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The Tibet Team (TBACT)

by Lemardelé Élise - published on , updated on


The Tibet, Bhutan and Tibetan Cultural Regions team (TBACT) was created in 1986 under the name “Languages and Cultures of Tibetan Regions”, and remained so until its integration within the UMR 8155 on 1 January 2006. Since its creation, the unit has strived to bring together Tibetologists of all disciplines in order to facilitate general study of the Tibetan regions. A multidisciplinary approach is key here and thus the rule in this unit’s research.
The team’s research is not geographically confined to those Tibetan regions included within the People’s Republic of China (composed of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the province of Qinghai, and parts of Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces), but also extends to Ladakh (India), the high southern valleys of the Himalayas (India and Nepal), as well as the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. It is important not to exclude those Tibetan “traces” that are also to be found outside the defined boundaries of the region, for example in Dunhuang, which, from both archaeological and historical perspectives, particularly concerning the history of thought, illustrate the contacts Tibet has always maintained with the Asian world. While these longstanding exchanges show the extent of Tibetan cultural influence, they also show the diversity of influences that in turn contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the development of Tibetan civilization. Evidently, classical Tibetan history and society remain the basis of these studies, however, the threats posed today to certain traditions and the irruption of modernisation in the Tibetan regions requires an increased effort on the part of the researchers to remain abreast of recent developments in these regions and to keep a watchful eye on their future evolution.


Research around these common axes of study and subsequent findings fit in with these vast thematic concerns. In addition to its important oral traditions, the Tibetan region has preserved a vast quantity of written records with regard to its history and its schools of thought, particularly Buddhism and Bon, which still remain largely unexploited. Thus a great part of the team’s efforts is dedicated to deciphering these records, their history, their sources, and their evolution; one such project involved Tibetan documents dating from the 7th and 11th centuries discovered in the oasis of Dunhuang, which proved considerably important with regard to the history of Buddhism and High Asia. Focus is also given to archaeology and material culture.
Furthermore, the TBACT is also devoted to the long-term study of social history of the Tibetan region and Bhutan, as well as the analysis of the different administrative and legal systems found across the Tibetan cultural region. Finally, the team studies rituals, drawing on anthropological, historical and textual approaches. True understanding of texts and traditions implies an inherent knowledge of the language, which the team contributes to through the creation of a spoken-Tibetan dictionary. In some instances, research is conducted simultaneously in all three domains, as is the case with the Bhutan programme. These general axes of study facilitate the constant renewal of themes (see Programmes de Recherche). The team’s regular activities include the publication of an online journal, Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, and the Séminaire Rituels (Seminar on rituals).

National and International Cooperations

A significant portion of the teams research is conducted in collaboration with the UMR’s China team and other research units in France (Centre d’études himalayennes UPR 299 and INALCO ASIEs team’s sub-unit Tibet-Népal-Mongolie (TINEMO)), as well as with organizations abroad, through several international projects (French-German Programme ANR/DFG Social History of Tibetan Studies, the Mission Archéologique Franco-Indienne au Ladakh-MAFIL, ERC Project The Tibetan Army of the Dalai Lamas (1642-1959), together with the Archaeological Survey of India, University of Vienna, University of Chicago, Royal university of Bhutan etc.).


Members of the team conduct Masters and Doctorate programmes in the framework of the EPHE:

For programmes in Asian studies see :

For programmes in Tibetan studies see :


The Tibet, Bhutan and Tibetan Cultural Regions team originated with the “Tibetan dialects and spoken language” team created by Anne-Marie Blondeau, Research Director at the EPHE, in 1983. In 1986, still under ANNE-Marie Blondeau’s leadership, the group became a research unit (URA 1229) and was renamed “Languages and culture of the Tibetan cultural regions”. In 1998, it became a full-fledged research unit affiliated with the CNRS (ESA 8047), then a mixed research unit (UMR 8047, then UMR 7133) under the leadership of Anne Chayet, (Research Director at the CNRS) until 2001. Françoise Pommaret, who was a Research Fellow with the CNRS at the time, took over the unit’s leadership from 2001 to 2005. In 2006, the unit joined with the UMR 8155, with Anne Chayet as Deputy Director (2006-2008), followed by Jean-Luc Achard, Research fellow with the CNRS (2008-2009), and Matthew Kapstein since 2009. The unit was re-baptized TBACT in 2013.

Former members include: Pierre Arènes, Anne-Marie Blondeau, Anne Chayet, Ricardo Canzio, Ngawang Dakpa, Yonten Gyatso, Yoshiro Imaeda, Françoise Robin, Brigitte Steinmann and Heather Stoddard.