CRCAO / The laboratory
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 sought to bring together Tibetologists of all disciplines in order to facilitate the general study of the Tibetan regions. A multidisciplinary approach is therefore strongly encouraged within the unit.
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. The unit’s scope also extends to Tibetan traces that lie beyond 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 other parts of Asia. While these long-standing exchanges show the extent of Tibetan cultural influence, they also show the diversity of influences that have in turn contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the development of Tibetan civilisation. Classical Tibetan history and society remain the focus of these studies; however, the threats posed today to certain traditions and accelerated modernisation in the Tibetan regions requires an increased effort on the part of 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 broad thematic concerns. In addition to its important oral traditions, the Tibetan region has preserved a vast quantity of written material with regard to its history and its schools of thought, particularly Buddhism and Bön, which still remains largely unexplored. Thus a great part of the team’s efforts is dedicated to examining these materials, 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, and proved to be of considerable importance with regard to the history of Buddhism and High Asia. Significant attention is also given to art history, archaeology and material culture, especially in the western Himalaya.
TBACT team 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, with corresponding attention to the primary literature associated with these domains. 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, a project to which the team has contributed 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 two online journals, Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines (RET), and Études mongoles & sibériennes, centrasiatiques & tibétaines (EMSCAT)
National and International Cooperations
A significant portion of the team’s 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 organisations abroad, through several international projects. These include two major Franco-German projects on Tibetan social history between 2011 and 2020, the Mission Archéologique Franco-Indienne au Ladakh-MAFIL, the ERC Project The Tibetan Army of the Dalai Lamas (1642–1959), together with the Archaeological Survey of India, the University of Bonn, the University of Chicago, and the Royal University of Bhutan, among others).
Members of the team conduct Masters and Doctoral programmes in the framework of the EPHE: https://www.ephe.psl.eu/formations/master
For programmes in Asian studies see : https://www.ephe.psl.eu/formations/master/master-etudes-asiatiques
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 (2009-2017). The current director is Charles Ramble. The unit was renamed TBACT in 2013.
Former members include: Pierre Arènes, Anne-Marie Blondeau, Katia Buffetrille, Anne Chayet, Ricardo Canzio, Ngawang Dakpa, Yonten Gyatso, Mireille Helffer, Yoshiro Imaeda, Samten Karmay, Françoise Robin, Brigitte Steinmann and Heather Stoddard.