About the Modern Tibetan Studies Program
Columbia’s Modern Tibetan Studies Program, established in 1999, was the first program in the West dedicated to teaching about the society, history, and culture of modern Tibet. It provides a range of courses and programs for undergraduate and graduate students who want to focus on modern Tibet studies; supports and carries out research on modern Tibetan society, history, and culture; runs study programs, educational projects and conferences in close collaboration with other institutions and scholars in the US and abroad; organizes exchange visits with Tibetan and Chinese scholars from Tibet and elsewhere; and has an ongoing program of public activities in New York.
The faculty, research scholars and staff in the Modern Tibetan Studies Program are Gray Tuttle, who holds the Leila Hadley Luce Chair of Modern Tibetan Studies; Lauran Hartley, Tibetan Studies Librarian at Columbia; Lobsang Dondrup, Tibetan Bibliographical Assistant in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library; and Tibetan language instructors Pema Bhum, Sonam Tsering, and Kunchog Tseten.
In spring 2004, the Modern Tibetan Studies Program was awarded a $3 million gift from the Henry Luce Foundation to establish the world’s first chair in modern Tibetan studies. Gray Tuttle, the current holder of the chair, is an expert in modern Tibetan history and Sino-Tibetan relations since the seventeenth century.
The program, in cooperation with Columbia’s Departments of Religion and of East Asian Languages and Cultures, offers instruction in both modern and classical Tibetan language and provides at both graduate and undergraduate level that cover Tibetan history from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries as well as courses on material culture, contemporary Tibetan art, history, politics and culture, biography, film and other issues. Recent courses have included 19th and 20th century Tibetan history, modern Tibetan literature, film and television in Inner Asia, Sino-Tibetan relations, and oral history in Tibet.
Tibetan studies can be taken as a part of the Core Curriculum requirement for undergraduates, and modern Tibetan studies can be chosen as a concentration within the MA degrees in East Asian Studies, in International Affairs, or in Regional Studies–East Asia (MARSEA). At the PhD level, students can specialize in modern Tibetan studies within the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.
The program is supported by an outstanding library collection of books and manuscripts about Tibet. The collection, one of the largest in the United States, is based at Columbia’s C. V. Starr East Asian Library and includes some 15,000 books on Tibet in English, Tibetan and Chinese, as well as a major library of classical Tibetan texts.
The program includes the Tibet Ecotourism Training Project, which organizes training workshops and visits for Tibetans in the tourism sector in Tibet. It is linked to other Tibet studies initiatives in the New York City area, including the Latse Contemporary Tibetan Culture Library, the Rubin Museum of Art, the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, and the Newark Museum, as well as to other universities in the United States and Europe, and it has an exchange relationship with the Central Minzu (Nationalities) University in Beijing.
The modern Tibetan studies program is part of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute’s initiative to include the borderlands of China and the frontiers of Inner and Central Asia in the American map of knowledge about East Asia. Together with the Harriman Institute at Columbia, the program is part of the Inner Asia Curricular Development Project, which develops materials and resources to enhance teaching about the broader Inner Asian and Central Asia regions.