SOAS University of London

Tibetan Studies at SOAS

Tibetan Studies Events

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  • 18th-20th century Mongolian Buddhist paintings and appliques
  • Zara Fleming
  • The most profound and long lasting influence on Mongolian art is that of Vajrayana Buddhism. This flourished for centuries under the patronage of the Khans, but in the 20th century it was all but annihilated under communism. This lecture explores this rich tradition of Buddhist art, identifying particular Mongolian characteristics in their thangkhas and appliques from the 18th to the 20th century.


  • Himalayan Ascetism and Mysticism
  • Dr Sondra Hausner (Oxford University)
  • This talk will describe contemporary South Asian sadhus, or ascetics, and consider whether they live up to the legendary roles that have been attributed to them.  Certainly their religious practices, or tapas, are modelled after those of the great mahasiddhas in Himalayan mythology, but being an ascetic in real life poses particular kinds of challenges.  Do all ascetics necessarily aspire towards mysticism -- and do all mystics practice an ascetic lifestyle?


  • The Origins and Meaning of Om Manipadme Hum
  • Dr Alex Studholme
  • 'Oṃ Maṇipadme Hūṃ' is first recorded the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, one of the first Buddhist books to arrive in Tibet, this work reflects an early stage of Buddhist tantrism in India.  The mantra reflects creative religious synthesis. Its meaning, “in the jewel-lotus” expresses a central symbol of Mahāyāna: rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitābha.

  • Archaeology of a text: creation and redaction of Tibetan history
  • Dr Michael Willis (British Museum)
  • bSam yas is Tibet's earliest Buddhist establishment. Apart from a short foundation inscription, we depend on later histories the institution's development. The oldest of the later histories is known as the "Testimony of BA" and dates to about 1000 CE. This lecture looks at the 'Testament of Ba', the earliest such history, and explores how Tibetans constructed their history and identity.


  • Reincarnation Before Its Institutionalization in Tibet
  • Dr Daniel Hirshberg (UC Santa Barbara)
  • The narratives of Nyang-rel Nyima Özer's  (1124-1192) preincarnations were written posthumously by Guru Chöwang (1212-1270), who claimed to be Nyang-rel's reincarnation. This claim challenged the lineal and spiritual authority of Nyang-rel’s descendants and may signify one of the earliest documented conflicts between patrilineal and reincarnate inheritance claims in Tibet.


  • The life of the Buddha in wall inscriptions of Western Tibet
  • Dr Kurt Tropper (Universität Wien)
  • The life of Buddha Shakyamuni is illustrated in wall paintings across the Tibetan cultural realm. Some such representations include inscriptions. This lecture presents examples documented in Western Tibet during and discusses their significance.

  • Tantric Arts and Crafts in Bhutan
  • Timea Tallian
  • Timea Tallian discusses her work in Bhutan as a conservation supervisor for artwork exhibited in the Ta Dzong Museum in Trongsa. This work involved the restoration of important ancient Buddhist artifacts and sacred objects from the Royal collection. 


  • Padmasambhava: Different Aspects
  • Various
  • This one-day conference, hosted jointly by SOAS and the London Shang Shung Institute, will explore different aspects of Padmasambhava.


  • Kharoṣṭhī and Tibetan: Two Scribal Traditions and a Hidden Connection
  • Dr Stefan Baums (LMU Munich‎)
  • This lecture compares the emergence of the Kharoṣṭhī (fourth century BCE) and Tibetan (seventh century CE) scribal traditions. Both scripts were adapted to previously unwritten languages, underwent paleographic and orthographic standardization, and developed from instruments of empire and administration into carriers of Buddhist literary traditions. The lecture suggests an unnoticed historical connection between the two scripts in the cultural meeting grounds of Central Asia.


  • The Art of Thangkas: From Monastery to Museums, an Integrated Approach to Conservation and Display
  • Teresa Heady
  • This talk will cover basic uses of thangkas, their provenance and styles and how to make them. Concentrating at the on the preservation and conservation of thangkas as they relate to display and storage in museums. All of the talk will be from work carried out while teaching thangkas conservation workshops in Nepal and Tibet and how this helped make decisions for the display, storage and care of thangkas that are now housed in the different museum’s collections I have worked with.

  • The History of Bhutan (UK book launch)
  • Dr Karma Phuntsho (University of Virginia/SOAS)
  • In 2008, Bhutan emerged as the world’s youngest democracy and in the same year crowned the world’s youngest monarch. Today, it enchants the world with its policy of Gross National Happiness and has become a popular destination for travel. Nonetheless, Bhutan remains one of the most poorly studied places on earth.


  • Between Buddhism and Science, Between Mind and Body
  • Prof Geoffrey Samuel
  • Since the late 19th century Buddhism has been seen as compatible with Western science. The Buddhist influence on the ecology movement has strengthened this perception. Yet the 'Buddhism' brought into relation with science has undergone rewriting under modernist influences, and critical aspects of Buddhist thought and practice are ignored. This lecture presents a different kind of dialogue, in which a Tibetan Buddhism confronts Western scientists and scholars on more equal terms.