PaganTibet: Documenting the first reconstruction of pre-Buddhist practices in Tibet

The PaganTibet research project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme.

Charles Ramble (Director of Studies at the Centre de Recherche sur les Civilisations de l’Asie Orientale, UMR 8155) has been awarded an ERC ‘Advanced’ grant for five years to pursue the project ‘Reconstructing the Pagan Religion of Tibet’ (2023-2028).

An exceptional corpus of manuscripts

PaganTibet aims to study a corpus of Tibetan manuscripts comprising some 70,000 pages. Discovered in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands in 2005, this vast and still largely unknown collection of manuscripts refers to a religious tradition that may predate the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet. The texts belong to families of hereditary priests, known as Leyu, who represent a little-known branch of Tibet’s minority Bon religion.

The first reconstruction of age-old practices

Preliminary investigations suggest that these texts contain genuinely archaic non-Buddhist rituals and narratives closely resembling those of the early sources that are already known. Using state-of-the-art computational humanities tools such as Handwritten Text Recognition and Natural Language Processing in conjuction with the methods of philology, comparative religion and anthropology, PaganTibet aims to undertake a systematic study of the Leyu manuscripts, producing a searchable database of the entire corpus, an annotated catalogue of its contents as well as translations and extended summaries of a selection of its works, to provide the first-ever reconstruction of Tibetan Pagan religion.



humanités numériques philology religious sciences



Charles Ramble (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

CRCAO members

Full members
Charles Ramble (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Jean-Luc Achard (CNRS)

Doctoral students
Tsering Naljor (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

Outside Participants

Rachael Griffiths (EPHE)
Sarah Teetor (EPHE)
Marieke Meelen (Cambridge University)
Daniel Berounsky (Charles University, Prague)
Marc des Jardins (Concordia University, Montréal)