, Senior Lecturer of Tibetan Language at IU, in the company of students, scholars, and friends. Many guests brought offering scarves (khatag) to present to the historian on arrival, and we introduced ourselves with varying levels of Tibetan proficiency. Professor Rabsal’s wife, Yangkey, had prepared a wonderful meal of Tibetan dumplings (mog mog), noodles, and curry. During their stay, Professors Rabsal and Van Vleet also took the visiting couple on a tour of the Bloomington area, including a visit to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center just south of town.
Concluding his visit to IU, Gyelmo Drukpa met with TSSA members once again on Tuesday, October 1, for lunch in the Global and International Studies Building. During the lunch hour, students asked follow-up questions about the lecture and about the historian’s various experiences working with prominent Tibetan language publications. Many students were interested in his work as deputy director of the most recent publication of the comparative edition of the Kangyur (bka’ ’gyur) and Tenguyr (bstan ’gyur) texts, which together make up the Tibetan Buddhist Canon. Gyelmo Drukpa also noted that young scholars today are not just looking to texts for their historical knowledge, but also increasingly to other mediums such as art, music, folktales, and more. Additionally, he discussed the ways in which technological advances at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing—where he is Senior Researcher—continue to change the field of Tibetan Studies.
Gyelmo Drukpa (Chi. Zhou Hua) is a leading historian of Tibet. His expertise in Tibetan history, and especially his highlighting of understudied regions such as Amdo and Kham, is a key element of his pioneering research. His publications include A Concise History of Tibet (Tib. Bod kyi lo rgyus gleng ba’i gtam) (1st ed. 1995; 3rd ed. 2017), and his Compilation of Essays (Tib. Rgyal mo ’brug pa’i che rtsom phyogs bsgrigs). He is also a serving member of the China Tibetology Research Center’s Academic Committee. Gyelmo Drukpa first visited Indiana University in 1998 to participate in the Eighth Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies.
The Tibetan Studies Student Association is grateful to our sponsors: the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center (IAUNRC), Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies (SRIFIAS), East Asian Studies Center, and Pan Asia Institute.