Modern Tibetan Studies Program

About the Modern Tibetan Studies Program

Columbia's Modern Tibetan Studies Program is the first program in the West dedicated to teaching about the society, history, culture and economics of modern Tibet. Linked to multiple Tibet-studies initiatives in the US and Europe, it also supports and carries out research into modern Tibet, runs a study program at Tibet University in Lhasa, and organizes a program of public activities in New York.

In Spring 2004, Columbia established the world's first chair in modern Tibetan studies, with a $3 million gift from the Henry Luce Foundation. The new chair builds on the WEAI initiatives on Tibet led by Professor Madeleine Zelin and Dr. Robert Barnett over the past several years.

The Luce Foundation's gift includes a five-year program fund to assist in developing a Center for Integrated Tibetan Studies at Columbia to combine classical and modern Tibetan studies, and to promote exchanges with Tibetan scholars. The Center represents a unique collaboration between the WEAI and the departments of Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. The university now offers instruction in both modern and classical Tibetan language, courses that cover topics ranging from Tibetan religion to contemporary Tibetan politics, culture and film and a substantial Tibetan library collection. Each year twenty students from the U.S. will travel to Lhasa to study Tibetan in a program jointly sponsored by Columbia and the University of Virginia.

The Tibetan studies program is part of the WEAI initiative to include the borderlands of China and the frontiers of Inner and Central Asia in the American map of knowledge about East Asia.