Sources of Tibetan Tradition.

Author:Van Schaik, Sam
Position:The Tibetan History Reader - Book review
 
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Sources of Tibetan Tradition. Edited by KURTIS R. SCHAEFFER, MATTHEW T. KAPSTEIN, and GRAY TUTTLE. New York: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Press, 2013. Pp. xxxvii + 810, 3 maps. $120 (cloth), $40 (paper).

The Tibetan History Reader. Edited by GRAY TUTTLE and KURTIS R. SCHAEFFER. New York: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2013. Pp. xxii + 720, 3 maps. $120 (cloth), $40 (paper).

The academic study of Tibet is still a relatively young field, but the last few decades have seen a huge increase in the numbers of people involved in it. The conference of the International Association for Tibetan Studies has grown from the first small gathering in Oxford in 1979 to the recent international meetings hosting hundreds of delegates. Along with the accumulation year on year of publications in the field of Tibetan Studies, there is an increase every year in the amount that is published. Where once it might have seemed possible to read everything there is to read in the field, that is now a daunting and probably inadvisable task.

So the publication in 2013 of two anthologies of material on Tibetan history and culture is both timely and welcome. These two books are both published by Columbia University Press and both edited by Kurtis Schaeffer and Gray Tuttle, with the addition of Matthew Kapstein on the first volume. They are clearly intended to complement one another. Sources of Tibetan Tradition is an anthology of translations of original Tibetan texts (generally excerpts) with brief introductory essays, while The Tibetan History Reader is an anthology of thirty-three scholarly papers on Tibet.

The first of the two books, Sources of Tibetan Tradition, is organized chronologically in five parts, which themselves contain twenty-three sections, most of which are divided into thematic sub-sections, which may themselves contain several translated texts. This rather complex nested structure, reminiscent of Tibetan exegetical literature, is entirely justified by the wealth of material that is contained here. The decision to use brief but representative excerpts rather than full texts means that a great deal of historical and cultural ground can be covered in a single volume. Since in many cases the translated excerpts have been drawn from previous publications that are still in print, readers who wish to consult the full text will be able to do so.

As well as including previously published translations (sometimes edited or translated into English from other European...

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