Tibetan Studies: News of the Collection

Current News



Here are some updates on resources to assist with Tibetan Studies Research as we shelter in place during the Coronavirus Pandemic.



HathiTrust is temporarily allowing digital access for about 40% of Columbia University's holdings via CLIO.

The Internet Archive (IA), with which both Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) and Columbia University Libraries have active partnerships, has opened the National Emergency Library, allowing online-access and 14-day "borrowing" (account required) for 1.42 million copyright titles. Still more titles can be read online through its Open Library and the IA basic  search. As just one example, Apparitions of the Self, by Janet Gyatso is available for online reading, as supplied by "The Public Library of India."  Since IA is sourced by hundreds of individuals and institutions, the rights for posting many titles may be suspect -- but will help you in a pinch for now. Note that BDRC has contributed more than 14,000 titles to IA, and Columbia University Libraries now posts its digital collections to IA, in addition to our local DLC portal.

Other open-access collections.


2. See YOUR LIBRARIES ONLINE for general resources at Columbia University Libraries. If you have Tibetan Studies related questions, please do contact me directly at lh2112@columbia.edu


3.  WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY (hosted by Library of Congress) https://www.wdl.org/en/

Manuscripts, maps, photos and other special collections, all in public domain -- created prior to 1923

Two libraries in China have shared digitized manuscripts with the WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY.  The collection should be of special interest for Tibetan Studies students. Not much in Tibetan-language, but plenty of interesting rare materials in Chinese and English. 

Only 3 manuscripts in Tibetan language, but 180 items if one searches "Tibet*"  (Then use "narrow results" button in upper left to explore/limit results.)

Also, see 642 results for Chinese-language texts or search the INTERACTIVE MAP for "Chinese Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Prints. "Presented on this timeline are manuscripts, books, and maps made in China and for the most part written in Chinese between circa 1199 BCE and 1931.. The originals of these documents are in the collections of the National Library of China, the Library of Congress, and the National Central Library... Religion, history, geography, government administration, literature, medicine, technology, and early translations of European books into Chinese are represented in the collection."

Sample results:

Memorials from Qinghai (originals held by Library of Congress)

Collection of handwritten memorials in ten volumes, written by Yushi (1825–1906) during the reign of Emperor Tongzhi (1862–74) and Emperor Guangxu (1875–1908). Yushi was a Han native whose original family name was Liu, who later became a member of one of the Manchu Eight Banners. He achieved his jin shi (doctoral degree) in 1852 and entered the government, serving in a number of official posts, including one at the Grand Secretariat. In 1859 he became an investigating censor of Shandong and later of Shaanxi. Two years later he became the prefect of Lanzhou and Pingliang. In 1870 he was promoted to grand minister superintendent of Xining, Qinghai, where he assisted Zuo Zongtang (1812–85), the most prominent military leader and statesman of the time, in suppressing the anti-Qing movement of the Muslims in the region. In 1878 he became the military governor of Urumqi. This work contains his memorials written during his years in the Qinghai region. Many of the memorials detail military maneuvers and provide information relating to events that supplement the official histories of the period. Also included are memorials requesting the recruitment of soldiers to protect vital garrisons, the recruitment of civil corps, and correspondence involving penalties for the provincial treasurer for delay in delivering pay and provisions for soldiers. The book has two prefaces, one by the author and another by Li Hongzao (1820–97), a fellow high official who was a tutor at the imperial court and served as grand councilor.

Illustrated Travel Notes on the Journey to Kangyou

Compiled by Yao Ying (1785-1853) of Tongcheng, Anhui Province... In 1843 he was banished by the imperial court to Sichuan. While there he was dispatched twice to Chad Ya (present-day Chaya Xian, Changdu Diqu, Tibet) in order to resolve disputes among the Tibetan monks. He also conducted surveys of Xikang, Tibet and various places in the southwestern region. This is a manuscript copy, based on his travel and survey notes. It contains information on history, geography, religions and social customs of these places and neighboring countries, such as India, Nepal, and Sikkim, as well as information on England, France and Russia.

Complete Inventory of the Yuanjiang Garrison System under the Yunnan Provincial Commander-in-Chief

Two-volume handwritten copy, issued during the Daoguang reign (1821–50), which gives details on the geographical position, territory, cities, waters, ponds, beacon towers, population, customs, and indigenous people of the region. Also given is detailed information on army rations, weapons and munitions, and measurements of roads. The work is an important reference source for the history of Yuanjiang.

Xizang tu ku = "Atlas of Tibet"

Full color and downloadable (juan 1-2?) with English introduction. Held by National Library of China. C.f. presentation of "(光緒)西藏圖考8卷 (清)黃沛翹纂 清光绪甲午申榮堂本" in Zhongguo fang zhi ku 中国方志库, but the latter provides transcription in simplied characters.

Di tu zong yao (General survey of geographical maps) - created in 1645

An outline of Chinese military geography in three parts: Zong juan (Main volume), Nei juan (Internal volume), and Wai juan (External volume). Zong juan contains the summary and introduction, with a general discussion of the terrain of China as a whole. Nei juan describes the capitals in the south and the north and the 13 provincial governorships of Shanxi, Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Huguang (a province during the Yuan and Ming), Sichuan, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guizhou. It includes information on the number of establishments in these provinces, maps of territories and borders, gazetteers of prefectures and counties, etc.

64 Battle Copper Prints of the Qianlong Period

The “Battle Copper Prints” are a series of prints from copper engravings dating from the second half of the 18th century. They were commissioned by the Qianlong emperor of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), who ruled from 1735 to 1796. 



China and the Modern World : Diplomacy and Political Secrets (1869-1950) - new!

Columbia University Libraries (CUL) recently acquired the "Diplomacy and Political Secrets" collection in Gale's "China and the Modern World" series. It offers a compilation of rare historical manuscripts and monographs from three series within the India Office Records at the British Library: the Political and Secret Department Records, the Burma Office records, and the Records of the Military Department; includes reports, memoranda, correspondence, pamphlets and official publications, intelligence diaries, accounts of political and scientific expeditions, travel diaries, handbooks and maps. Read more and browse/search the 4,204 documents, primarily in English with some in Chinese.


Adam Matthew Digital Collections.  Use the "AM Explorer" interface to search across dozens of primary resource collections: Empires Online, East Asian India Company, Foreign Office Files for China , "China : trade, politics & culture, 1793-1980 : sources from the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library, London", etc.

Bibliography of Asian Studies

EBSCO Historical Abstracts with Full Text


Treasury of Lives

A biographical encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia, and the Himalayan region. Provides accessible and well-researched biographies for a wide range of figures, from Buddhist masters to artists and political officials.

And there are so many more....  please e-mail me with your research topic, and I can write you with suggestions:  lh2112@columbia.edu



The best-known database for Tibetan texts is the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), of course.  Some 15,000+ of their titles can now be accessed via CLIO.   It is not comprehensive (no library can be), but it is unsurpassed for Tibetan e-books. Look for their forthcoming new interface: BUDA.  Also, BDRC continues to improve its OCR functionality.


Other sources for e-books:

Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP) computer input texts, primarily canonical but also some auto/biography

Tibetan E-Books  (select publications primarily from India)

Tsadra : See especially Online resources and Tools  LOTS of great links here.

Wisdom Publications (greatly expanded resource in recent years) worth exploring!


Please also see the Columbia Online Research Guide for Modern Tibetan Studies, which we are continuing to update this year with suggestions from the  graduate-level "Sources" class.


6. CHINESE DATABASES: To highlight a few....

National Index to Chinese newspapers and periodicals = Quan guo bao kan suo yin shu ju ku 全国报刊索引数据库

This is a great resource. It seems to have expanded in recent years, and the resources can be downloaded in .pdf format.  It offers an English interface and several databases; among the best for Tibetan Studies:


The Late Qing Full-text Database 晚清期刊全文数据库  Wan Qing qi kan quan wen shu ju ku (1833-1911) [electronic resource]

Try a search for 西藏(Xizang) or even just 藏(Zang)and limit by resource-type or other features. The English-interface is extremely helpful and offers descriptions of many resources.

CADAL (China Academic Digital Associative Library) is a government-sponsored cooperative project of some 60+ Chinese academic libraries, organized by Zhejiang University.  It's URL changed last week to: http://cadal.zju.edu.cn/index/home#  Still best to access through CLIO to maximize access. In any case, you will need to register and create an account.

English interface: http://cadal.zju.edu.cn.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/index/home#page1

Local Chronicleshttp://cadal.zju.edu.cn.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/cadalinfo/search

Just one small example: 88 local histories from Sichuan.

Or search藏文(Zang wen) for a surprising number of related rare books. This 1947 catalog of holdings at the Palace Museum is available online, as just one example: 清内閣舊藏漢文黄册聯合目錄 = Qing nei ge jiu Zang Han wen huang ce lian he mu lu. 

CADAL is integrated with Minguo wen xian da quan = 民國文獻大全 (~1949), an ever-growing database of documents from the Republic of China, including now more than 180,000 books, over 20,000 journals, and more than 20 million newspaper entries.

But note: All CADAL resources must be read online -- you need to take screenshots to save desired pages. There is no way to download.

China Academic Journals Online

Primarily Chinese journals, but also some English-language journals.


Searchable full-text database containing geographical literature and records on China's border and coastal regions from Ming and Qing dynasties. The contents are arranged seven categories: 1. World geography, largely the texts based on Zheng He's seven expeditionary voyages; 2. Coastal defense, including naval warfare; 3. Tibet; 4. Xinjiang; 5. Liaodong territory; 6. Russia; and 7. Japan and Ryukyu islands. The full name of the database is: 明清两朝边塞海疆地理文献汇编全文检索系统.

These Chinese databases and more are listed on Dr. Wang's more comprehensive list, Electronic Resources for Chinese Studies.  Also, a newly negotiated list of open access databases will be announced very soon.



One silver-lining to this terrible crisis, is that training sessions are all now online and more convenient to attend: On Thursday, April 9, at 1pm there is a training for the Zotero bibliographic tool. Note: Registration required.

·      Look for other upcoming CUL workshops.

·      Contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian to request a Tibetan-focused online Zoom session: lh2112@columbia.edu


News Archive



The Columbia University Libraries catalog is now  updated to reflect the new  Wylie-compatible Tibetan romanization table, which was  officially approved by the Library of Congress last year.

Readers may now search for Tibetan titles in CLIO using Wylie transliteration.  This means that instead of using diacritics, you can search the following letters in Wylie romanization:  ང་ = nga ; ཉ་ = nya ;  ཞ་ = zha ; ཤ་ = sha.

Records in WorldCat were upgraded in June 2015. In both catalogs, the fruits of this revision are seen in directly converted bibliographic records for 1) all Tibetan publications from China and 2) Tibetan publications published 2007- outside of China were converted. For pre-2007 publications from South Asia, etc., an additional title field in Wylie transliteration was applied. (This was necessary since the original titles on most of these publications were romanized on the publication, and must be retained as they appear on the piece, by cataloging conventions.)

If other schools also wish to upgrade the legacy records in their local database and are interested in the specifications and procedures used at Columbia, please contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian, Lauran Hartley (lh2112@columbia.edu).



The Tharchin Collection at the C.V. Starr East Asian Library features correspondence, publications and drafts, photographs, daybooks and other financial accounts, and autobiographical materials from the offices of the late and influential Gegen Dorje Tharchin (1890-1976), also known as “Tharchin Babu.” As founder of the Tibet Mirror Press in Kalimpong, India, Gegen Dorje Tharchin was the renowned editor of the Tibet Mirror newspaper and many other Tibetan-language publications which circulated among Tibetan readers on both sides of the Himalayas, and as far as New York, from the early 1920s through the late 1960s. The archive is a rich source of primary sources related to the activities of intellectuals, officials, missionaries, and other historical figures in India, Sikkim, and Tibet during the 20th century. Details for items in the archive can be found in the online finding aid.

The Tharchin Family in Kalimpong, India, generously contributed the bulk of the materials in the collection and shared helpful information about the work and background of their late grandfather.  Several scholars also contributed their time, resources and expertise: Dr. Paul Hackett, Columbia alumni and author of Theos Bernard, The White Lama (Columbia University Press, 2014), offered the very first duffle bag of materials, forming the core of the collection. He also donated several dozen newspaper issues, together with Dr. Tina Harris, author of Geographical Diversions: Tibetan Trade, Global Transactions (UGa Press 2013). Dr. Isrun Engelhardt hand-delivered, at her own expense, several important items in the collection, including the family photo album. Dr. Herbert Fader contributed his own research notes, and some of the original materials he consulted to write the biography of Gegen Tharchin. Finally, Columbia and Barnard graduate assistants, Mary Beth Morrissey, Jampa Choetso, and Tenzin Yewong Dongchung worked with the Tibetan Studies Librarian to process and create metadata for the collection, which is now fully processed and comprises nearly 8 linear feet.  

NEW YORK, Sept. 4, 2015 - In May 2015, the Library of Congress revised its Tibetan romanization chart to accord with the Wylie transliteration system.  You will see the fruits of this revision in WORLDCAT, where records for 1) all Tibetan publications from China and 2) Tibetan publications published 2007- outside of China were converted.  For pre-2007 publications from South Asia, etc., an additional title field in Wylie transliteration was applied.  (This was necessary since the original titles on most of these publications were romanized on the publication, and must be retained as they appear on the piece, by cataloging conventions.)

The next step is for university libraries to convert records in our local catalogs. No university in North America has undertaken this conversion yet.  At Columbia, we hope to convert our local catalog records as described above by 2016.

Thus, legacy records for Tibetan-language materials in CLIO, Columbia's online catalog, continue to employ the ALA-Library of Congress system of transliteration. This schema is very similar to the Wylie romanization used in current western scholarship, with only a few minor differences.  New records are being added in Wylie.

NEW YORK, May 21, 2013 – Dr. Douglas Duckworth, Assistant Professor, East Tennessee State University, was one of ten recipients selected for a $2,500 grant to facilitate access to special and unique collections in the Columbia University Libraires.  His research project, entitled "Redactions from India in Modern Tibet," will contribute to a collaborative project examining the reception of Dignāga’s Ālambana-parīkṣā, a sixth-century Buddhist text composed in Sanskrit, and all major extent commentaries on it from India, Tibet, and China.  View press release.

NEW YORK, May 11, 2012 – Dr. Nicole Willock, University of Denver, was one of ten recipients selected for a $2,500 grant to facilitate access to special and unique collections in the Columbia University Libraires.  Her research project is entitled: "How did Tibetan Intellectuals Understand the Categories of Religion, Secularism and Superstition in the Early 20th Century?" For this purpose, she will consult the Tharchin Collection and other related Tibetan collections at the C. V. Starr East Asian Library during the 2012-2013 school year.  View press release.

NEW YORK, April 28, 2011 – In the spring of 2008, Columbia University Libraries placed a digital library of 97 issues of the Tibet Mirror (Tib. Yul phyogs so so'i gsar 'gyur me long) online for scholarly research and study. Since then, Columbia University spearheaded an international cooperative project with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the Collège de France, and the Musée Guimet to more than double the size of the original collection.  View press release.

NEW YORK, February 5, 2010 – Columbia University Libraries has received a one-year grant of $10,000 from The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in support of processing the Tibet Information Network (TIN) Archive.  View press release.

NEW YORK, February 19, 2009 -- On February 6-7, Columbia University’s C. V. Starr East Asian Library hosted a conference entitled “Tibetan Studies and the Social Sciences: Data, Tools, Maps and Archives.” Over 70 scholars, library professionals and students from North America and Europe attended the two-day event.  View press release.

NEW YORK, May 7, 2009 -- Columbia University Libraries has placed a new digital library of 97 issues of the Tibet Mirror (Tib. Yul phyogs so so'i gsar 'gyur me long) online for scholars to consult and study. The collection is publicly available at...  View press release.

NEW YORK, August 19, 2008 -- On June 16, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library acquired as a generous donation a 501-volume set of the Bön Canon from the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in New York City.  View press release.

NEW YORK, January 3, 2006 - The C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University has received $250,000 to support a full time professional librarian position in Tibetan Studies. The funds, from the bequest of Dr. Robert Yik-Fong Tam, a Hong Kong banking executive and a 1950 graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of Business, will provide four years of support for a full-time Tibetan Studies Librarian position at the Starr East Asian Library.   View press release.

New Titles in the Collection

To search all newly cataloged Tibetan or Tibet-related titles, choose the "New Arrivals" tab in CLIO and select "Tibetan" using the language facet in the left side-bar, or search ALL FIELDS for "Tibet*" (include the asterisk to generate records with the word "Tibet" or "Tibetan"). You may then sort by acquisition date, filter by language, etc.  Note the RSS Feed subscription at the top of the page.

If a holding is "In Process", please contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian (lh2112@columbia.edu). The item will be cataloged in 3-5 working days, and a notice for pick-up will be sent by e-mail.

In addition, you may find titles in CLIO that are marked "On Order" or "Received."  For the latter, please also contact the librarian directly.

For Events and Opportunities, click here.