Gray Tuttle

Gray Tuttle

Research Interest

Modern Tibetan history; Manchu Qing Empire frontiers; role of Tibetan Buddhism in Sino-Tibetan relations.

Professor Tuttle’s current research project, for a book tentatively entitled “Amdo (Qinghai/Gansu): Middle Ground between Lhasa and Beijing,” focuses on Tibetan Buddhist institutional growth from the seventeenth to the twentieth century and how economic growth in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands fueled expansion and renewal of these institutions into the contemporary period.

In his Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2005), examines the failure of nationalism and race-based ideology to maintain the Tibetan territory of the former Qing empire as integral to the Chinese nation-state. He discusses the critical role of pan-Asian Buddhism in Chinese efforts to hold onto Tibetan regions (one quarter of China’s current territory).

He also co-edited Sources of Tibetan Tradition for the series Introduction to Asian Civilizations, The Tibetan History Reader, and Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang (Columbia University Press).

Professor Tuttle teaches courses on modern Tibetan history, the history of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist relations, and global core courses on Tibetan civilization as well as Tibetan frontiers, biographies, and sacred geography in comparative contexts.

Recently he has turned to increasingly large data sets in an effort to ask and answer new questions about Tibetan history. In an effort to ask and answer new questions about Tibetan history, Professor Tuttle has turned to increasingly large data sets over the course of his career. Starting with a database of over 1000 Amdo monasteries with dozens of fields of data (GIS location, foundation data, number of monks, rooms, livestock, etc), led to building datasets on hundreds of incarnation series and monastic colleges as well, which have shaped the direction of the Amdo history book project in significant ways. Lately, with a research assistant, Professor Tuttle has worked with larger datasets and the statistical computing and graphing programming language called “R” to examine existing data on Tibetan (mostly monks') longevity in comparison with Chinese monks, Chinese literati, and Europeans in history. Future plans include working with even larger datasets by examining the hydrology of the Tibetan plateau with climate scientists, to see if new perspectives of the large arcs of Tibetan history might be reframed by a deeper understanding of climate data.

He received his AB from Princeton, his MA in regional studies (East Asian), and his PhD in Inner Asian and Altaic studies from Harvard. He joined the Columbia faculty in 2005 and received the Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award in 2019.

For more information (CV, publication links, etc.), click here.



Tuttle, Gray, and Ben Hillman, eds. Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang: Unrest in China’s West. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.

Tuttle, Gray, and Kurtis R. Schaeffer, eds. The Tibetan History Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

Tuttle, Gray. Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.